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27.08.2018

Sit Up Awards help to highlight the compassionate humanity at the centre of complex issues

I am passionate about the potential of people and communities to create lasting positive change. I wouldn’t be able to do the work I do – as chief executive of Inspiring Scotland and as an active member of several community and social advisory groups – if I didn’t believe it wholeheartedly.

Over the last few weeks, I have also seen the potential for the performing arts to play a part in that by creating the spark that inspires people to make those positive changes as I was lucky enough to be invited to join the judging panel for a brand-new award celebrating theatre which engages with difficult social issues.

The Sit Up Awards were started by philanthropist David Graham in a bid to inspire theatre companies to take action beyond their production and encourage real change by celebrating the productions at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival & Fringe which have a social issue at their heart.

Over the last few weeks I have watched productions tackling issues from disability and race discrimination to mental health and drug addiction, and I have been moved by thoughtful and measured performances which have brought the challenging reality and the compassionate humanity at the centre of these complex issues to life, offering a perspective beyond the statistics and clichés which often define social problems in the public consciousness.

The winning play, Dangerous Giant Animals by Christina Murdock, is a thought-provoking look at the realities of living with disability which thoroughly deserved this inaugural award, but all the shortlisted plays challenged in ways which will inform the way I think about these issues from now on.

I was also heartened that several of my Inspiring Scotland colleagues took the opportunity afforded by the Fringe to go on impromptu evening out together to see Darren McGarvey AKA Loki’s Poverty Safari live show and have told me of a performance which takes a nuanced but justifiably incensed look at some of the complex consequences of living in poverty. Consequences which are inexcusable in contemporary Scotland.

As someone who supports charities that deal with consequences of many of these issues, which often disproportionately affect people who are already facing disadvantage, I was delighted to be part of the Sit Up judging panel.

One of the reasons David Graham established the Sit Up Awards was to help keep the important topics which performing arts can address in conversation after the curtain falls and I am confident my experience over the last few weeks, and that of my colleagues, will factor in our thinking as we continue our work towards a Scotland without poverty or disadvantage.

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