November 26, 2013

Hello! I’m Laurence, a fourth-year Drama student at the University of Kent who has decided to specialise in Applied Theatre. One of our modules involves selecting a community-arts based company to work with, to see how they function day to day and all the trials and tribulations that go with it.

People United was the first one I applied to, for two major reasons. The first was their inclusivity; the majority of companies I looked at had a specific client group in mind, a section of society whom they choose to exclusively work with. People United was different, rather than focusing on any one type of person in particular, they’re focused on anyone and everyone.  I really wanted to work with a company with such a broad approach, to see how art can affect people in different ways and the changes it can help make to society as a whole. Secondly, the company’s ethos and mission is very important to me. After all, it’s quite hard not to despair at the state of the modern world with all the globalisation and colossal consumerism about. I feel it’s a horrible irony that as continents and countries become ever more connected, that we as people grow further and further apart.

Truth be told, most of us would rather stick our ipod in than dare to conduct any kind of conversation on the bus. In general, it’s considered more normal to Skype someone the other side of the world, than to visit our next door neighbour. Of course, I’m just as guilty of it as everyone else. Ayn Rand was forever praising the ‘rational egoism’ of mankind, our self-interest and insatiable hunger for self-satisfaction. Sadly Rand’s philosophy seems to be the pervading force in our society. To me, it’s this issue that People United want to address, through art and community they get people talking, debating and being kind to each other. Most importantly the effects are tangible and lasting, they’ve already proved that a giant picnic can bring people together and forge new friendships like few other things can.

After recently watching a documentary made by Creative Pursuits about their own experiences of kindness and of stories from the people of Herne Bay, (part of the We All Do Good Things project) I could see that other people felt much the same way I do. It’s as if in this world kind people are like some sort of endangered species. The people interviewed spoke about this seemingly mythical group of people with the same reverence they’d use to talk about white rhinos. There was hope though, as practically every person had a lovely story about how either they’d been kind that day, or, how someone had shown them some kindness. Even the most cynical among them had to admit that there was still kindness out there, even if we have to squint very hard sometimes to see it.

Creative Pursuits filming stories of kindness in Herne Bay

We need more kindness in this world, we need more people to look out for one another and do our best to supress self-interest, no matter how natural it may seem. If everyone were always looking out for each other – we’d effectively achieve Utopia and who doesn’t want that? So, that’s why I chose to work with People United, because I wanted to see first-hand how their commissions, projects and work effect people day-to-day. I want to observe how one company can help to foster kindness and happiness in our little corner of the globe. If they can make a difference here, then it can make a difference elsewhere too. For me, their mission is a noble and pressing one.

Laurence Sullivan

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