Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Interview with Rod Dixon, The Red Ladder Theatre Company's Artistic Director - by Dawn Smallwood

I recently had the pleasure interviewing Rod Dixon, Red Ladder Theatre Company's Artistic Director.

Please tell me a bit about Red Ladder, its background and aims?  

The company was established 46 years ago in 1968 to create theatre to discuss the social changes and political landscape at the time. 

In our current guise, we avoid being party political and our core beliefs are broadly anti-capital. The work doesn’t preach, but we like to provoke discussion.  For example our current production, Wrong ‘Un, is about a vulnerable woman fighting for her rights in society and We’re Not Going Back is about three sisters adding their voices to the 1984/85 miners’ strike.

We consider ourselves as a ‘theatre of dissent’.  The company gives people a voice.  We consider ourselves non hierarchal and work collaboratively on our projects with artists and writers, both established and emerging.

 We're Not Going Back, Red Ladder's Autumn tour 
(Photo Credit: Tim Smith)

What have been the company highlights as far as productions and outreach are concerned? Is there an outstanding production?

Our production, Big Society! starring Phill Jupitus was a highlight of recent years – it attracted national attention, and helped us to reposition ourselves on a national stage. This.  Before 2006 Red Ladder Theatre Company targeted younger audiences at Youth and Community Clubs.  Now the aim is to bring theatre to the communities and work in partnership with local theatres.  We have done productions at miners’ welfare clubs, social and sports clubs.  We are hoping to attract mixed audiences and promote intergeneration and community cohesion.  The company is applying for Strategic Touring Money which will support this aim.  We will approach it step by step and engage with those whose confidence will increase in enjoying the productions.

Phill Jupitus in 2012 show, Big Society at City Varieties
(Photo Credit: Tim Smith)

Please could you update us about Save Red Ladder Theatre and #GisATenner and how the campaign is going?

  Phill Jupitus and Paul Heaton with the Save Red Ladder megaphone
(Photo Credit: Red Ladder Theatre Company)

Save Red Ladder Theatre is completely independent from the company.  The day after the funding decision from Arts Council England fans created the campaign, which attracted a lot of support from high profile individuals including Phill Jupitus.

We so far have raised under £7,000 via #GisATenner which will enable us to commission a playwright for our next production.  We are encouraged to apply for other pots of funding and will look at other sources on a project basis.  We consider this encouraging and this gives us the incentive to continue producing.

Dicken Ashworth playing Eddie Waring in Playing the Joker 
(which toured Rugby League clubs earlier this year) 
(Photo credit: Tim Smith)

How can our fellow bloggers and followers be encouraged to support the campaign in order for the company to continue addressing the social and global issues that really matters to all of us?

We believe art is essential to the social psyche.  We are encouraging more people to explain that art belongs to everyone and is a right to all people.

To get involved with the Save Red Ladder campaign, please visit www.saveredladder.co.uk; follow @saveredladder or visit www.localgiving.com/redladder to make a donation.

I understand enough funds have been raised to commission at least another project even if uncertainty still reigns.  Are you able to share any ideas of what the Red Ladder Theatre Company would like to do next?

We plan to do a production about extremism in modern Britain and we would like to explore the societal issues around why young people choose radicalism.  Following consultations there is enough material to commission a play.  We plan to premier the production at London’s Park Theatre and possible Luton.

Red Ladder's upcoming Christmas show, Nicobobinus,  at Lost Theatre, Vauxhall, London 
(Photo Credit: Red Ladder Theatre)

May I say a big thank you to Rod for taking part and also to Jane Verity for arranging the interview and her input.  Please support the incredible work Red Ladder  is doing via http://saveredladder.co.uk/ and share how important arts are to one and all by writing to the Arts Council.

You can see their forthcoming production, We’re Not Going Back in the autumn in Barnsley, Doncaster, Hemsworth, Huddersfield, Hull and next year in Leeds.  Please click onto the link for further information.

Interview by Dawn Smallwood,