Theatre is and always has been full of questions, high drama and the ordinary stuff.
We’d love more people to enjoy theatre and we help make that happen by broadening what theatre is, who comes and who makes it. We want to encourage artists and the public to get involved in the Big Questions by working out together what it means to be a 21st century citizen and to fashion our own tools to help us cope in it.
We work best when we are rooted in a community so you’ll see us popping back: we aim to establish partnerships which can be celebrated and sustained. We like to meet people where they are: geographically, emotionally, artistically so we work in theatres, arts centres, community venues and online. Just Jones & works within the SAFE model balancing Social, Artistic, Financial and Environmental interests in all our processes.
I fervently believe that theatre is about bringing people together to experience, explore, question and enjoy – together – what it means to be alive.
This year Just Jones & will be five years old – that went by in a blink!
Here’s a bit of the story so far…
The idea for the company came at the same time as the idea for our first production, An Enemy of the People. In a moment of inspiration, sitting with Angela Clerkin, Rebecca had an idea to rethink Ibsen’s classic incendiary play which he wrote in a burst of outrage. Provoked by events around us in the arts and the political world, our conversation led to a place where Rebecca wanted to create a version of Enemy with a woman in the title role. And so it began….
The company was founded on the energy that we should be artist-led, independent, light touch and work on ideas that won’t leave us alone. How are we to live? What does it mean to be happy? What is the legacy we are passing to the next generation?
We decided that Just Jones & (by name and nature collaborative) would balance Artistic quality, Social value, Financial and Environmental sustainability (what we call SAFE leadership and governance). Our production and our approach was featured in Julie’s Bicycle’s report Sustaining Great Art.
2012 – 2013
Two years, many drafts, hundreds of hours of participatory workshops & meetings all over the South West, London and in Norway, masses of fundraising including two ACE grants and one international scholarship later, we toured An Enemy of the People for 7 weeks into 7 venues reaching nearly 3000 people.
In 2013, we became involved in the What Next? movement and helped set up What Next Lewisham.
We won a bursary from Dartington Hall as part of their Nourish programme to work on our next production – back in development now for production in 2017. Artist in the Happy City started from the provocation or jumping off point: “in the future we will all live in cities” – to us a challenging and rather frightening idea. What will they be like? Who will be in charge, what if I need to get away? What about all the people and animals and wildlife who aren’t suited to city life? And so we did what we tend to do in these situations, we started reading and we started talking to people. The show is being written now….. in coalition with David Lane and Jens Demant Cole.
Also in 2014, working with Ros Thomas productions Just Jones & created a project for Brockley Max. Brockley More an evening of tiny plays created by local residents and presented in a local pub celebrated the best that Brockley can be.
“It was the best thing in the festival”
“I don’t usually come to things like this but I’m really glad I did, I’m really happy we moved here.”
And quite by surprise in September 2014, we took on the stewardship of an artist experiment: breathing life and inspiration back into an abandoned Library in a South East London Park. The Wells Way Pop Up an initial 12 week experiment continued for 16 months, offering a flexible and affordable home for independent artists, producers and community based projects supported by Just Jones & Southwark Council.
Our Artistic Director, Rebecca Manson Jones, opted to take time out to help out with caring for a family member, so we decided not to work on a big tour as we had originally intended.
Instead we focused on Wells Way Pop Up. Over the year, we’ve been home to directors, writers, puppet makers, opera composers and performers, dancers, garden designers, costume makers, writers, market makers, Two Fun Palaces, public meetings, community meetings, park consultations, yoga classes, seen 3 new musicals take shape, one children’s show, at least 4 plays and 1 opera. With Deborah Mason, we took on shared responsibility for What Next Southwark?
Funded by Southwark Arts Service and the Notting Hill Housing Trust, we ran a summer project linked to our next big show. I Dream a Happy City was an immersive promenade exploring how young people are impacted by changes in their environment.
At the end of 2014, we had been awarded the Bentley Commission to work with Right Up Our Street in Doncaster, an initiative created to encourage people to get involved with professional arts in their locality. Bentley Max was a progression from Brockley More, using two mobile touring sheds as a base from which to meet people, gather stories and generate ideas for a new Bentley. Bentley Max played in November 2015.
Life took a strange turn of events in 2016, as Rebecca was selected to be part of the first cohort of candidates standing for election representing the newly-formed non-partisan political party, The Women’s Equality Party.
We’re currently collaborating with David Lane supported by the Arts Depot and The Albany on our next big tour We Will Be Happy Here for 2o17/18.