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An interview with Brian Logan, Founder of Camden People’s Theatre

Why feminist theatre matters

The Artistic Director of Camden People’s Theatre and founder of the annual Calm Down Dear Festival talks to London Calling about putting feminist theatre front and centre

Calm Down Dear, Camden People’s Theatre’s festival for ground breaking feminist theatre, is now in its 5th year, showcasing the boldest and brightest voices in performance. This year, the festival is foregrounding stories from artists of colour. We talked to Artistic Director and the festival’s founder Brian Logan about how Calm Down Dear started and where it is heading:

“When I started at Camden people’s Theatre in 2012 we became interested in a slightly new programming build around festivals. We wanted to do lots of themed festivals and we wanted these festivals to have some kind of social political and cultural topicality.” Camden Peoples’ Theatre is committed to programming work about issues that matter to people right now and back in 2013 Logan could feel something was in the air. “At the time, quite a lot of the artists we worked with at Camden People's Theatre were early career artists,” he tells us. “They were making quite unusual work, work that had a feminist sensibility.”

However, calling anything feminist felt like a bold, even risky, decision. Logan thought that the dreaded f-word had been quite successfully stigmatised and people were wary of being associated with feminism. “It seems like ancient history when you talk about it now but back then not so many people were confident about using the term feminist.”

But putting feminist theatre boldly front and centre has been a huge success for Camden People’s Theatre and the festival has returned annually since as one of the most popular programmings of the season. The attitude and conversations about feminism have changed since 2013 and feminism and feminist theatre are trending in popular culture right now but Logan is conscious about keeping the festival inclusive and addressing all different sides of feminism. “We want to make sure nobody would feel uncomfortable using that term [feminism] again,” he explains. So this year, the festival focuses on intersectionality, showcasing experiences and stories from artists of colour.

Brian Logan, Artistic Director of Camden People's Theatre (c) Joe Twigg

Racheal Ofori and Heather Agyepong’s So Many Reasons headlines the programme this year, a show that explores the unique influence our mothers have on how we understand the world. Inspired by current cultural and generational shifts in women’s perspectives of themselves and each other, this bold, passionate new show asks what happens when we realise mums don’t always know best. Vanessa Kisuule’s Sexy and Vanessa Macaulay’s Enticement Machine will explore women’s relationships with their bodies and society’s expectations of them, while other works will address pressure on appearance, aging, female friendship, motherhood and mental health.

Camden People’s Theatre is attracting a distinctly young audience and Logan is aware this is a singular position. “We are very unique as a theatre, about seventy-something percent of our audience is under 35”. The same goes for the artists on stage, of whom a large percentage are also is in their 20s. Camden People’s Theatre is championing a new generation of theatre makers, and this, Logan is certain, directly relates to numbers of young theatre-goers.

Encouraging diverse audiences to get involved in theatre is close to his heart, and for this reason Logan is hoping to take the festival on tour. “Everyone has a right to have access to theatre, not just those in central London.” Logan feels that in London, it is easy to take it for granted that young people can create their own theatre and these exciting, confident young voices are heard, communities are built and experiences shared. But further afield, this is not how most people experience theatre. And Logan wants to do something about that. Taking innovative political socially conscious theatre across the UK will be the next step.

But for now, Logan is thrilled with the success and popularity of Calm Down Dear as "one of the most popular programming in our calendar, going from strength to strength.”

Calm Down Dear festival is at Camden People’s Theatre 16 January - 4 February