Jeremy Goldstein at Soho Theatre, London
Jeremy Goldstein at Soho Theatre, London ©

Holly Revell

Meet Jeremy Goldstein, who spent a week in the Netherlands supported by the International Artists Development Fund to extend his Truth to Power Cafe to a Dutch audience. We look forward to his first show in Leeuwarden in May 2018!

Recently I was in The Netherlands as part of a research and development visit for my ‘Truth to Power Café’ - a new international and participatory performance platform, which celebrates the power of free speech and political activism. When I arrived in Amsterdam, I realised it had been over ten years since my last visit, but rather be faced with the ghosts of a previous existence, it offered a glimpse into the future.

My visit, supported by Arts Council and British Council Artists International Development Fund enabled me to meet a dynamic group of Dutch promoters and producers who, like me, want to change the world through the arts, debate and discussion. 

The words ‘truth to power’ have their origins in the anti-war movement as a form of conflict resolution, but in this era of post-truth and fake-news, are widely accepted to mean saying something to those in authority or position of trust who don’t want to hear it. At this year’s Golden Globes Oprah Winfrey said ‘speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we have’, and no more so in the theatre. I mean if you’re not speaking your truth in the theatre, you have no business in being there. At each Café event, six participants drawn from an open call, speak their truth to power and respond to the question ‘who has power over you and what do you want to say to them?’ before a live audience.

Iepen UP – a year-long programme run by Matthea de Jong for Leeuwarden European Capital of Culture, is proving the perfect context from which to bring the Café to The Netherlands. After all, this year’s Culture Capital was founded by a group of Frisian activists who had the courage to stand up for what they believed in. They won their bid to host Culture Capital, and so far, the results have been spectacular.

This year we will be working closely with Iepen UP and Matthea to build a national Dutch platform for ‘Truth to Power Café’ involving up to fifty participants in Leeuwarden, Amsterdam, and other cities which might include Groningen and The Hague. I’m therefore very fortunate to be also working with the renowned English/Dutch producer Rachel Feuchtwang to help establish the project in The Netherlands. 

Any concerns I had over the concept of the Café travelling to a non-English speaking country were quickly dissipated by Matthea and Rachel. Not only is there potential to perform the Café as a bi or even tri-lingual event in Dutch, Frisian and English, but we found a groundswell of support from Dutch theatres willing to host the event. It is from these venues we will be reaching out to develop a dialogue with our Dutch participants, the brave and courageous souls they are.

The great New York performance artist Penny Arcade says ‘hitting like on Facebook is not activism’. Now more than ever we need to get people away from their screens and onto the streets. Whether or not we can change the world remains to be seen, but I hope as the project grows, we can at least make it a better place. 

‘Truth to Power Café’ in The Netherlands will launch with a special one-off event hosted by Jacco de Boer as part of Iepen UP at Neushoorn Leeuwarden in May. Prior to this, the Café’ will be performed in the UK at Cast in Doncaster on 8 February and Theatre in the Mill in Bradford on 9 February with Index on Censorship followed by Festival 2018, the arts and culture programme for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games supported by British Council Australia.

Jeremy Goldstein is a creative producer and writer who founded London Artists Projects in 2000. In 2012 he was named in Time Out as among the 100 most influential people in UK culture. His new work ‘Truth to Power Café’ has been described as ‘the revolutionary potential of theatre at its best and most direct’ (The Guardian).