Free Seminar: Community Arts in USA & EU with Appalshop & ICAF

Contact: Kathryn Hopkins ()

acta and University of Exeter Drama Department are proud to present an extra special international seminar – How might Community Theatre and Arts companies in the UK draw strength and support from European and international partnership?

“We are particularly excited and delighted to welcome to the seminar Alex Gibson, Executive Director of Appalshop in Whitesburg, Kentucky; a half-century-old arts and media center which includes Roadside Theater. And on the very same day, we will be welcoming back to acta the renowned Dr Eugene van Erven (ICAF and Utrecht University).” Neil Beddow, acta Artistic Director

To book a place at this free event, email or call 0117 9532448

In 2015/2016 acta Community Theatre, Bristol, and Dr Kerrie Schaefer, University of Exeter, joined together to produce a series (within acta’s ongoing series) of community theatre seminars followed by a national festival of community theatre, supported by AHRC and ACE. During and after the festival we thought a lot about the challenge of establishing a national network of community theatre companies in the UK. While there is a resurgence of interest in socially and community-engaged creative practice, there is also a reticence to take on the ideological and aesthetic baggage that comes with the label ‘community’. So, what’s a community theatre company to do?

Acta Community Theatre was formed in 1985, at a time when the alternative and community theatre movement in the UK was purportedly fragmenting (Kershaw 1991; 1992). The late 1990s saw a renewal of interest in community theatre (see Beddow 2001) after the election of a (New) Labour government (1997) intent on tackling social exclusion via targeted participation of particular (‘deprived’) populations in arts, culture and sport. The rise of participation as a dominant paradigm within cultural policy and practice domains was accompanied by institutional/disciplinary emergences as seen in the growth of Applied Drama courses in UK Universities (see McAvinchey 2013). In the midst of these strong currents, acta cemented its base in the local neighbourhood of Bedminster, Bristol (opening the acta Centre in 2002), and looked towards the development of a cognate field of community arts and performance outside the UK. Most central to this has been the company’s engagement since 2003 with ICAF (International Community Arts Festival) hosted by Rotterdams Wijktheater with Artistic Director, Professor Eugene van Erven (see Beddow in van Erven 2013).

For this seminar on Community Theatre/Performance International we question:

Is it the case that fragmentation of the alternative and community theatre movement in UK has been countered by the continued development and expansion of community arts and performance internationally? How might community theatre companies in the UK draw strength and support from European and international partnership?

For this conversation Neil Beddow, acta Artistic Director, and Kerrie Schaefer are pleased to host Professor Eugene van Erven and Alexander Gibson (J.D./Doctor of Laws), Executive Director of Appalshop, a multi-media arts organization established in the Appalachian Mountains since 1969 (, and of which Roadside Theatre is also one part (


Kershaw, Baz. 1991 Theatre and Community. Alternative and Community Theatre in Britain: 1960-1985. An investigation into cultural history and Performance Efficacy. PhD thesis, University of Exeter.

——————1992. The Politics of Performance Radical Theatre as Cultural Intervention. London and New York: Routledge.

Beddow, Neil. 2001. Turning Points. The Impact of Participation in Community Theatre. South West Arts.

Eugene van Erven (Ed.) 2013. Community Art Power. Essays from ICAF 2011. Rotterdams Wijktheater.

Caoimhe McAvinchey. 2013. Performance and Community. Contemporary Case Studies. London: Methuen Drama.

acta’s free open access quarterly seminar programme provides opportunities to get together to discuss a range of issues currently facing community arts practitioners. Seminars are attended by acta staff, volunteers and participants; academics and students; experienced practitioners from across the sectors of community theatre and community arts; and people interested in learning more.

acta Centre

Gladstone Street

Date: Wed, 12th Jun 2019
Time: 13:30

Price: £Free

Performance Accessibility Information:

No accessibility contact is listed, please use the contact details listed on the event, or contact the venue for further information.