The Citizens is #boldforchange This International Women's Day

The Citizens Theatre has long been celebrated for its bold theatre programme at its home in the Gorbals. But the work we do extends out across Glasgow and beyond thanks to the dedicated Citizens Learning team.

Every week of the year the Citizens Learning team provides a range of opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds in Glasgow and beyond to get involved in the creative life of our Theatre and develop skills and self-confidence in an inclusive environment.  The team work with people with additional support needs, with people in prisons, in marginalised groups and disadvantaged communities.

To celebrate the Team's work and mark the Citizens' support of International Women's Day 2017, we'd like to introduce you to Elly.

Elly is a member of the Citizens Learning Team and works with lots of different groups, from young people in a school setting, adults experiencing homelessness, to those in the criminal justice sector and women seeking alternatives to custodial service.

One of the groups Elly works with is based in Garthamlock and their project, A Family Sentence, explores the impact of incarceration on family members.  Mothers, sisters and daughters come together with members of the Citizens Learning Team to explore the issues affecting them, and are encouraged to put their experiences into words. These words have been developed into a script which will be shared in performances both in the families' local community and at the Citizens Theatre itself in June.

 "We use theatre as a mechanism to give a voice to groups of people who are often unheard" Elly.

The group in Garthamlock is one of many projects in which Elly and the team are involved. Tomorrow`s Women, based in the Gorbals, is a unique Community Justice Centre for women who have been involved in offending behaviour. The service aims to ‘reduce reoffending and bring about behavioural change’ and offers individual and group support and a range of activities, including gardening, arts and crafts and a Theatre programme in partnership with the Citizens Theatre which will culminate in a performance at the Citizens Theatre in June.

Women who have participated in this programme have gone on to become volunteers within the centre, demonstrating not only the programme's effectiveness but also the desire of its participants to give something back.  Talking about the project, Team Leader Anne Gallacher said; "Our evidence demonstrates a clear pattern of positive outcomes with significantly reduced reoffending, reduced court appearances, reduced prison time, reduced A&E attendance, reduced drug and alcohol use, improved physical and mental wellbeing, improved access to accommodation, re-engaging with families and access to learning and employment"

For many years the Citizens Leaning team have worked with women's groups in the community and have continued to be encouraged by the possibilities that the theatre process can bring to an environment.

Elly adds "We generate a safe space within which the women can air opinions, so lifting the lid on important topics that affect them and therefore reinforcing a shared female commonality. By sharing our stories and life experiences through the power of Drama, our work encourages group members to reconnect with play as an adult andtapping into the power of creativity"

The Chara Centre is a respite centre offering shelter to vulnerable women experiencing complex needs and homelessness. The Citizens Learning team has delivered a series of weekly creative sessions in the centre since June 2012, nurturing women’s creative talent and supporting the women to develop transferable skills to help them back into independent living.

Female residents of the centre meet with Elly and other members of the Learning Team twice a week to take part in song writing, textile print-work, visual art, creative writing and drama. “The Citizens Theatre people have been great. They’ve brought me out of my shell and they help people relax and be themselves.” (Chara Centre participant).  Sharing their performance work with invited audiences has become a highlight and regular feature at the centre and the group recently published the second edition of their magazine, ‘The C Word’, written by and for women experiencing homelessness.

We believe that our artistic intervention has generated positive change and personal development and it continues to explore the relationship that the women have with the Citizens Theatre. We are very pleased to say that quite a number of our participants regularly attend main stage shows at the Citizens. 

"It is vital that the arts are fully recognised for the part they have to play within our communities, for the tools they provide to those who seek to take charge of and rebuild their lives. It is important that we see people as people, and not defined by the restrictive labels we often assign to them. These projects and performances have shown that the women we are fortunate to collaborate with, are capable of truly astonishing and inspiring journeys in personal development, making themselves better placed to step forward into self-determined life paths filled with positivity, and hope", Elly.

Everyone is welcome to take part in Citizens Learning projects, classes and productions including people from minority ethnic backgrounds, those seeking asylum or refuge, those out of work or striving to recover from drug and alcohol dependency.  We warmly invite you to take part in the creative life of the Citizens Theatre.

The work the Citizens Theatre Learning Team does is generously supported through funding from:

·      Chara Centre supported by Comic Relief
·      Tomorrow’s Women supported by Glasgow City Council, Glasgow Community Justice Authority, Glasgow Housing Association, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and the Scottish Prison Service
·      A Family Sentence in partnership with New College Lanarkshire funded by Creative Scotland Open Fund