Daughters of the Revolution in the Harbour Playhouse:
4elements created a massive journey of sight, sound, and dialogue through the maternity experience. The play, Daughters of the Revolution, was framed by an art installation before the show and expert panel discussions following the performances.
Using the lobby of the Harbour Playhouse, 4elements’ Artist in Residence Coral Mallow transformed the space into an interactive art installation. Centred on issues of agency and body autonomy as experienced by women in the Irish maternity services, the exhibition investigated social perceptions around maternity.
The exhibition also included contributions from the artist Anne Marie Kilshaw-Visual Arts Director of the Complex, Paul Timon from the Dublin Camera Club, and a piece from Keeping Mum by Martina Hynan and Clare Birth Choice.
Having engaged the audience through art and performance, 4elements extended the conversation through a series of chaired post-show discussions.
The panel brought together experts in the field of maternity, including service users, health care professionals, and social policy academics, to engage in open and honest dialogue with the audience in a safe, creative space. The conversations were recorded as podcasts accessible on SoundCloud under the title Daughters of Revolution.
Daughters of the Revolution is an experiment in using art and performance to shape a public response to the crisis in the Irish maternity services. We are women exploring the underlying conflict between women’s bodily autonomy and the law, with humour and our unique insight into the experience of maternity in Ireland.
The effectiveness of this project can be measured by the results of the initial run of Daughters of the Revolution in the Harbour Playhouse, Dublin 8, in March 2016.
The first run of Daughters of the Revolution performances and post-show discussions, demonstrated a powerful appetite for this type of arts-based consultation. There was a high level of public interest on social media and an article about the play in the Irish Times. Even for a ticketed performance, more people wanted to attend on each of the three nights than the space could accommodate.
Over the run, approximately 120 people watched the performance, with nearly all staying to participate in the post-show discussion, such was the engagement with the issues created by the performance. It was also very successful in terms of bringing together a wide range of maternity service practitioners and experts in the field of social policy, in positive and constructive dialogue with the audience through the post-show discussions.
Many of the issues raised in the post-show discussions – listening to women, choice and continuity of care, staffing level and morale, and a greater role for midwives in service provision – are echoed in the National Maternity Strategy 2016-2026.
By creating a safe and creative space for public and stakeholder engagement, Daughters of the Revolution provided a format to share and reconcile the divergent perspectives of women, families, and healthcare professionals.