Unique project will transform Birmingham residents’ views on Brexit into a bespoke piece of performance art


A unique project has transformed Birmingham residents’ views on Brexit into a bespoke piece of performance art incorporating, dance, spoken word, installations and film.

The special project, titled ‘This is an Island?’ will be on show at Birmingham School of Art, and was produced after collating views of the UK’s second city’s residents following an almost 50/50 split in the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.

Brexit Studies

Birmingham City University

From 29 November to 1 December, join the Speaker of the House at Birmingham School of Art for the world premiere of 'This Is an Island?' produced by DanceXchange with creative direction by Gary Clarke. This performance is a Sky Arts commission through the Art 50 programme which explores the notion of British identity in the wake of Brexit.

'This Is an Island?' invites audiences to experience a no holds barred version of the motivations behind the referendum vote through the eyes of Birmingham residents, who were split almost 50/50 over Brexit. Interviews, comments, actions and views are transformed into a thought-provoking and exciting multi-sensory journey. 

Through a partnership with Birmingham City University the performance will be staged in a gallery space within Birmingham School of Art in the heart of the city, lending a unique atmosphere to the piece.

Audiences will be taken on a journey through an imagined forum, similar in structure to the House of Commons, experiencing first-hand the voices and opinions of the people of Birmingham through dance, spoken word, Installations and film.

The piece has developed from conversations which took place in May 2018 when a group of artists went out on to the streets of the city to discuss Brexit and what it means to be British, through a series of road shows supported by DanceXchange and the Centre for Brexit Studies at Birmingham City University. 

Gary Clarke, Creative Director and Choreographer said: “'This Is an Island?' has a unique approach.  It is ‘performed research’ where we have resisted the temptation to put our own editorial onto the participants’ interviews but instead faithfully give life to the stories behind those individuals’ fears, hopes and dreams. The finished work is a fantastic collaboration across art forms and we look forward to bringing the words and thoughts of the people of Birmingham to our audiences."

Gary Clarke’s work was last seen at DanceXchange with the critically acclaimed COAL which explored the experience of miners in the 1980 strike era.

Professor Alex de Ruyter, Director of Birmingham City University’s Centre for Brexit Studies, said: “Birmingham’s result in the EU referendum was a real standout given how divided the city was on the issue.

“We started the Brexit Roadshow series to speak to people on the streets and better understand what the public really think about Brexit."

Lucie Mirkova, Executive Producer at DanceXchange said, “It has been thrilling to produce a work about such a timely subject with Gary Clarke, an incredible artist with a great track record in creating important political work that speaks to people of all backgrounds and political persuasions.  At dx we are especially excited that this opportunity has attracted a strong cast of dance artists living in the region to work on this important national project which will form part of a series broadcast on Sky Arts next year.”

Phil Edgar-Jones, Director of Sky Arts said: “When Sky Arts asked 50 artists to explore what means to be British in the wake of Brexit, we were instantly excited by the response from DanceXchange."

Headed by Gary Clarke, ‘This is an Island’ uncovered deep chasms across generations, classes and races and shone a light on many concerns from consumerism to homelessness to the role of the media. Following months of intensive research – and a few drinking sessions with locals in various pubs – they have put together an arresting performance piece which will engage anyone lucky enough to catch it.”   

'This Is An Island?' will be a part of the Art 50 Festivals taking place at prestigious locations such as The Barbican, Sage and Baltic in February 2019.  Extracts from the show will premiere on screen on Sky Arts to coincide with the official exit from the European Union on 29 March 2019.

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