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David Jubb: “The leader of the free world is now a CEO”

David Jubb is artistic director of Battersea Arts Centre. Here, he writes for Run Riot, on the responsibility of the press in such challenging times, and the return of theatre activism.

Why is Battersea Arts Centre doing a season about Cash, Capitalism and Corporations?

Every day I consume a diet of news and current affairs. Early and late each day, usually from the radio. Last week I jotted down the themes that kept coming up.

Brexit and the EU featured regularly. As did the leadership struggles of political parties. There were reports about division, including stats to illustrate how unequal we are in 2017. There were features on the rise of populism, nationalism and the changing relationships between nation states. There was news about trade deals and how much things cost. While reports on sectarian conflicts were broken up by tales of sporting prowess and cultural prizes or premieres.

It struck me, over the week, just how important power is to our news editors. You can taste it in every item: a display of power, a loss of power, a transition of power, a power struggle or a power play. Perhaps it’s unsurprising we obsess about power because it is an inherited trait. And we still reflect on power in our daily news, after hundreds of thousands of years of observing who is in charge and where we all fit into our tribe.

So why is the power, influence and impact of the modern corporation so absent from our news, our conversations and our debates? The behaviour of corporations arguably has the greatest influence on our culture, climate, economy and increasingly, our everyday human rights. The leader of the free world is now a CEO who is surrounding himself with company men to propose legislation and foreign policy for the world’s richest state.

Are we sleep walking in to a 21st century in which democracy is better at serving corporations than it is people? Banks cause hundreds of billions of public debt with relatively little corporate consequence. Companies now sue nation states for billions of dollars each year when laws (often introduced to protect people and environments) affect profits. Yet those same companies often shape-shift beyond national boundaries, avoiding tax and keeping cash offshore.

Are we all ok with this?

This is not the carping of a fundamental anti-capitalist. Companies can do a huge amount of good, be central to civic life and reflect the positive values of a community. I am simply concerned that our mainstream media does not seem to tackle one of the most seriously anti-democratic forces in 21st century Britain, the remarkable power and influence of the modern, global corporation.

Over the last ten years there has been a lack of politically engaged devised theatre. Now theatre as activism is back. Cash, Capitalism and Corporations at Battersea Arts Centre seeks to capture some of the most exciting work of the moment including Theatre Ad Infinitum’s Bucket List and Lung Theatre’s E15.

If news editors are not covering one of the most important matters of everyday life in Britain, artists are beginning to turn more of their attention to the sharing and distribution of power, and because artists are so good at asking questions, that can only be a good thing for all of us.

Throughout February and March, Battersea Arts Centre presents Cash, Capitalism and Corporations, a specially curated season of provocative and inspiring shows that tackle some of the most urgent issues facing Britain today. From dynamic physical theatre to beatbox and comedy, Cash Capitalism and Corporations celebrates the spirit of coming together in the face of adversity and the courage to imagine the alternatives. Click here to read the full line up.