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Paul Burgess [He/Him]

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Education/Training

Motley Theatre Design Course

Interests

Reading, art, music, theatre, walking, activism (esp. environment and LGBTQ+ rights), politics

Location

UK/England

Can you tell us something about yourself?

Paul Burgess trained at Motley, following a degree in English Language and Literature. His practice spans set, costume, video and installation, and he has designed for numerous companies and venues across the UK, ranging from Shakespeare’s Globe to Glasgow Citizens, as well as for venues in Hanoi, Islamabad, Vienna, Mumbai and New York. He designs regularly for Deafinitely Theatre; recent work includes the highly acclaimed British Sign Language 4.48 Psychosis. His design for this was shown at the V&A Museum London as part of Staging Places. He also regularly designs for Apples and Snakes. He’s artistic director of Daedalus Theatre Company, for whom he has designed and directed projects including A Place at the Table and Selfish. He co-leads East, a cross-cultural storytelling project for East London, and performs alongside East’s other lead artists under the name East 3. As co-artistic director of Scale with Simon Daw he has worked on visually-led collaborations with artists in Siberia, Pakistan and Bangladesh. He is on the committee of the Society of British Theatre Designers and coordinates the SBTD’s Sustainable Design Group. He’s also on the environmental advisory panel for Queens Theatre, Hornchurch, part of Ecostage’s core team and chair of the King’s Hall Trust for the Arts. He’s active in Tower Hamlets Green Party and has done graphic design for a range of Green Party campaigns across London. He has taught at various universities, including Goldsmiths and the National College of Arts, Pakistan, as well as working widely in youth arts. He’s English Consultant for Angkriz, a tutorial school in Thailand, for which he has written two books: Monkey Business and Din and Dan. He paints, sometimes to commission, and has paintings in a few private collections. He also writes and arranges music, and plays the violin in groups including The Black Smock Band.

What was the turning point when you became ecologically aware and decided to take action?

I grew up in a family that was very environmentally aware, with volunteer conservation and tree-planting at weekends, and regular involvement in campaigns, such those as against building on the greenbelt and the expansion of Stansted Airport. I remember being inspired aged 14 by a school assembly on the ozone layer and acid rain, after which I went home and joined Greenpeace. I was also very affected by a documentary about the bombing of Greenpeace's Rainbow warrior. Looking back this was really a journey towards seeing environmental ‘issues’ as really being part of a more complex political picture. 

I had been very impressed aged 11 by the Green Party candidate for my school’s mock version of the 1987 UK General Election; a few years later I bought the party's manifesto. The connection between social and environmental justice, and the need to debunk the myth of endless growth, made complete sense to me. I stood as a Green Party candidate in the next school mock election, which ran in parallel with the 1992 General Election. I lost, but am now an activist with the Green Party, as well as being involved with green activism in the arts sector. 

This latter is the most recent step on my journey. I'd not previously managed to reconcile my activism with my work, but I believe the solution to this problem lies not so much in individual choices as it is structural within our sector. So I decided to be part of a collective, collaborative solution.

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