My name's Stephen, I'm a performer and am one half of the team that runs ShellShock Theatre. Thanks to NTW, Andy Field and the Forest Fringe we had the chance to spend most of last year performing in city centres and other public spaces throughout the UK, getting the opportunity to do pretty much what we wanted to and were to be found 'generally being a bit disruptive and surreal' in Bristol, Leeds, and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The performances I've been creating have aimed to express my opinion, have the audience question their surroundings and encourage social and personal criticism. These are all things I try to do myself day-to-day.
I started an MPhil in January looking at performance in public space and the idea of reclaiming public space (especially city centres designed for shopping) as spaces for contemplation, expression and catharsis.
Whilst researching ShellShock's show HiddenCity I stumbled upon Swansea City Council's 2020 plan, which is a vision for Swansea in the future. Envisioned as a 'European boulevard city' the plan includes the story of Molly, a fictional character through which we see this new Swansea as we follow her on a day out which cumulates in her and a friend seeing a show at the Grand Theatre.
Now, anyone who has been to Swansea would probably notice a distinct lack of boutique hotel bars on that street. Wind Street (or Wine Street as it's more commonly know by the locals) is known as 'Swansea's party heartland' and is reported on the police.uk website to be one of the most violent streets in the UK. It's seems to me unlikely, BUT if Wind Street were to be filled with boutique hotel bars where would the current users of wind street would go for a bit of a release?
Wind street, in my opinion, is an example of society's pressure valve, a place where people can go and let off some steam. It's by no means unique to Swansea, lots of cities and towns throughout the UK have reported the problem of 'binge-drinking-culture' and its has always been a trend in the use of certain recreational activities to become popular and then demonised, usually sited as a 'problem'. Britain's rave culture in the 80's and 90's is an example of one of these 'problems' which was dealt with through legislation and resulted in the illegalistaion of a sub-culture.
I want to hear your opinions; is binge-drinking, recreational drug use and violence the real problem on Wind/Wine Street or are there underlying issues with the structure of our society and reasons in individual's lives that fuel the need to seek out these activities? Is it an excuse to release their 'inner animal', act like chimpanzees and defecate in the streets? (Personally I feel the need to monkey around from time to time...) Or maybe you think there isn't really a big problem and its just all blown out of proportion?
Answers on a postcard, all contributions and thoughts will be gratefully appreciated.
Best wishes, take is easy,
Hi Stephen - and what a great MPhil! You raise some immense subjects in your post. If you need a quick overview of the historical perspective the opening chapter in 'Alcohol, Social Work and Helping' ed Stewart Collins, Routledge 1990 ISBN 0-415-02578-8 is pretty succinct and covers many of the conflicting arguments as to whether problems with drugs (which includes alcohol) are personal or societal ones. All societies in all times have used mood altering substances. I think the critical question is 'who benefits' from such use - the user, the supplier, the economy, the government, wider society...? Searching for answers to that will take you into a very interesting labyrinth. All the very best with it. Leona