Accidental Gods podcast

Be Kind, Be Useful, Create Giants in the Sky: transforming community with Alan Lane of Slung Low

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The Accidental Gods podcast exists to set the conditions for emergence into a new system: to bring a critical mass of us to a place where emergence into a new system is a rewarding reality.  To get there, we bring to you some of the many astonishingly creative, compassionate, switched-on people who are working at the leading edge of change.
Alan Lane is one of these people. He's the artistic director of the theatre company Slung Low, which in turn is one of the most innovative theatre companies in the UK, if not in the world. Absolutely embedded in the neighbourhood in which they work, Slung Low are committed to their core principles of 'Be Kind, Be Useful, Everyone gets to do what they want. Nobody gets to tell anyone else what they can't do.' (within obvious limits - as you'll hear). 

Alan is also the author of the book 'The Club on the Edge of Town' which is subtitled 'A Pandemic Memoir' but is so, so much more - this is the story of how Slung Low arose, how it came to be entered in the oldest Working Mens' Club in England (unable to change the name), and ultimately became a Food Bank during the pandemic. It's the story of standing in the rain, of keeping promises, of integrity and grit and sheer bloody-minded tenacity. Most of all, it's a story of how a small group of committed people made a huge difference to the lives of their neighbours and community. It is also the story of the culture clash that you'll hear more about in the podcast, and that led, ultimately, to Slung Low moving elsewhere in Leeds. 

Since then, their transformation to being part of the team that put on the utterly magical opening event of the Leeds Year of Culture 2023, where the city's most famous pop star spoke to a god - is the stuff of legend. 

In their new world, their core purpose is to make Awe and Wonder happen - and they are doing it with commitment, integrity, enthusiasm and raw inspiration. 

In this episode, Alan tells the story that led from standing in the rain in Nottinghill to creating technical magic on a stage in Leeds. We explore the power of story to change people's lives and the value of commitment to the things we believe in.  We dig deep into Alan's absolute moral imperatives and his compassion for the people around him, people he values, people he teaches to value themselves in a world that, in his words, 'teaches us we're cogs in a machine and we're scum' is heartbreakingly wonderful.  Truly, if the whole world was inspired as Leeds is being inspired, we'd be in a different place. (And the god that rose out of the river was a world first: made with drones, everyone said it was impossible. And Alan and the team made it happen anyway.  How good of a metaphor is that for what we have to do now in our emerging new system?)

Alan Lane is Artistic Director of Slung Low directing most of their work over the last decade including projects with the Barbican, the RSC, The Almeida, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Liverpool Everyman, Sheffield Theatres, Singapore Arts Festival and the Lowry. Slung Low make large scale people’s theatre work on stages, trains, castles, swimming pools, fishing boats and town centres.

In 2017 Slung Low headlined Hull UK City of Culture 2017 with Flood by James Phillips: a 4 Part epic performed online, live and on the BBC. Over half a million people saw a part of Flood. It won a Royal Televisual Award Yorkshire for innovation in drama.

In 2019 the company took over management of the oldest working men’s club in Britain, The Holbeck in South Leeds. Initially, they ran this venue as a Pay What You Decide creative and community space, but during lockdown, they transformed into one of the only non-means-tested Food Banks in the country.  Their work there was transformative and Alan wrote the book 'The Club on the Edge of Town' out of their experiences there. 
Late last year, the company moved venues to a warehouse next to their favourite primary school and began to help organise the astonishing, miraculous, technologically outstanding (and magically wonderful) opening event to Leeds Year of Culture 2023, which culminated in Corrine Bailey Rae talking to a god in front of a rugby stadium filled with 10,000 artists.  

Slung Low
Arts Together Leeds
Leeds 2023
Buy 'The Club on the Edge of Town'
The Club on the Edge of Town audio version

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