30 years old today

15 Jun 2013 jane

PLATFORM Logo StampPlatform has no precedence in this country: a theatre group that does not believe in directors or actors; a political group that does not believe in leaving politics to politicians. It exists to heal the division of creative artist from passive audience, the division between specialist disciplines. (Manifesto, 1987)

Rummaging in the archive recently, we found a typewritten document on what happened during the first years of Platform. And discovered that today, 15th June 1983, was the day when the name Platform was decided on. Then Paula Webb designed the logo for our rubber stamp…

We will be doing more on our history during this anniversary year, but for now, for today, here’s a taster of some of our manifestos. Full publication to come.

See the videos – from 2010 by Shake!, and from 1995 on our work on water.

And for a taster of the written ones, see two extracts from early manifestos at the bottom, from 1995 and 1987, created through consensus by whoever was in Platform at the time. (Those were the days when we shouted PLATFORM in caps!)


Voices that Shake!

14 min video, made by Shake! group in 2010


Video Manifesto, ‘Valley: Citizens’, 1995

30 min video on Platform’s London-based work and ideas, 1987 – 1995


Manifesto, 1993 (print)





PLATFORM has been described as many things – an arts group, a forum for political dialogue, an environmental campaign – but in essence, it is an idea, a vision of using creativity to transform the society we live in; a belief in every individual’s innate power to contribute to this process.

In our time democracy is about the power of voice. Today, a few scream in our ears, others barely whisper, some have fallen silent altogether. The more the word ‘democracy’ is spoken, the less it seems to mean.

And even when our voices are equal – at the ballot box for instance – isn’t making a cross on a piece of paper once every five years a sad limitation of our potential? Couldn’t there be other understandings of democracy where individuals no longer wanted a member of parliament or a councillor to represent them? Where people would speak for themselves?

Think of the street you live in or the place you work. Can you imagine every individual there meeting, listening, deciding together?

PLATFORM wants to explore these areas further, just as in our own practice we are continually evolving the process of dialogue and decision-making. The respect for each other generated in this way lies at the heart of our work. Democracy becomes as much about the quality of listening as the power of speaking.

A shared expression of feeling is the foundation of any change

PLATFORM provokes desire for a democratic and ecological society. We create an imagined reality which is different from the present reality. For example, we have held up the image of a city with its lost rivers returned, or the idea of a local parliament where people represent themselves. Seemingly impossible visions, but as people discuss them, write about them, dream them, believe in them, they gradually take shape and pass from the space of imagination and desire into reality.

We use art as a catalyst. This art is not primarily about an aesthetic – it is creativity applied to real situations: initiating a 168 hour forum of international dialogue; setting up a support fund for striking hospital workers; creating a 10 week performance in a tent that crossed the city; installing a turbine in a river to generate light for a local school.

All these acts we see as art – the process of moulding form – all focus on physical and meta-physical change, change both in the tangible space of the material world and the intangible space of people’s hearts and imaginations.

Our working method is grounded in bringing together individuals from different disciplines, who then work collectively, developing an open space for dialogue and ideas. Since its conception in 1983 PLATFORM has combined the creativity of, among many others, economists, visual artists, psychotherapists and teachers. This method of inter-disciplinary creativity encourages participatory audiences from equally diverse backgrounds, ranging from fishermen to commuters, environmental groups to schools.

Walking the length of a street in our city, speech drowned by the sound of traffic, knowing that beneath the tarmac lies a river. Here was a clear flow of water running from the hills around London down to the Thames. Now it is a sewer from source to mouth; it is almost erased from memory.

Imagine living in a society which did not dominate the Earth. What would a town or city look like? Would roads be dug up to reveal buried rivers? Would its energy be drawn from the valley it is situated in? Would it cease to mine every continent of the world?

Could it be possible to feel the same intensity of love for a tree or a river as you do for a lover?

PLATFORM’s projects are created out of love for particular places – a line of streets, a watershed. Ten years of work has enabled us to make long-term commitments to specific locations and groups of citizens in our region, our home: a tidal valley in Northern Europe, shelter for several million people and innumerable other species.

PLATFORM is a meeting place for desire and acts of change.


Statement, 1987 (print)

PLATFORM has no precedence in this country: a theatre group that does not believe in directors or actors; a political group that does not believe in leaving politics to politicians. It exists to heal the division of creative artist from passive audience, the division between specialist disciplines.

PLATFORM’s role is to:

Everything is in flux around us, at the end of the Twentieth Century. By thinking, acting now, we all draw the maps of the future.

These are the seeds of PLATFORM’s intentions; we will labour furiously to cultivate them. All we do is a means to these ends, any medium a tool for cultivation. If the digging is best done through performance, we’ll perform; if it needs a talk, we’ll research and talk; if it needs a meal, we’ll cook it; if it needs direct action, we’ll be there. Our work is not fiction or entertainment, it is building society…


Platform was founded in 1983 by a group of students from the arts and politics who were seeking new ways of making urgent political change.

*SHAKE! is our project for youth 16-25 years, initiated by Platform in 2010, in collaboration with African Writers Abroad, Afrogroov and Chocolate Films, and partner-venue Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust. 





Focus Areas Issues