News

Resilience and our Conference Training Work

Keshena Bowie

Our CEO and Artistic Director, Andy Watson, has been reflecting on our resilience over the last 30 years and has written the following blog about our conference and staff training work:

Geese Theatre Company works in a very challenging sector – the criminal justice system. As we approach our 30th birthday we have taken a moment to reflect on our history and some of the many people we have worked with. Some of those stories will be gathered here throughout the year.

As we talk to people about the organisation celebrating 30 years, a common question crops up: “How have you survived?” Delivering arts projects in criminal justice settings is subject to changing ideas from government, governors, commissioners and public opinion and our core audiences are seldom in the position to become legacy donors or to pay for a front row ticket. Whilst now there is a lot of interest in the sector we are also aware that may not always be the case.

‘Resilience’ and ‘sustainability’ are current buzz words, with an increasing acknowledgment that the way the arts is financed is changing. As an NPO we receive approximately 10% of our income from the Arts Council. Another 20% comes from grant making trusts. This vital funding enables us to pilot new ideas and support our core work with people who have committed offences or who are at risk. The remaining 70% of our income is earned and we are fortunate to have a reputation where prisons, secure hospitals and community organisations will pay towards the projects we deliver with them.

However it’s unlikely that we would still be in existence if we hadn’t developed a third strand of work – bespoke conference performances and training events for professionals. These are commissioned by organisations to support their programmes, enhance their appreciation of particular issues or increase the skills of their staff. We accept commissions from a wide-range of organisations with the understanding that every commission must have a clear link to our core work.  Adopting a theatre style similar to our prison performances we closely mirror experiences that audiences may face in their professional role and encourage them to actively engage in debate about the dilemmas presented on-stage.

“It was by far the most effective and thought provoking training I have attended during my police service”

This work started early in Geese’s history. In the late 1980s we were invited to present some of our prison performances at staff events. For example, our prison production Lifting the Weight explores issues around resettlement for prisoners and was presented to audiences of probation officers to enhance their understanding of the barriers facing their clients.

A significant moment came in 1993 when we were commissioned to create a performance at the Probation Chief’s Association annual conference. This placed the company in front of every senior probation manager in the country and provided an excellent introduction to the value of arts in criminal justice settings as well as enabling us to showcase the use of theatre as a training method. 

Last year, we worked with approximately 5000 staff with commissions from Clinical Commissioning Groups, social work teams, police forces and the judiciary.

Most recently we have created Safe Stages, a performance which explores the reality of safeguarding within arts venues. Devised in partnership with a large local theatre, Safe Stages encourages whole staff teams to reflect on how to put policy into practice.  The piece challenges audiences to recognise indicators of vulnerability and abuse, identify barriers there might be to reporting and consider what a proactive, as opposed to reactive, approach to safeguarding might look like.

"An expert, engaging and ultimately moving exploration of a difficult subject. Really made the policy live...when can you come back?"

Key for us is that we only take commissions when we feel that our knowledge of our core client groups and the systems they are living within can be brought to life to the benefit of the commissioning agency.

For example, our 30 year history of working with people who have perpetrated abuse means that we have insight into their motivations and strategies which we can accurately portray on stage for organisations wishing to enhance their staff understanding of safeguarding issues. 

Equally, the model works because the relationship is mutually beneficial – by developing training work for professionals we are able spend time researching and developing our understanding of their particular sector which can then inform our core work.  

For us, building a resilient business model is not about ‘selling’ our work to anyone who might want it, but about really understanding how the specialist knowledge and expertise we have built up over the past three decades can truly add value to the development of professionals from other sectors. 

To enquire about our Conference and Staff Training work, email info@geese.co.uk or call 0121 4496222

Shay’s Story

Keshena Bowie

Shay has been a part of our community ensemble, Staging Recovery, for two years, having previously participated in a Geese project:

Adam, our drama teacher at Phoenix Futures, asked "who is interested in joining the upcoming Geese project ?" 10 of us volunteered, although we did not have a clue about what it would entail - "what`s Geese?" was the general reaction. Adam smiled and said "relax, just enjoy the experience". 

A few weeks later Emma, Liz, and Daniel arrived to begin the project, and after a day of ice breakers, role play and exploring a character behind the mask, I was already hooked on the Geese "experience". Fast forward 2 years and over that time I have had the privilege of being involved in Staging Recovery, rehearsing at the Birmingham Royal Ballet, doing workshops which included slapstick, mime, singing, stunt fighting, puppetry, dance and aerial rope stunts! All culminating in 2 full house performances at Birmingham Rep along with other performances at ACE dance, BVSC and Reach out Recovery. All this achieved by a guy who said "I don't do drama".

But in a short time I have discovered that drama can help increase my confidence, raise self esteem and self belief all while pushing my boundaries to the limit in a safe, positive, fun environment . So a big thanks to the whole Geese team but a special thanks to Andrea, Emma and Dan who have helped me achieve so many goals I never dreamed possible.               

 

Shay (in blue) performing at Birmingham REP, July 2017

Grow Your Tenner from Local Giving

Keshena Bowie

Exciting news!  For the next 24 hours, if you donate £10 for Geese projects in the West Midlands, Local Giving's Grow Your Tenner Campaign will match it!  That means your £10 will be £20 towards our vital projects with marginalised people in prisons, forensic mental health hospitals and community settings in Birmingham and the West Midlands.  Brilliant!  Do it here.

Clark’s Story

Keshena Bowie

Throughout our 30 years, we have collected thousands of stories from people we have helped, worked with, supported or moved and we will be sharing 30 of them throughout the coming year. We hope that they bring back memories for some as well as inspiring others. 30for30 will highlight the voices of previous and current participants of our projects and performances, artists that we have collaborated with and, of course, company and Board members from thoughout the years.

To kick us off, our first story had to be from Clark Baim, founder of Geese Theatre Company UK:

On June 10th, 1987, we had our very first rehearsal in the drama studio at the University of Warwick near Coventry, England. Thirty years later, the Company, based in Birmingham, England are going stronger than ever, leaders in the field of applied theatre in criminal justice and related settings in the UK and beyond. It’s my great joy to now be on the Board of Trustees for the Company (a registered charity), after founding the UK Company and working there until 1999.

As I see the Company move from strength to strength under the Directorship of Andy Watson, I also reflect with gratitude and amazement at the many people who have committed so much talent, service, passion and creativity to the important work of using drama as a medium for promoting positive change in individuals, in institutions and in society. 

Would you like to be a part the story? There are many ways for you to be involved in our 30for30 campaign. You can donate £30, or what you can afford, by clicking here, or you can join our team of fundraisers and support our projects by entering your own personal challenge and making Geese your charity of choice. To get involved, please email 30for30@geese.co.uk

Annual Highlights 16/17

Keshena Bowie

Our Annual Highlights for 2016/17 have arrived!  See below for information about our recent work in secure settings, catch up on what our wonderful community ensemble, Staging Recovery, have been doing and learn about our new performances for staff training conferences, exploring vulnerability for a variety of staff teams.