Arming the World through Theatre
The news cycles in Britain have been dominated in recent times by Brexit, Trump, and nuclear war in North Korea. It is therefore perhaps unsurprising that British complicity in a regional war in the Arabian Peninsula has not been at the forefront of the minds of the British public. Nevertheless, with the arrival of the DSEI arms fair in London this September, theatre groups Teatro Vivo and Ice&Fire have taken to the streets of London to raise public awareness of how British-made weapons are being used to perpetrate war crimes in Yemen and around the world.
Christine Bacon explains to London Unattached that “The arms trade exists in a secretive and shadowy world and enjoys hugely disproportionate levels of government support relative to all other trade.” As such, the Arming the World project aims to educate and inform the British public as to their government’s “support for such a morally dubious trade.”
The techniques used by the group are as unorthodox as they are innovative. No picket lines or road blockades have been organized (contrary to the activities of other protest groups with similar aims). Instead, the group organized live performances across London including “singing and dancing weapons, so it’s fun for all the family!”. Outreach is at the core of the group’s efforts and the shows were performed “free of charge and in the middle of busy pedestrian areas, in order to make it as accessible as possible for people to see and in order to reach an audience which perhaps would never hear about it otherwise, let alone buy a ticket to come.”
The shows demonstrate how the arms are manufactured and the damage that they cause in the areas where they are used. It comes across as a kind of counter sales pitch – a more honest and more responsible version of the presentations made inside the ExCel centre by companies such as BAE Systems to buyers as conscionable as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE.
Much of these arms deals are conducted by Britain under the cover of darkness, but Ms Bacon argues that “The more the public know about what is being done and how their taxes are being used to sustain the trade, the less possible it is for the trade to hide behind euphemisms like ‘defence’ and ‘security’ and the harder it will be for government to justify its support [for the arms trade].”
The group encourages members of the British public who wish to further oppose the arms trade to join the Campaign Against Arms Trade as a “best first step”. It is also possible to get in touch with the movement via #ArmingtheWorld or contacting @armingtheworld on Twitter.
Interview conducted by Raphael Korber Hoffman with Christine Bacon, artistic director of ice&fire, over email.