The SIT-UP Awards aim to harness the power of plays to achieve greater social impact by supporting theatre companies before, during and after their productions.
“To change the world, you must first change your mind” – Jimi Hendrix
The SIT-UP Awards are new to this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe and aim to encourage audiences ‘to do something’ if they are affected by work they have seen on stage.
Launched by David Graham, a Fringe patron and philanthropist, the winner will be awarded £5,000 – £1,000 with no obligation and £4000 to help pay to extend the reach of their production after the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, for example, by funding the production of educational materials or helping cover the costs to remount the production.
A second prize of £1,000 will also be awarded for a production that engages with audiences in an innovative way.
Inspired after seeing the National Theatre of Scotland’s production, Adam, in 2017, Graham decided to consult with his peers in the theatre industry to work out what would help support work which had social change at its heart. The SIT-UP Awards team have already reached out to several companies presenting work at the Fringe 2018 to see how they can be supported with ideas, materials and introductions to charities to enable them to achieve greater impact with audiences during this year’s Fringe.
David Graham said: “My aim in creating the SIT-UP Awards is to get audiences to ‘sit up and do something’ after being inspired by a production. So often the momentum ends with the curtain coming down. That need not be what happens”
The SIT-UP team analysis of the 2017 Fringe theatre programme revealed that nearly a quarter of all the productions (215 of the 977 shows, 22%), related to social issues. A further breakdown of the 215 productions indicate that a range of issues were being explored: Mental Health (24.2%); LGBT issues (17.7%); Race (5.1%); Refugees (9.3%); Abuse (5.1%); Grief and Death (11.2%); Disability and Health (7%). But what do those audiences do with the insight and understanding on offer and how can companies enhance that experience?
Joining David in founding the awards are Robert Iles (co-founder of the UK Theatre Web, the UK’s oldest theatre website and largest performing arts archive) and Alice Millest (trustee of the charity theatre company Clean Break and youth-led initiative Art Against Knives). Also included on the judging panel will be Jez Bond (Park Theatre Director); Celia Tennant (Chief Executive of Inspiring Scotland); Rhea Lewis (Creative Producer and Co-Founder of Project X); and Adam Kashmiry, whose play Adam inspired Graham to set up these awards.
A shortlist of six productions will be announced during week two of the Festival with the winner announced in week three. Although the panel expects the shortlist to consist mainly of theatre productions, they are open to including comedy, dance or physical theatre.
Award criteria: As well as great artistic merit, the winner will also have excelled in one or more of the following:
- Changing minds –A powerful play could achieve a ‘full 180’ of opinion and sustain this change long term. This criteria reflects the play’s ability to incite empathy, and for the story to linger in the heart and mind after the festival.
- Changing behaviours – The best productions will have a loud, specific call to action with information or mechanisms to help audiences achieve that goal.
- Research integrity –This could be informing the content or direction of the play as a result of collaboration with a charity, or through involving those with lived experience in the production.
- Raising awareness – Plays that educate audiences, helping them to understand is-sues they never knew existed or to see a new perspective or be given a greater in-sight, leaving them challenged by what they have experienced.
SIT-Up Awards Website – https://situpawards.com/