People’s Palace Projects followed its AIDS/HIV programme with a new project entitled Staging Human Rights, which began in the State of São Paulo in 2000, and went on to run in four distinct phases through to 2005 scaling up to a further 11 Brazilian states, reaching 20,000 prisoners and 1,000 prison guards over its six years.

Over the five years of the programme, People’s Palace Projects established a number of partnerships with arts organisations and public agencies, including the Ministry of Justice [Department of Prisons], Secretary of Prison Administration [São Paulo], the Latin American UN Agency for the Study of Crime and Delinquency (ILANUD), and Augusto Boal’s Centre for the Theatre of the Oppressed in Rio de Janeiro. The first phase of the programme included drama workshops, human rights dialogues, Public Forums, Regional Forums and a State-wide Legislative Theatre Forum, which took place in December 2001 at the Parliament of Latin America in São Paulo.

The success of the project led to funding from the Federal Ministry of Justice to extend the project in Staging Human Rights II and III into a further 11 states with a range of local partners, and as the project progressed, it was able to address the human rights issues faced by the guards as well as the prisoners, with an increased focus on joint performances at the public forums.  There was a special focus on working with female prisoners in the UK and Brazil, led by artists Lois Weaver, Peggy Shaw and Caoimhe McAvinchey.

The final element of Staging Human Rights was the creation of a radio play Carandiru with the BBC’s Writersroom, broadcast on Radio 3 in both 2002 and 2003, telling the story of a massacre of prisoners in São Paulo’s prison complex Carandiru.

People’s Palace Projects continued to promote conferences and seminars about the issues raised through the Staging Human Rights programme, with a 2002 high-level seminar in Rio de Janeiro for invited representatives from the prison services across six states in Brazil, with guest speakers from the UK and Brazil. In the North East of Brazil we produced a second conference with the British Council, entitled Changing the Scene II: Theatre Constructing Citizenship, bringing speakers from Kenya, Burkina Faso, the UK and Brazil.

Aims:

  • To explore the boundaries between performance, human rights and the criminal justice system.
  • To map, monitor and evaluate the interventions of performance methodologies in the implementation of human rights strategies in the criminal justice system in Brazil and the UK.

Main Activities:

  • Staging Human Rights I: 52 Prison education staff were trained to implement a programme in 37 prisons with 400 female and 2,000 male participants. Each prison staged a Public Forum, and then came together to create four Regional Forums across the State of São Paulo. The capital city of São Paulo was the site of a final Forum that took place in the Latin American Parliament.
  • Staging Human Rights II & Staging Human Rights III: Programme extended to a further 11 states: Rondonia, Pernambuco, Minas Gerais, Rio De Janeiro Pará, Ceará, Alagoas, Sergipe, Goiás, and Santa Catarina. Addressed the human rights issues faced by the guards as well as the prisoners, with an increased focus on joint performances at the public forums.
  • Staging Human Rights IV: Established a parallel workshop series focusing on self-identity, fantasy and imagination with female prisoners in the UK and Brazil. The project was led by Lois Weaver, Peggy Shaw and Caoimhe McAvinchey, culminating in a public event in Rio de Janeiro entitled In The House [June 2003]. Politicians, Brazilian soap stars, students, artists, community workers and the general public attended. The event was a combination of performance, installation and open dialogue on the issues of human rights, the criminal justice system and performance.
  • Staging Human Rights V: Production of a play for BBC Radio Three entitled Carandiru. Based on the book Estação Carandiru by Dr Drauzio Varella [translated by Paul Heritage; adapted by Jeff Young], the play tells the story of a massacre of prisoners in São Paulo’s prison complex known as Carandiru. Recorded on location in the prison with Brazilian professional actors, the play was presented as a radio recording at the Soho Theatre, London followed by a public discussion in May 2002. Broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in May 2002 and again in June 2003 [Director, Kate Rowland; Associate Producer, Paul Heritage].

Evaluation:

Latin American UN Agency for the Study of Crime and Delinquency [ILANUD]

Awards:

  • Staging Human Rights I: First Prize in the Prêmio Betinho de Cidanania e Democracia, an annual award made by the city of São Paolo for work that promotes human rights, citizenship and democracy
  • Staging Human Rights V: Radio play Carandiru shortlisted for Sony Award.

Funders:

  • Staging Human Rights I: Arts and Humanities Research Board, British Council, National Lottery Charities Board
  • Staging Human Rights II-IV: Arts and Humanities Research Board, Brazilian Ministry of Justice (DEPEN), British Council
  • Staging Human Rights V: BBC