ADMINISTRATIVE/BIOGRAPHICAL HISTORY: Platform combines art, activism, education and research in one organisation to drive for social and ecological justice.
Platform was established in Cambridge in 1983. On 10 June, James Marriott, Ravi Micrchandani and Rod Bolt had placed an advertisement in The Heckler, a radical magazine, advocating the establishment of a political theatre group in Cambridge. An open meeting to discuss the proposal was held on 15 June and the name 'Platform' was adopted by the fifteen people present. On 17 October a condensed version of Platform's manifesto was published in The Heckler. The manifesto gave details of Platform's programme for the term: 'Man Equals Man (Brecht), 'Medea' (Euripides), 'One Woman Plays' (Dario Fo & Franca Rame) and plans to host Bahumtsi, a Sowentan theatre group. By November 1983, Dan Gretton had joined the group, but by August 1984 only James Marriott and Dan Gretton remained in the collective. Following the loss of so many members, the group was relaunched in October 1984 at a public meeting. Marriott and Gretton suggested Platform's first project could focus on the strike at Addenbrookes Hospital (later becoming the Addenbrookes Blues project). In June 1985 Marriott and Gretton had completed their studies and looked to leave Cambridge. They handed the group, then known as Platform Cambridge, over to Mel Rose-Forster and 'Anna'.
Continuing to work together, James Marriott and Dan Gretton had established a London branch of Platform (known as Platform London) by 1987. At this time the group was described as an ‘arts theatre co-operative’. The group was strongly influenced by the work and practices of the German artist/activist Joseph Beuys. Platform's aims were to promote the creative capacities of every individual whilst also enlarging their audiences’ understanding of their local community. Platform hoped to encourage their audience to participate in the creation of a just and equal society.
As with the original Cambridge organisation, the London branch of Platform was guided by co-operative principles. People with little previous experience would research, write, direct and perform in Platform's plays and pop up theatre events. The work produced during this period centred upon the immediate social, economic and political issues in a local area. It sought to both represent these issues, and intervene in them. The Addenbrookes Blues and the Transformation projects visibly reflected this ethos.
These early localised projects helped establish a collaborative mode of working which was expanded on during the 1990s during a succession of projects that focused on London communities and their relationship with the rivers of the Capital. To achieve this, Platform began to engage with scientists, engineers and environmental activists, delivering a number of ambitious projects in this period, including the installation of a micro-hydro turbine on the River Wandle for the project Delta.
In 1996 Platform announced the launch of ‘90% Crude’ an ambitious 10 year project which would see the collective focus their art-activism on the issues of oil production and use, as well as the connected issues of climate change, corporate power and climate justice. 90% Crude became an umbrella project for a web of smaller projects including Killing Us Softly, Unravelling the Carbon Web, Freedom in The City, Vessel, Agitpod, Funding for a Change, Crude Operators, Carbon Generations and Ignite. The projects continued to develop beyond the initial project outline, taking advantages of new opportunities for development and community engagement.
In 2003 Platform launched the Remember Saro-Wiwa project in memory of the Nigerian activist Ken Saro-Wiwa who had been executed by the Nigerian government in 1995. Platform promoted the legacy of Saro-Wiwa, the Ogoni people’s campaign against Shell, and the global calls for climate justice to connect energy consumers in the UK with the destruction of habitat and communities in the Niger Delta (Ogoniland). The project built on the collaborative nature of previous projects such as Delta to involve a diverse coalition of organisations and individuals, including the artist Sokari Douglas-Camp CBE who created a ‘living memorial’ to Ken Saro-Wiwa. The project led on to the Action Saro-Wiwa project which continued to promote Ken Saro-Wiwa’s legacy.
As well as distinct projects, Platform has consistently and passionately engaged in educational and learning work. Training sessions in art & activism, power & privilege, ethical funding, and tailored one-off sessions on specific subjects have all been delivered by the group. The collective also contributed to a range of conferences and workshop, set up a Free International University in 1988, and took their practices abroad with visits to the US, Germany and Turkey among others. At the core of their education work was a desire to promote the politics of decoloniality and popular education. Their inclusive form of pedagogy was inspired by other educators including Paulo Freire, bell hooks, and SmartMeme.
In 2009 Platform joined with People and Planet and the World Development Movement to bring a suit against the United Kingdom Treasury for its perceived lack of adequate environmental and human rights considerations when investing in the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). RBS had allegedly used public monies to finance several controversial companies and projects that could be seen to undermine the UK government’s commitment to halt climate change. The High Court denied the request for permission to hold a judicial review over the Treasury’s actions, but the campaign was successful in raising public awareness of the actions of RBS and other financial institutions and continued to influence Platform’s work in this area.
Since then, Platform have concentrated their activities (including art, activism and education) on four overlapping areas of interest. These were: oil and the arts, energy democracy, corporate power and foreign energy policy. The collective has continued to develop projects and campaigns with campaigners, grassroots movements, artists and researchers to challenge environmental and social inequalities in the UK and elsewhere.
Following it's establishment in 1983, Platform have operated under the names PLATFORM Cambridge, PLATFORM London, PLATFORM and Platform for Arts.
For information about current Platform projects visit: http://platformlondon.org/
SCOPE AND CONTENT: Papers of Platform covering campaigns, educational and cultural activism, and funding (1983-2015).
QUANTITY: c.100 boxes