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  • Writer's pictureCultural Dose

Brian Logan Q&A

The Camden People’s Theatre is an iconic theatre venue which opened its doors in 1994. The theatre has hosted and produced plays, interactive shows, music, and performance, always with an eye to inclusivity and helping theatre become more accessible for local people in London’s most iconic borough – Camden. We spoke to Brian Logan, who has been the Artistic Director of the theatre for the last 11 years, about CPT’s upcoming Camden Roar Festival which opens this week and runs until June 22nd. Featuring a range of plays and shows by and about Camden people, the Roar Festival is a celebration of all things Camden, and a window into the vibrant, complex, and unusual lived experiences of its residents. 


Brian Logan

Camden People’s Theatre is having its 30th anniversary Roar Festival. What are you most looking forward to during it?

Selfishly, I’m looking forward to two shows that CPT has been intimately involved with. GRILLS by Mirrorball is about the pioneering 1980s Camden Lesbian Centre and Black Lesbian Group: its story, what became of it, and why there are so few queer spaces like that now. We’re co-produced that show, having commissioned it in partnership with our friends and neighbours the Old Diorama, over the road. Bengali Boys is a brand new project about the storied history of CPT’s building on the corner of Drummond Street, particularly at a period of racial tension in Camden in the early 1990s, just before we inherited the premises. I’m really psyched to see both those shows take to the stage.


How is the community and neighborhood involved in the theatre?

In loads of ways. We work with a steering group of local people, who meet with us monthly over pizza, to take part in our decision-making and help shape what our organisation is all about. They also curate regular community takeover days, featuring workshops, and social events, and family fun, and performances for local residents. CPT also makes theatre shows with local people; I personally have made several with the direct involvement, on- and offstage, of local residents, schoolkids and so on. Then there’s the annual outdoor festival we stage in Tolmers Sq, the residential square right behind our building. We also commission artists who come to us with ideas for shows they can make with, by and for the people of Camden – and we co-run, with New Diorama, a youth theatre for local teenagers. We are, in short, veryinvolved with the community, as they are with us.


How does CPT support and develop artists from a wide range of backgrounds?

In too many ways to mention here! We have several formal ‘artist support’ schemes, and we also support artists ad hoc, in a range of informal ways, year-round. That support is sometimes in the form of free rehearsal space. It’s often advice, or help with fundraising, or being an ‘outside eye’ in a rehearsal room, or offering stage space to try out an idea. (We don’t usually charge artists to put shows on here.) We often give artists money to make their shows, or at least to get them started. One of the most significant ways we support them, though, is the hardest to define, and it’s about offering them a welcoming, supportive and optimistic community to be part of, as opposed to the isolation and rejection that is too often their lot elsewhere.

 

What are some of the social issues that will be addressed during the Roar festival and what is their relevance to Camden?

You can identify three strands of work in the Camden Roar festival this year, and they are: shows about Camden’s queer histories and culture; shows about the rock’n’roll myth or iconography of Camden; and shows about gentrification, and the loss of the Camden we once treasured. Obviously all of these ideas are of interest to audiences London- (and UK-) wide, but they’re especially pertinent to a borough that has such a status in the popular imagination of what London is. A borough that stands for hedonism, freedom, diversity, bohemianism. Lots of this festival is about celebrating those qualities and sounding the alarm about the threats to them.


What is the role of art in helping people understand their own lives? 

How long have you got?! I can’t imagine what my sense of my self and my own life would be if I’d never read a book, or watched a movie, or listened to a song. Yikes: unimaginable. Art is one of the ways, a main way, that we contemplate and puzzle out who we are, individually and collectively. It lets us get out of our own heads and into the heads, and hearts, of others, cultivating our imaginative sympathy and solidarity – and also, yes, reflecting back on ourselves and giving us the perspective to work out who we are and what we’re doing here. And if that all sounds too pompous, did I mention it’s often really fun and exciting too?


How do you think CPT has changed over the 30 years since its founding? And what do you think might change in future?

It’s changed a lot, but the values – representing the people of Camden, looking out for the underdog, making it all an adventure – are pretty consistent. One of the big things that’s changed is that the idea of a scrappy, DIY theatre venue slap-bang in the centre of London might not have felt radical in 1994. But it sure does now, after three decades of property boom and gentrification. That to me makes CPT circa 2024 all the more valuable than it was thirty years ago.


As for the future? Well, I’d hope that support and funding for the arts might revive after a grim decade-plus of cuts and squalid culture wars. Might we imagine a future in which the arts are supported and celebrated at the highest level, as something we all participate in and are entitled to, something that can enrich all of our lives? I’d like that, thank you.


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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