WELFARE STATE MOVES TO BARROW-IN-FURNESS
(from an article by Baz Kershaw, on the Welfare Stare International performance collective, in Jan Cohen-Cruz: Radical Street Performance)
In 1983, at a time when most alternative theater companies were running for ideological cover, Welfare State International began a seven-year project in Barrow. John Fox, founder (with Sue Gil and others) and artistic director of Welfare State, described the project’s aim as:
developing a concept of vernacular art whereby we respond continually to local demand, producing plays, bands, dances, songs, ornaments and oratorios to order, so generating a social poetry of a high order within a very specific community context. (Fox, 1987)
[and later, expressing the frustrations that gave rise to the concept of a 7 yr. residency…]
We were obliged to start from ART rather than from LIVING, to generate more product rather than process and work to rapid (and to an extent commercial) deadlines in strange lands. We could not allow ourselves to develop pieces organically over years or to respond to or follow up on the longer term needs and rhythms of the host community, because essentially we were not part of any community. (ibid)
Silence 2014 is an act of street theater. It is a way to form and focus community; it shows up; it is free. Its vernacular is universal, a “social poetry of a high order.” Hopefully.