Welcome to the start of your co-production journey. I’d like you to think of this guide as an IKEA instruction sheet. When you’ve read through it, you will have the Nörsjek coffee-table components, the screws and fixings, and those little bent-metal tools, but you will have to assemble the whole thing.
I don’t intend these pages to be a set-in-stone doctrine, nor is my way the only way of doing things. What you are going to read, is based on my personal experience over the last ten years, the lessons I’ve learned and the mistakes I’ve made… and there have been many.
I must add a caveat now: I am not a museum professional, a history graduate, a heritage specialist or an academic. My background is in theatre, and specifically making theatre that reflects the lives and concerns of ordinary people. My work may seem unconnected with the field of history and heritage, but at its heart, my practice is about community co-production. I refer to what I do as participatory engagement, or community theatre. I had to Google the term co-production when I was invited to interview for the role facilitator on the CINE Project. It means something very different in the theatre industry, and it was more than a little surprising to discover that co-production was just another name for what I’ve been doing for the last decade. And back then, I used my other, adopted surname, Barriscale.
I’m not going cover co-production theory, academic discourse, nor whether there should be a hyphen or not. Those are discussions outside the scope of these pages, and although I’ve written this as a practical guide, I’m not suggesting you carry it with you to every community meeting. You will undoubtedly find yourself in situations I could not possibly imagine, even with my playwright’s head on, and these pages won’t be much help.
That is both the terror and joy of co-production. No book, manual or guide will prepare you for everything you encounter, but within these pages I hope you will find pointers, tips, tricks and ideas to inspire you. And if you get through to the end, I also hope you’ll be ready enough to start co-producing in your own communities.
Then again, maybe you’re asking, ‘Why should we?’ or possibly ‘Why would I want to do that?’ I will address the question, ‘Why co-produce?’ later on, with specific reference to the benefits for organisations and communities, but on a personal level, I can tell you this… the community engagement work in which I’ve been involved has given me some of the most rewarding, enjoyable and profoundly moving experiences of my life.
I hope you will find the same in your own work.
Guy Le Jeune, CINE Project Facilitator, Inch Island Co-Production
A note or two that weren’t in the first draft, but I feel I should add…
I started writing this guide before any of us had heard of social-distancing. Whatever the future holds, I hope that some of the sections on community interaction may be applicable, somewhere down the line.
And if you’re reading this and English is not your first language, then I am seriously impressed. We native English speakers forget to say that sometimes.