The Liberty Tree is an innovative educational initiative designed to give 14-24 yr olds a creative, active and participatory introduction to trade unionism and the history of the battles for justice, freedom and equality that continue to be fought today.
The project is aimed at young people, students, youth groups, theatre groups and teachers and lecturers of history, politics, economics, philosophy and drama, who are teaching in sixth forms, FE Colleges and Universities.
We use play-texts, rehearsals and role-playing drama workshops to give young people a stimulating and experiential introduction to the history of democracy and of trade unions and to the praxis and principles of political organisation.
The project has grown out of the 2015 production of the agitprop musical, The Liberty Tree, and as well as workshops and classroom teaching, the project also offers access to an on-line, multi-media, educational resource, which will be available from May 2017.
The original play, was written by award-winning actor, writer and director, Chris Jury, and was produced by Public Domain at The Cockpit Theatre, London in May 2015. The Education Pack contains a script, detailed script notes, essays, photographs, song lyrics and a video of the original production.
The play was written to be a modern Lehrstücke, a form of ‘teaching play’ devised by Bertolt Brecht in the 1920’s, whereby the performers of a play learn creatively about the economics, politics and power relations they experience in their everyday lives, through the living, creative process of playing roles and adopting fictional postures and attitudes that inform their understanding of their own economic reality.
This participatory and intensely political approach to teaching and learning was famously taken up in the 1970’s by Paulo Freire in The Pedagogy of The Oppressed and Augusto Boal in The Theatre Of The Oppressed.
The aim of The Liberty Tree Education Project is to provide tools for teachers, lecturers, directors and youth group leaders, to ‘educate’ (in the broadest sense of the word) the young people who read, perform or watch the play/film, into the ways in which economic power is expressed in the work place and that collectively it is possible for us to resist exploitation and repression.
The text of the play is deliberately full of political and historical references. For example the lead character is called Rosa, why? Because she is named after Rosa Parks and Rosa Luxembourg. The lead male character is called Joe The Singer, why? Because he is named after Joe Hill… Every character and almost every line of dialogue contains references of this kind and the interactive script is fully annotated giving extensive links to further information about the people and ideas the play references.
Thus a simple classroom reading of the play can start students on an originative and exciting journey of discovery into academic subjects that are sometimes characterised by young people themselves as abstract or irrelevant to their lives, such as history, politics, economics and philosophy.
Such learning outcomes are multiplied if students move beyond simply reading the script or watching the play/film, and start to actively participate in the acting out of scenes from the play and/or rehearsing and producing public performances of the play.
The play is available for performance by schools, colleges, universities and amateur theatre groups.
And the film is also available for stand alone screenings by trade unions and political film clubs.