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Brian Logan - CPT Q&A

We chatted to Camden People’s Theatre Artistic Director, Brian Logan, about the Camden Roar Festival, which is opening in at the theatre this week. The festival is a celebration of all things Camden – the people, the music, and its radical and activist history - as well as an examination of its darker side and the ways in which historic Camden has changed with the modernising forces of the 21st century. The festival will include a full three week programme of shows including works-in-progress, new interactive performance, and plays drawing on the very real lived experiences of Camden residents past and present. 


CPT

This is a 30th anniversary festival - Happy 30th birthday to CPT! Imagine it's 30 years in the future with CPT's 60th anniversary on the horizon … what do you hope will have stayed the same, and what might have changed?

I hope in thirty years’ time that CPT continues to flourish, supporting and offering a platform to early-career theatre-makers making adventurous work – and I hope that this is happening in a city, country and culture that (rather more than today) values the arts, teaches them, funds them, celebrates them, and takes care to ensure they’re a lively part of everyone’s lives.


The Camden Roar is a festival of Camden-specific theatre. How did you choose the shows that make up the festival?

I didn’t. Our local steering group did. They’re a group of Camden people who voluntarily meet with us monthly at CPT to have a cuppa, take part in our decision-making, and help shape what our organisation is all about. When we decided to revive this Camden-centric festival, it felt obvious that we should invite the steering group to curate it. So we issued a public call-out for show ideas, and the steering group reviewed and selected from those applications. They went for the shows that they felt spoke most excitingly to the things Camden people care about and the stories they might most want to hear.



What is the involvement of the CPT with the local community?

We’re involved with the local community in loads of ways. We make shows with local people; I personally have made several with the direct involvement, on- and offstage, of local residents, schoolkids and so on. We hand over our building regularly for community takeover days, featuring workshops, and social events, and family fun, and performances for local residents. We stage an annual outdoor festival in Tolmers Sq, the residential square right behind our building. We commission artists who come to us with ideas for shows that they can make with, by and for the people of Camden. We founded and co-run, with New Diorama, a youth theatre for local teenagers. The list is endless.


You’ve been the artistic director of CPT since 2011. What has been the biggest change you’ve seen in that time? 

Yikes. I’ve seen a lot. When I arrived it was already a great organisation, but a lot smaller, and with an insecure hold on our building on the corner of Drummond Street and Hampstead Road. So one big change is that we’re now bigger (there’s more of us, we’re much busier), we’ve got a juicy long lease on our premises, and our building got a lush face-lift in 2020-21, making it much more functional and welcoming to theatre-goers. So those are the major changes – alongside a downward shift, alas, in the availability of funding and support for people trying to make independent theatre. That’s changed a lot, too, and for the worse.

 

What are you proudest of achieving with CPT?

I’m most proud of all the amazing artists whose careers CPT has helped kick-start. It’s an extraordinary privilege to be in this position, where we have a black-box studio, a little money, and lots of goodwill that we can direct towards young, creative people (often from backgrounds marginalised in the arts) who’re looking to get their ideas onto a stage. There are gobsmacking artists at work in UK theatre today, and great shows that have delighted thousands of people, that might never have flourished without the start-up support that CPT (and some other organisations like us) provide. I think we do it well at CPT, and I’m proud of that.


What is the role of theatre and performance in developing social progress?

Well, that’s a big question. I made a show at CPT in 2017, Fog Everywhere, that led directly to Camden council becoming the UK’s first local authority to adopt WHO standards on air quality. So I don’t doubt that theatre and the arts have a role to play in social change. But there’s not always such a direct link. On the one hand, I think theatre and the arts bring people together, build social solidarity, help us see things anew and cultivate qualities like imaginative sympathy – qualities we’ll need if we’re going to build a better world. On the other, individual shows (and books, and artworks) often address social questions in striking new ways, that help us break through our inertia or pessimism and towards possible ways forward. It’s complex – but there’s a role there, there’s no doubt about that.

 

Where should people who don’t know how to get involved in the arts begin?

You’re involved with the arts as soon as you write (or read) a story, or paint a picture, or sing a song. Do the thing you love doing: don’t wait for anyone’s permission to do so. And engage with the work of others. London has several free galleries. Theatres like CPT are only a tenner (or often less) to visit. Join a local theatre group, or an improv class, or a choir. By doing it, and meeting other people who do it, you’ll already be involved in the arts and you’ll probably find ways to be more involved (or professionally involved) through the connections you make and the conversations you have.


Finally - What’s your favourite play?

Too many to mention. But I remember one particular night at CPT, when we had a double-bill on: Doppeldanger by the theatre company She Goat, and High Rise eState of Mind by Beats & Elements (which was in our first Camden Roar festival in 2019, as it happens.) And these two shows were so beautiful, so completely unlike anything else, so confident in their radicalism and difference, but so entertaining too – I just thought at that moment, ‘this is what CPT is all about, this is what good theatre is all about’, and I’ve never forgotten it. So: those two shows are/were great, and my whole theatre life is now about getting back to nights like that one.


The Camden Roar Festival will be Camden People's Theatre as to celebrate CPT's 30th Anniversary from 4th - 22nd June. The full programme, tickets, and accessibility information can be found at: https://cptheatre.co.uk/festivals/camden-roar


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