With The Rememberers now taking a rest prior to touring, I'm full steam ahead with my next project: the Young Vic's Theatre Festival for Special Needs Schools. Directed by Abigail Graham and Rachel Bagshaw, it involves six special needs schools in the boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark and is based around the idea of flying. It's a lovely project and is a good example of how, in the best outreach projects, you don't have to choose between participation and excellence. Hurrah to the Young Vic and their very brilliant team.

How practising artists can best engage with schools is very much at the front of my mind at the moment. I've also been planning schools workshops that will run as part of Slice. More on this soon but, in a nutshell, professional artists from Lahore and London will make work, using a variety of art forms, in response to sections of their respective cities. A school from each city will be making work in parallel. We also have started developing an outreach programme for Daedalus, and we're pencilled in to work with schools in September as part of an exciting programme of work centred on A Place at the Table. Again, info to follow as pencil becomes ink. One exciting titbit - if all goes well it should involve Southwark Cathedral.

For most of my career there was a clear divide between professional work and outreach work. The aim was either excellence or participation. I still think it's problematic when professional projects are forced to generate artificial ways of providing outreach. It's frustrating that excellence alone is sometimes not considered a sufficient 'tickbox' for funding. However... Current projects, especially the process of setting up Daedalus Theatre Company, have made me think a lot more about how working within the community can be incorporated into great professional work without compromise. In fact, it seems only natural that, when making work that uses documentary and verbatim material as we do, the generation of that material shouldn't just be a one-way harvesting of raw data. Once one has realised this it suddenly seems incredibly obvious. There has to be a more symbiotic relationship, at least for the kind of theatre we're making.

Our techniques, employing various art-forms to explore and express materials from such research as interviews, should be of as much benefit to the interviewee (for example) as the interviewer. Both can and should benefit from the search for understanding, for the articulation of difficult ideas, for empathy, for balancing conflicting narratives. Working with communities and making plays could all be part of one small, mutually-supportive ecosystem. This doesn't make much difference to how we work in the rehearsal room, as these techniques are already fairly well-developed. But it makes a world of difference to how we see ourselves as a company and how we interact with society.

Big ideas and all very exciting.
 
Meanwhile though, it's back to the Young Vic and a far more pressing problem. A man has fallen out of the sky. How do we teach him to fly again so he can return home?