Banner Theatre tours

Since the turn of the 21st century, GZP has hosted three tours by Banner Theatre. As a result the company has been seen by audiences from Edmonton to Ottawa.

The Banner Theatre / GZP partnership began through the book Workers’ Playtime by Alan Filewod and Dave Watt. The book is a critical study of Australian, Canadian and British companies that work with organized Labour. Banner was the UK company, Ground Zero the Canadian. When Don Bouzek met Dave Rogers, Banner’s Artistic Director, they discovered that they shared a lot of common ground, and began a process of collaboration which continues today.

Free for All [2000] / Initial Collaboration [2002]

GZP hosted a visit by Banner during the annual May Week Labour Arts Festival in Edmonton. They presented a play about the English National Health Service during the very public debate over Alberta’s Bill 11 [which tried to open the doors for private hospitals in the province]. During the company’s two weeks in Canada, we held a development workshop with Edmonton artists that formed the basis for the creation of There For A Reason, Ground Zero’s show about Canadian health care. Dave, Banner writer Stuart Brown and Don also went on a three-day retreat, during which time we discussed plans for long term collaboration on a project centring on globalization and its impact in our respective countries.

In early 2002, with the support of the British Arts Council, Don was able to participate in a workshop which developed the prototype for the Video Ballad form. At the end of that year, Dave returned to Canada. He participated in an Alberta Federation of Labour school in Jasper to become better acquainted with the Canadian Labour Movement. Then he engaged in a week long workshop with Edmonton based artists, in part sharing what we had learned about the Video Ballads and in part developing ideas for further Ground Zero work.

Migrant Voices [2003]

Early in 2003, Don returned to the UK as a collaborator in the development of the second Video Ballad which focused on Iraqi Kurds in Salford, a city within Greater Manchester. The show starts from a racial attack by white youths on a Kurdish father and son and explores the stories of both the Kurdish family and the Salford community that lay behind the incident. The show toured a number of UK communities in the spring.

In late April, Ground Zero hosted that show for a western Canadian tour. Migrant Voices was performed in Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon, Fort Qu’Appelle, Brandon and Winnipeg. We received standing ovations at each show.

Wild Geese / Burning Issues [2005]

Throughout 2004 and early 2005, Don worked as a Director with Banner in the development of two projects. Burning Issues commemorated the 20th anniversary of the national coal miners’ strike in the UK. Based on interviews with former miners [virtually all the pits are now closed] in Yorkshire, Stoke on Trent, Lancastershire and South Wales, the show told the story of the struggle against Maggie Thatcher’s campaign to destroy one of the UK’s most militant unions. Wild Geese portrayed refugees and asylum seekers in the UK as they struggled, under the threat of deportation, to resist dangerous work conditions.

In late April and early May we brought both productions to Canada and toured them, along with Maria Dunn’s show Troublemakers. Wild Geese _and _Troublemakers were performed in Edmonton as part of the May Week Festival; then in Ottawa as part of the National Art Centre’s Alberta Scene Festival; and finally in Guelph. Burning Issues shows were presented in Peterborough and in Toronto as part of the Mayworks Festival.