'I want to change the world for women'

By Lana Jakilazek

To celebrate the LCF’s milestone of distributing £70 million worth of grants to organisations across London since 1995 - we spoke to Caroline Bryant, the founder and Artistic Director of Futures Theatre, to hear how engaging with authentic female stories through theatre ignites conversation, engenders change and promotes a fairer society for women and girls.

What is your first London memory?

As a born and bred Londoner, my first clear memory is going to Hampstead Heath with my family. We went every Sunday as a family and I still go frequently to this day.

What inspired you to set up Futures Theatre Company?

In 1992, I was a young actress who wanted more control over the work I was getting. As a White, blonde young woman – I was getting a lot of dull, stereotyped roles and I realised I wanted to make a bigger impact. There are three main strands of my life: theatre, my faith and responding to social injustices. So, I combined them to co-found Futures Theatre with a good friend with the aim of working from a female perspective and putting women at the centre of the story, dealing with issues other than just romantic relationships.

What would you do as mayor for the day?

I would immediately open more women’s refuges. I’d also open more women-only hostels and ensure they had 24/7 therapeutic services available as there are a lot of underlying trauma and special needs that need to be addressed.

I would also fully fund schools to have therapists within them. For those with special needs, the difference therapy makes is phenomenal.

And finally, I’d make it the law for every London child to attend the theatre once a term! The theatre might not be for everyone, but just knowing it’s an option and having the experience opens the palate of opportunity. Living in social housing on the Southbank, there are members of my community that are literally looking right at a theatre but have never been.

Best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

The best piece of advice I have ever been given is to live authentically and be the person you were made to be. It all sounds easy, but it’s not. 

Favourite place in London

My favourite place in London is the Southbank. The community on the Southbank is incredible and I feel so lucky to have lived here for the last 17 years. People don’t know the deprivation as they walk past – there is gun, knife crime and drugs. I live in a local co-op and it is fantastic to be able to bring up kids in a place that’s theirs.

What is your proudest work-related achievement?

My proudest achievement is our Offside tour inspired by women’s football. Starting five years ago, we based our research on the Manchester City and Millwall women’s teams. Millwall was actually one of the first teams in the country to embrace female football after 50 years of it being illegal!

It was also born of my own experiences, seeing gender inequality at even the age of ten through attending my daughter’s football training. I knew I had to create a piece of theatre around this and I am proud of producing a piece of theatre on gender equality through the lens of football. And the success it has seen has been very rewarding.

How has your area changed over the years?

 The change to Southbank has been massive. There has been a lot of gentrification in the area.

I supported a local campaign against the Garden Bridge and I am very excited that it is not going ahead. As much as I like the idea behind the bridge, Southbank was not the place for it. The area doesn’t need any more regeneration and it was a plaything for wealthy people.

Winning this campaign was incredible, I never thought we would beat the city and Boris Johnson but local people without fame or money were able to come together, with the support of our local councillors, to stop the bridge going ahead.

As a society, we need to decide 'What do we look like?' and do we care about the people beyond our little world?

What next?

We would love to be able to take our work to a broader audience and make it more public facing. Only by opening up to a wider audience can we influence change. I want to involve strategists, politicians – the influencers. By showing stories of real women, hopefully they will understand the complexities and at the very least, make less judgements.