Artist or activist? Both? Neither? An artist/activist reflects…

Ben Mellor, whose show “Everything We Need” is performed at the Royal Exchange Theatre on Thursday 28th, Friday 29th and Saturday 30th of June, talks to Manchester Climate Monthly writer Roisin Weintraub about myth, art and activism.

(a longer interview appears on This is just the “art and activism” question

I am personally very shy of titles, but do do you consider yourself an activist?
I’m also wary of labels, and I find the ‘activist’ moniker a particulary thorny one to lay claim to. I have been on actions and demos in the past but I haven’t been very active recently. I’ve personally become disenchanted with large scale ‘anti’ demos and direct actions (though I have great respect for people who do them) and more in favour of positive, localised, community building work like the Transition Movement. That said, I think that standing up for what we’re against needs to go hand in hand with working towards what we’re for. But paradoxically I’ve found that making artistic work about these issues has meant that often I’ve been too busy writing or rehearsing to take more of an ‘activist’ role. Then there is the question of whether art is a form of activism in itself, a question I’m still debating but haven’t yet found a definitive answer to. I think the problem with labels is that as soon as you apply them to yourself, if you find yourself not doing that particular thing at any time you can become too self-critical and start negating your worth as a person because you have tied your sense of worth to that label. I don’t generally describe myself as an activist, as I feel that there are people out there working far more tirelessly and who are far more committed and self-sacrificing to certain causes than I am. But as I’ve said, those unfavourable comparisons can become damaging, and I’d like to think that a diversity of tactics and approaches should mean that people are free to chart their own course and find their own definitions for what it means to take action.

Everything We Need, runs at the Royal Exchange Theatre 28 – 30 June
Written & Performed by Ben Mellor
Directed by Cheryl Martin
Designed by Sumit Sakar
Lighting Design by Jack Dale
Sound Design & Music by Dan Steele & Leonie Higgins
£10 Adults / £7 Concessions
0161 8339833

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