Large-scale performance project that saw young people working with world-class professionals to create an innovative outdoor theatre piece exploring their experience of social justice.
Justice 39 was a performance project that took place between June and August 2019 as part of our Young People’s Programme and was a co-commission with Luton Council for People Power Passion, Luton's pilot Year of Culture.
It saw young Lutonians aged 14 to 24 working with a team of world-class directors, writers and producers to develop and perform a large-scale outdoor performance as part of Luton’s Pilot Year of Culture.
The professional team
Revoluton Arts commissioned a team of acclaimed performing arts professionals to collaborate with Luton’s young people on the project:
Marcus Romer, Artistic Director
Marcus' work has spanned three decades in theatre, film and television as a director and writer. He was Artistic Director of the award-winning Pilot Theatre from 1993 to 2016, Associate Artist at Theatre Royal Stratford East from 2016 - 2018, and is currently an Associate and Producer for Collusion and an Associate Artist at Harrogate Theatre.
Suzann McLean, Performance Co-Director
Suzann has worked extensively on the UK stage gaining praise for her Isabella in the National Theatre's 'Measure for Measure' and for her portrayal of a young Rwandan in the acclaimed play.
Simon Poulter, Digital & Site-Specific Curator
Simon Poulter is an artist and curator working with digital, locative and site-specific art and media. He works on bespoke commissions and curates programmes for organisations nationally. He is currently Director of Collusion.
Roy Williams OBE, writer
Roy Willaims is an English playwright who has won many awards including the George Devine Award for Lift Off, a BAFTA Award for Best Schools Drama for Offside and the 2004 South Bank Show Arts Council Decibel Award. Most recently his play Sucker Punch was nominated for the Evening Standard Award for Best New Play and the Olivier Award for Best New Play 2011.
James McDermott, writer
James McDermott is a young playwright based in East Anglia. He trained at UEA, graduating with an MA (Distinction) in Scriptwriting and has taken part in writers development programs with Soho Theatre, HighTide, Harts Theatre Company, Menagerie Theatre Company and BFI.
Atiha Sen Gupta
Atiha Sen Gupta is writer-in-residence at ArtsEd and received the 2016 IARA award for Best Playwright. Her work includes 'What Fatima Did' - a play about the hijab, 'The Flood' - a short play examining the refugee 'crisis' created alongside five other international playwrights in collaberation with Theatre Uncut and Teater Grob (as apart of the STAGE festival) and a co-wrote episode of BBC1's medical drama Holby City.
How the performance was created
Justice 39 was developed as part of a programme of cultural events in Luton called People Power Passion inspired by the town’s 1919 Peace Day riots.
Alongside the team of commissioned creative professionals, we recruited young people from across the town to tell their stories of social injustice to help shape the final piece.
Marcus and his team focused on a particular incident from the Peace Day riots, where 39 working-class people were arrested for standing up for themselves. They invited young Lutonians to draw parallels with their own situation today, asking them: “What would you stand up for?”
Over a series of workshops, the group of young Lutonians collaborated with a team of world-class writers, Roy Williams, James McDermott and Atiha Sen Gupta, to develop a script that told their stories in their own unique voice.
There then follow an intensive development and rehearsal schedule throughout July and August, with young performers getting a taste of expert direction from Marcus and Suzann. Young people also had opportunities to create sound and video elements for the final piece under guidance from Simon.
The message young Lutonians wanted to be heard — “We stand up for Luton” — was made into a huge banner that was wrapped around the Luton Central Library building. This banner provided a backdrop to the performance as well as an enduring artwork.
Marcus brought in BAFTA award-winning composer Sandy Nuttgens to collaborate with two young Luton creatives, Lavz and Sadface the Poet, to create a soundtrack for the piece, We Rise.
The project culminated in three high-impact performances of the innovative final piece, Justice 39, over two days in Luton town centre.
Due to heavy rain, the first performance had to be moved inside the town hall, but the remaining two performances took place as planned outdoors in St George’s Square.
Featuring an original script, dramatic, music and spoken word performances, all created and performed by Luton’s young people, Justice 39 also incorporated big-screen video segments and interactive digital elements accessible via smartphone.
Justice 39 gave young Lutonians a platform to tell their stories in their own distinctive voice as well the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from some of the UK’s leading performing arts professionals. For one young person, the project gave him the confidence to perform his spoken word art in public for the first time. Several young people involved with the project have gone on to participate in other parts of our Young People’s Programme.
Visit the Justice 39 website for more digital assets, including an interactive map of the 39 Lutonians arrested in 1939 along with their stories.
“Still taking in the strong messages from Justice 39 today. Saying what we need to hear with creativity, talent and honesty — every one a star in the making”
— audience member
Co-commission with Luton Council for People Power Passion, Luton’s Pilot Year of Culture