A Living Newspaper Study Group #1

27 March 2021

an image of the stage, waiting for the young rockband.

A Living Newspaper Study Group
Organised with Bik Van der Pol

Sign up to attend here

Dates & Contributors:
Saturday 27 March, 3-5.30pm GMT, Dr Rania Karoula
Saturday 10 April, 3-5.30pm GMT, Simon Bedwell
Thursday 22 April, 5-6.30pm GMT, Liz Magic Laser

This three -part Study Group is part of our preparations for FIELDWORK International Summer School 2021.

Please join us in the learning, experimentation and discussion inspired by the structure and context of The Living Newspaper which ran in the USA from 1935 – 1939. With its roots in earlier European theatre models, the programmes that emerged were ambitious scripted productions which re-told and performed major stories of the day around housing, labour, disease and social stigma. 

The Living Newspaper was part of the Federal Theatre Project – a US state funded arts initiative which ‘gave voice’ to contemporary issues emerging from the news that impacted everyday life for many Americans in the 1930s through mass employment of actors, writers, dramaturgs, technicians and directors.

These Study Groups continue Bik Van der Pol’s collaboration with Hospitalfield since the 2020 FIELDWORK International Summer School Programme Now What? In September the Summer School sought to ask, think and talk through what ‘muteness’ was at that time. Now we look to experiment with The Living Newspaper as a model to enact moving forward, and to ask the question, how will we each want to live together after this disruption in the world? These three sessions take a performative format and invite participants to use the model to imagine and rehearse for the possible futures that lie ahead.

The Living Newspaper ran from 1935 – 1939 within The Federal Theatre Project as part of President Franklin D Roosevelt’s wide-reaching New Deal in the USA striving to rebuild the economy out of the Great Depression. The nation-wide programme worked with large casts and technical teams on large scale productions across the USA, arguably de-centring theatre from big cities and big names. The Living Newspapers were scripted productions which re-told and performed major stories of the day around housing, labour, disease and social stigma. The Federal Theatre Project was disbanded by the Government in 1939 after it was deemed too political by the Un-American Activities Committee.

In discussing the Living Newspapers we aim to open up critical questions around whose stories are told, how and by whom? What is the significance of a contemporary Living Newspaper when we now receive news stories and learn about local issues through the internet, social media and only sometimes, a newspaper?

Each Study Group will invite a contribution from an academic or artist to demonstrate ways that artists and writers may interpret ‘the news’ in theatrical, artistic or performed work.

Living Newspaper Study Group #1
Saturday 27 March, 3-4.30pm

The first group session on Saturday 27 March invites academic Dr Rania Karoula to give an introduction to the history and context of The Living Newspaper. Rania Karoula teaches contemporary Scottish and modernist drama in the Department of English Literature and Centre for Open Learning at the University of Edinburgh. In January 2021, Karoula published The Federal Theatre Project, 1935-1939: Engagement and Experimentation with Edinburgh University Press and is an expert on the Living Newspaper.

In advance of each session, participants are asked to undertake an exercise with news stories on themes of Climate Change, Inequality, Privacy and Democracy, as materials for a group discussion on how to formulate a scripted art work from the contemporary issues of the day. More information is included in the section ‘Preparatory Materials and Bringing the News’ below.

Study Group #2 will happen on Saturday 10 April and our invited contributor will be artist Simon Bedwell who will lead a session exploring the relationship in his practice to satire and the news. Study Group #3 will happen on Thursday 22 April at 5-6.30pm GMT and will be led by artist Liz Magic Laser.


Towards A Performance

After the three Study Groups we will form a Working Group of paid participants who will come together in The Hospitalfield Living Newspaper Intensive Online Summer Workshop in July 2021 to create performances and texts inspired by the Living Newspapers. The performances will happen at Hospitalfield as part of the FIELDWORK International Summer School in August 2021 programmed with Bik Van der Pol.

Image: Triple-A Plowed Under. Scene twenty-three. Projection of the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence on a screen against coinciding shadows of the Founding Fathers, judges, politicians, and nameless farmers. Directed by Joseph Losey. New York, 1936

Sign Up

Please Sign Up via Eventbrite here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/146477270459

When you sign-up you’ll be asked some questions about why you are attending and what your areas of interest are.

We really encourage you to attend all three Study Sessions.


We have a limited number Access Bursaries to support people to cover costs that may be incurred in order to attend the three Study Groups. If you would like to request one of these, please email programme@hospitalfield.org.uk after you sign up.

The Study Groups will happen via Zoom and we will ask all contributors to provide some written notes to accompany their contributions to aid participation in the Study Groups. We will use the otter.ai transcription service to share notes from the Study Groups and some part of the Study Groups will be recorded.

Preparatory Materials and Bringing the News

In advance of attending the Study Group, we invite participants to take part in an exercise drawing on contemporary news stories on themes of either climate change, inequality, privacy or democracy. These stories could be collected from multiple sources though we ask you to consider the local, national and international sources they could come from.

There might be a common thread/theme that connects them. For example a local farming story might connect to a story on national farming policy that relates to a global story on farming policy and climate change; or how a local story on stigma in relation to drug and alcohol addiction could connect to a UK wide story on drugs policy that might relate to a story in the USA on pharmaceutical companies and the opioid crisis.

In these study sessions we want to draw direct connections to how what happens close to us, connects to global events and policy, as well as to people who are physically distant to us.

Further, these are participatory events and we want to hear news stories from the perspective of those attending the Study Groups. Hosting online enables people to attend from different geographic locations so we hope our stories and concerns will converge and differ in productive ways.

We will spend 30 minutes during each Study Session discussing the stories in relationship to how they are told, by who and how they might be re-interpreted in the context of a Living Newspaper.

Topics will include: Climate change, inequality, privacy and democracy.

Now What? September 2020 - August 2021

Departing from an object, the Forfar Scold’s Bridle, and a document, the Declaration of Arbroath, participants and invited speakers are invited to engage in a collective dialogue, to understand place and bodies as carriers of experience, as archive and scene. We will ask, think and talk through what ‘muteness’ is at the present time. Considering loss of voice and silence as a political imperative, we propose to rethink this as instigator and potential for alternative learning for the future, and to increase the volume of the stories that must be told.

Click for more info and documentation from the Summer School in 2020.


Bik Van der Pol

Since 1995, Liesbeth Bik and Jos van der Pol work together as Bik Van der Pol.

They work and live in Rotterdam (NL). Through their practice they aim to articulate and understand how art can produce a public sphere and space for speculation and imagination through which ‘publicness’ is not only defined but also created. By setting up the conditions for encounter they develop a process of working that allows for continuous reconfigurations of places, histories and publics. Their practice is site-specific with dialogue as a mode of transfer; a “passing through”, understood in its etymological meaning of “a speech across or between two or more people, out of which may emerge new understandings”. In fact, they consider the element of “passing through” as vital. It is temporal, and implies action and the development of new forms of discourse. Their work is both instigator and result of this method.

Bik Van der Pol are one of the initiators of the School of Missing Studies that started in 2003 as an initiative of artists and architects who recognized “the missing” as a matter of urgency.

Investigating what culture(s) laid the foundations for the loss we are experiencing from modernization and how this loss can talk back to us as a potential site of learning, they believe we must be calling for a space to turn existing knowledge against itself to affect our capacity to see things otherwise, to trust that seeing, to re-set one’s own and set new terms.

Bik Van der Pol came to Hospitalfield in 2015 as part of the Talking About Influence Summer School programmed by artist Pavel Buchler.


Captions:Accumulate, Collect, Show. Bik Van der Pol. 31st Bienal Sao Paulo 2014

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