The SIT-UP Awards are new to this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe and are launched by Fringe patron and philanthropist, David Graham.
Inspired by seeing the National Theatre of Scotland’s 2017production, Adam, 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.
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 related to social issues. A further breakdown of the 215 productions indicates that a range of issues were being explored including Mental Health; LGBT; Race; Abuse; Grief and Death; Disability and Health. The question is: what do those audiences do with the insight and understanding on offer and how can companies enhance that experience?
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.
As well as 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 criterion 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 issues they never knew existed or to see a new perspective or be given a greater insight, leaving them challenged by what they have experienced.
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.
Joining David Graham in founding the awards are Robert Iles, co-founder of the UK Theatre Web, 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, who starred in the NTS play Adam written by Francis Poet that 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.
As Jimi Hendrix said, “To change the world, you must first change your mind”