MAITS funded a five-day Forum Theatre event facilitated via a collaboration between Sharing Stories (www.sharingstoriesventure.com) and Odd Arts (www.oddarts.co.uk). The project took place in Kampala, Uganda, in July 2018. The trainers were joined by the individuals with experience of mental health difficulties, including users of mental health services, mental health professionals and carers. The project included the development and performance of a Forum Theatre production to a public audience, and a training workshop around Forum Theatre and Creative Leadership techniques.
The workshops in the first three days introduced Forum Theatre to the participants. Using a range of group exercises, the trainers began the process of developing a drama about stigma and mental health, using many of the participants’ personal experiences of mental health as inspiration for the characters and story. On the third evening, the workshop participants performed their Forum Theatre piece to an audience at the National Theatre, as part of an event which included showing films about previous Sharing Stories events, a recent Forum Theatre project in the UK, and interviews with mental health professionals and service users about their experiences of stigma. The final two days were devoted to training a group of the participants in the use of Forum Theatre techniques to use and disseminate within their local communities and networks, to support sustainable and ongoing change beyond the end of the project.
Feedback from participants and audience members indicates that this project achieved and indeed went beyond the initial objectives identified. People were engaged and trained in use of Forum Theatre techniques, contributing to change at social and community levels. Drawing on the lived experience of people with mental health problems, a powerful performance was written and delivered to an audience at the National Theatre. The audience members left with an improved awareness of mental health and stigma, and were empowered by thinking about things they could do to contribute in an active way to challenging negative perceptions and stereotypes. The training provided focused on generalizable and transferable learning outcomes, enabling participants to utilise and adapt the techniques for use within their own communities and organisations. The shared learning between group members from UK and Uganda promoted powerful cross-cultural reflection, development and understanding, leading to wide ranging and sustainable change across both countries.