• Mariam Gevorkian

The Human Jam - Political Activism through Theatre

Updated: Aug 21, 2019

Camden community has been facing major disruptions ensued by plans of developing HS2's new railway terminal. Amongst all conventional disruptions of homes, businesses, parks and pubs closing, the most disturbing yet is the digging up of 63,000 bodies from a graveyard to make way for the infrastructure. The people of Camden are certainly not pleased with such intervention from the government, baring in mind that there are still doubts of the HS2 being built, why has there been so much irreversible action taken?

Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps has commented on the need of "clear evidence" on the budget required to complete the HS2 railway project. Although the project is not fully confirmed yet, it has already allowed the biggest exhumation of graves in European History to take place.

This has had a potent effect on the Camden community who feel disturbed and disappointed at the Camden Council's lack of adherence to the communities needs. The railway project is largely seen as an irrelevant expenditure scheme as the railway route already exists from London Euston to Birmingham. The project has overall stirred feelings of unsettledness as members try to comprehend why the government is aiming to pursue such a project in the heart of London where many homes, businesses and also graves reside. Feeling unheard and fed up, journalist and theatre director Brian Logan orchestrated a docu-theatre piece which then transcends into a beyond-the-grave fantasy.

A select group of the community who have participated in protests and other channels of political activism were invited by Brain to star in his piece, adding potency and real value to the performance overall. What I initially expected to be a conventional theatre performance turned out to be an immensely fascinating piece. Combining themes of gothic, comedic, political & musical elements whilst also being very educational and enabling communal participation, the Human Jam project aimed to capture the harsh impact HS2 is having on Camden. The piece at its core stands as a protest but also entertains and enriches the audience with contextual knowledge of the topic.

The performance was packed with layers of narrative and perspective from activists within the local community who starred in the Human Jam (& were also so lovely to interview). What captured me the most was how passionately the community members voiced their experiences within a theatrical manner. It was so convincing that you'd think they were actual performers. By the end of the performance I concluded that theatre provided the means for political stances to be expressed in creative and healthy way.

Working on the project for the past year, Brain Logan recognised that the HS2 project is damaging Camden community the most as it is located at the heart of the disruption caused. Watching the performance I witnessed theatre giving voices to individual stories through protest songs and monologues written by the current protestors and also by people who were buried in the graves 200 years ago. Brian further commented that urban development projects happening in this day and age need to put people first instead of profit, and that within todays culture we have the opportunity to make encourage this agenda.

Camden theatre has been successful in the past in evoking social change, so here's hoping the same outcome ensues from the Human Jam performance also. Enforcing the Camden Council to take steps towards becoming the UK's first local authority to adopt WHO standard on air quality, it is evident that expression through theatre can have the ability of welcoming change. Theatre indeed enables the amplification of a community of voices that feel frustrated and ignored by policy makers and infrastructure plannings.