ED Berman Topics List

ED (i.e. Edward David) Berman

First Interview  4th December 2010

Background, Harvard, influences
Born Maine, went to Harvard and Oxford as a Rhode’s
Scholar. Mother didn’t work. Father entrepreneur,
salesman, owned an American-style drug store
Mother played with rich mothers in town and left him out in cold
Has 2 great nieces living and a brother
Offered a scholarship to Harvard when he was too young (15)
Big mistake, got thrown out from checking out library books in the
name of cartoon characters
Studied Government and history, then Western Culture at the Divinity School
and realised the way things were taught was a charade
George Bundy, Dean of Harvard, said that he was depriving his classmates
of their books by returning them late
How he left Harvard
Later got a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford and was thrown out of there too –
drunk most of the time
Spent time out doing a private Civil Rights tour of US and getting arrested
Also arrested first year in Oxford for fighting with another student in streets
Influences – became friendly with 2 Indian students. ED edited one of their theses,
which became a book on Gandhi’s period in South Africa
Opened his mind to apartheid and Gandhi. Important influence–
part is why he now goes to India for a few months each year to do charitable work there
Christian theologians doing their biblical archaeology —
a negative influence — manipulating their research to fit in with their theories and beliefs
Inter-Action brought together ideas and actions
Trying to work out what he wanted to do
Influence of time in the Philips-Brooks House at Harvard where,
as a volunteer student, he went to South Boston to work with black kids
He was very naïve and quickly came to appreciate how far removed
his Maine upbringing and background were from theirs
Tried to find a way to deal with the them and their differences
Began developing using children’s games in an adult format to
get through to them which became the beginning of the process
of what later became known as the ‘Inter-Action Game Method’
Example: took the game ‘Simon Says’ and adapted by tapping a rhythm
If this was followed by him raising a finger the kids were to copy him,
if he tapped and didn’t raise a finger and they copied him anyway, they were out
Later used as basis for work with actors, young people, psychologists as a training method
About the person finding out about their individual creativity and creativity within a group
Always exploring ways to deal with authority

Interest in Civil Rights — hitchhiking through the South and West US
Continuously thrown in prison through vagrancy
In Maine he had been taught about the glories of the Underground Railway
and escaping slaves, but hardly any Black people there
Frightened and disgusted by what he saw in South and South West
Got kicked around and arrested by police and was not welcome there,
in so-called liberal, all-embracing America

Went to Zionist summer camp where he was elected national
president by fellow students. Got into trouble there, within
months of leaving became anti-Zionist and an atheist
Talks about beliefs and how they change and positions of the Right and Left
Inter-Action’s environmentalism

Oxford and Turkey

He had read philosophy, politics and economics at Harvard and also
learnt Turkish and studied history of Islamic people, but realised
his interest was also in education
Shifted to psychology and education
Inter-Action Game Method quite developed by then: his wish to study roots of creativity,
which wasn’t much considered then
Move to the Department of Education
Working on Development of Prejudice in Turkey
Ataturk had chucked out the old Ottoman Empire books of learning,
which were in Arabic and Persian and replaced them new ones using the Latin alphabet
Discussion of how rulers can so easily set the agenda of how nations view themselves, and how
that can be radically different to the perceptions of those people, by people of other nations
Influence on his interest in how racism exists

Went out to Turkey and lived on the Asian side of Istanbul, overlooking the Bosphorus
Attacked one day whilst reading on his balcony by two neighbours on leave from the navy
They thought he was spy. Severely beaten up
Told he had a clot on the brain and given one year to live
Back in the US he is told by the authorities not to return to Turkey as he had been
accused of defaming Ataturk and the Turkish nation:
completely the opposite to his work
Carries the injuries to his back to this day
Incident encouraged him to start writing

Writing, Mercury Theatre and Inter-Action beginnings

Trouble focusing his eyes after attack
This was finally fixed more or less by Moorfield’s eye hospital
Thought he only had two years to live and began writing plays
Scrawled them out and someone else typed them up, as he could not see clearly
Freeze was about cryogenics, a family trying to freeze their Grandfather.
Stamp – the advertisement for the show was a facsimile of a dollar bill,
asking ‘Is this worth the price of slaughter in Vietnam?’
Had left Oxford by then
Girlfriend of time suggested he sent the plays to Jean Pierre Voos
at the Mercury Theatre, [Notting Hill]
Mercury Theatre was home of Ballet Rambert Dance School
and Voos’s International Theatre Club was also based there
Voos put plays on at Mercury and made ED writer-in-residence
Story of being beaten up by MI 5/6 concerning the facsimiles of the dollar bills
Stamp also performed at the Little Theatre (off St Martin’s Lane)
Super Santa – story of how it came to be written
ED involved with some ‘legal’ smuggling of Hellenic art from Turkey
which took him to Sweden where he met the La MaMa troupe
When they later met up again in London they commissioned him to
write Super Santa, which was performed at launch of Kensington and
Chelsea Arts Council committee. Scandalised everyone

Work and games method in Notting Dale

Involvement, Summer 1967, with housing issues happening in Notting Dale
(downmarket part of Notting Hill)
Various people and students were involved as volunteers
One of those was Patrick Barlow [National Theatre of Brent]
ED introduced Patrick to Inter-Action Game Method
Through him ED met Jim Hiley and others he went on to work with
Living on floor of a flat rented by Voos and his wife Diane in Queensway
He had met Clive Barker — from Warwick University, formerly with Joan Littlewood
and now working with theatre games
Barker’s interest in theatre games more for theatre whilst Berman’s interest was
in creativity for different groups
Working in a centre called Beauchamp Lodge which had a houseboat
He offered to use his Games Method with kids on the houseboat
They did a piece about Beowulf and the Dragon
ED met someone working in TV who came and filmed it from Rediffusion, name of  Frank Keating
Met a lady connected to those running Rambert whose husband, James Rose,
was writing one of the first books on race relations
She wanted to meet people working with those from diverse backgrounds
and mixed groups and was introduced to  ED
James Rose had worked on the Enigma project at Bletchley during the war
and had many influential contacts from there, including Richard Marsh,
who later became Head of British Rail
ED wanted to set up a charity for Inter-Action and get J Rose to Chair it but he had to finish his book
All work at time was voluntary, sleeping on floors, given meals by various people

Notting Hill at time and the original Ambiance

Just after riots, neighbourhood was controlled by a man
who styled himself  Michael X and was Peter Rachman’s minder
ED  became friendly with Junior Telfer who ran the Ambiance at No1 Queensway
He wore a turban, was an educated West Indian
Had a Russian girlfriend. Both lived in ladies’ toilet of the club
The place had a steel band at nights downstairs
The ground floor was restaurant and coffee bar where  ED  would hang out in his Mao/Nehru jackets
Story of walks home through Notting Hill and being stopped by the police
Telfer’s business not doing well, together they decided to open up
the downstairs for lunchtime theatre
Ed had nurtured idea of doing theatre at different time of day for different work groups
Later Telfer went out of business and then Ambiance (called Ambiance in Exile)
moved to the Green Banana Club (run by Norman Beaton) and then to ICA
Theatre was downstairs, down a circular staircase
If a box set was required it had to be brought in early in the morning and
removed after the lunchtime show for the night’s entertainment
Seated 30 – 40 depending on configuration
Tables were moved into the Toilets
ED  drew on new scripts sent to Jean Pierre Voos which he couldn’t use, and his own
ED  met director Geoffrey [Reeves] through Clive Barker and brought him
[Stoppard’s] After Magritte which they did at the Ambiance with a box set,
with a daily get-in and get-out at the venue
Stoppard came to see it. Clive was in it and Prunella Scales who became a company Patron
ED  was by now applying his lesson which was to ask anyone to do anything,
with 3 rules: if you produce you need to have a either a well-known
playwright, actor or director and you’ll probably manage to fill at least 50 seats per show

Tom Stoppard and Inter-Action’s beginnings in Chalk Farm Road

Inter-Action based opposite Roundhouse
Tom Stoppard came to find out about work with Dogg’s Troupe
ED told him that he,  ED  was Prof RL Dogg who wrote for children, and that
in libraries therefore he would be found under Dogg RL (i.e. doggerel)
This amused Stoppard and he wrote a piece for the company called
Dogg’s Our Pet (anagram of Dogg’s Troupe) and that began a 10-year relationship
with Stoppard developing scripts, culminating in Dogg’s Hamlet Cahoot’s Macbeth [and Dirty Linen]
Ed was Artistic Director of the Ambiance and Dogg’s Troupe at same time
Voos becoming paranoid about  ED  wanting to take over his theatre club at
the Mercury (which wasn’t correct)
Naftali Yavin had written to them: he was in Manchester doing
postgraduate studies in theatre. Ed went to meet him and suggested to Voos
that they invite him down to work with them
Falling out with Voos, so that Ed felt it necessary to leave and took company
of people who to do the new work he wanted to explore and develop
ED  and Yavin began The Other Company (TOC)
All companies happened within a few months of each other
ED knew a woman who let them have a workshop space for free rental for a
time opposite the Roundhouse
Began working with local kids
Ambiance moved to the Green Banana to ICA and then to the Almost Free
Theatre in Rupert Street, W1
Story about Norman Beaton who ran the Green Banana and was to have been
‘clippie’ on the Fun Art Bus (1972)
[Arnold] Wesker was trying to Centre 42 at the Roundhouse at same period
as  ED  was starting his work
Story about Wesker and attitude to paying people, and people’s hierarchy
Outside Roundhouse Wesker had put up a sign saying ‘We need £190,000’
Outside Inter-Action workspace windows opposite they had a notice saying,
‘We don’t need £190,00 yet.’
They did theatre in the windows with kids
A drama inspector came around and they were accused of not looking after kids properly,
so they became a free school as they were doing art things with them
They had a small film company
They had the shop front, offices above and a rehearsal space cum workshop
at the back where the company lived
Began with a group of about 10 people which dropped to about 6 (and Naftali and Ed)
during the first winter as it was very cold and the women, in particular,
couldn’t bear the cold living conditions in the shop
They had many people hanging around wanting to join in with the work
They got a lot of publicity, TV etc
They had occupied up to 50 derelict buildings in the area (Chalk Farm and West Kentish Town)
Story of squatting, the council rep, leading to being given permission
to occupy empty council flats officially for 50p a week
The rep showed  ED  how building and planning permission works
The company started working on an old wartime bombsite that hadn’t yet
been cleared. Full of rubble and rats. This was 1968
They cleared it and started a summer programme for kids, building huge structures, like a Moby Dick
Told the kids the story and built structures and played around it [dramascape]
‘If I don’t get an idea a day I feel it’s been a wasted day’
ED  believes if you have and idea and it makes sense you can find the funding

Description of how he went about setting up and getting funding for his City Farms,
both by getting land from British Rail and money from the Arts Council
First time the Arts Council gave a Community Arts grant
Story of Princess Ann’s visit and how and why ED came to put in planning
permission to convert Buckingham Palace into a youth centre
Further discussion on how people/developers get planning permission,
including on buildings they don’t own

Inter-Action Trust establishment 

Inter-Action became constituted in April 1968 as a Trust, then a company,
both registered charities. Jim Rose became Chairman
Story of how Coutts became their bank
Board included: Clive Barker, Jim Rose, Junior Telfer, the lady with the levitation space,
also David Henderson-Stewart from Oxford who brought a number of folk from Mackenzie’s,
including current Chairman, Henry Stradge
Speaks about getting people involved by offering them a title but with no
commitment to attend meetings or to give donations
Began a publishing company that published small booklets –one by the present Lord Philips
of the charity commission called Charity Status and the Law, another by Erin Pizzey on Women’s Refuges

How Inter-Action co-operative ran itself

Inter-Action set up as a co-operative
Based on environmentalism ideals of the time
The operational rules were agreed and set down by all involved
Over time they built up a huge number of rules which made almost impossible to work with
Utopian concepts about living in the countryside not really possible
to attain in an urban environment
Too many distractions in the city, new people coming in with new ideas, relationships from outside
Housing was a problem
Although they had 10 houses together, this was not sustainable as children came along
People not always good at putting principles of group into practices when it came to the crunch
For example they were committed to mutual wills, inheritances, wages etc
but if someone inherited some money they tended to leave the co-op rather than part with it
Story of the library and people’s contributions (or lack of them)
Story of Liz Leyh, sculptor, putting forward a motion that all the women should have children
at the same time e.g. so they could build a free school around them
It was passed but naturally impossible to achieve!
In the main, people were heterosexual
Section about one homosexual man who wasn’t out to his mother and how the co-op tried to protect him over this

Story of picketing ‘Red Legs’ outside Selfridges
This was an action by Father and Mother Xmas Union that ED created and
launched at the Oval cricket ground
The company were involved in direct action and were always in and out of the courts
Supported by the likes of Joan Littlewood and Felix de Poultney
At that time ED never went out without a solicitor at hand
Inter-Action was a largely white company though not completely
Co-op members on the whole were in their 20s, a lot had just finished university
All lived and worked together
There were also Associates who came in to work but lived outside
The group were thought of as Left-wing but were actually environmentalists
Problems of trying to set up an urban kibbutz- a contradiction in terms
Everyone did their share of cooking and cleaning
There was £1 per week charged for room and board which rose to £1 per day
The rule of thumb was that no-one ever earned more than Unemployment Benefit within the co-op
If people earned money from outside work they had to pool it with the co-op
In the end it was impossible to remember the rules as there were so many of them
When ED left in 1985, one of the last to leave, he had no cheque book, savings account, pension, no credit
He then learned how to become a ‘capitalist’ and how to earn money through dealing in property
A central committee, tried to make everything as equal as possible
There were sub-committees of 3 people each
They were careful not to let in disruptive elements such as those from the Loony Left
New members were vetted by the committee
ED stopped doing theatre in 1971, but then went into the community and education side of the work

Inter-Action inspired spin-offs

Carrie Gorney (set up Interplay in Leeds
There was a branch of Inter-Action set up in Milton Keynes
Various ones throughout the country
Story of being rung up more recently by the group in Milton Keynes
who knew nothing of the origins of Inter-Action
ED likes setting up projects and then handing over running and management to others
Description of how he did that with the City Farms in 1975/76

Dogg’s Troupe

Plays were improvised pieces
Company was Geoff Hoyle,
Patrick Barlow [National Theatre of Brent] and Jim Hiley with a changing group of women
They were good at improvs. Had a few song
Used classic form of a parade collecting people, a circle with games
They used someone called ‘A Lone Ranger’ who went around parents encouraging them
to set up their own groups
Stories about they got housing estates to do their own pieces
Story about working in The Blackie in Liverpool 8 with Inter-Action
Story about ED being appointed by Michael Heseltine after the Rialto was
burned down to find out who was responsible for it and the goings on in Liverpool 8

Creative Games Method

ED used the Inter-Action creative games method training
a range of different groups including psychiatrists, those with disabilities
ED would do 3 – 4 sessions a week and train other up to do the same
Work in homes, disabled clubs etc.

Story of Arthur Chisleham and an attempt to get a group organised to take
over all of the Co-operative Society’s assets which would have been possible
under the rules then (since changed)

Community Games, opening of National Theatre
ED had an idea for actors to study over a long period to ‘become’ somebody
He was willing to invest in a year’s training and study for actors to do this
They started with Shakespeare, Captain Cook and Edward Lear
EDdirected it . Actor had to totally immerse themselves and be that person, not as actor ‘portraying’
They were provided with an appropriate living environment and lived as the person for 16 hours a day
Very hard thing to do. Children went along with it but adults found it difficult
National Theatre opened in 1976. Peter Hall asked ED to provide entertainment for outside the theatre
Dogg’s Troupe did Stoppard’s 15-Minute Hamlet (that lasted 18 minutes)
They had the Community Media Van there, also Fun Arts Toilet – a privy on wheels:
2 people could go in at a time
It showed video with audio of Churchill speeches
Quite an obscene juxtaposition
Peter Hall very angry with ED for not playing the game
Inter-Action did about 3-4 hours a day outdoors at NT – there is film somewhere of it
The actor playing Shakespeare was there
He gathered volumes of Shakespeare text and cut them up into 1-inch squares,
signed them and sold them off
Some punters there actually thought they’d bought Shakespeare signature from him
By 1976 the company were pretty well established, all original work had been done by then,
and the company was on its way out
Got funding from Arts Council because of the serious nature of TOC’s work,
but Arts Council was also inspired by the community work to set up their Community Arts panel
Lots of groups around at time doing fairly exotic community arts type stuff which is now commonplace

Old Age Theatre Society (OATS)

OATS came about because Inter-Action was approached by an
organisation (MIND or similar) to do work in an Old People’s home
They went in and gave out cameras encouraginginmates to go places
they weren’t normally allowed and photograph each other etc. c1972/73?
All very successful and ED noted that a team of 4 of them could function very well
as a crew and suggested to the organisation that they be sent off on a tour of
Old People’s homes to lead similar-styled workshop all over
The organisation refused as they said the older people wouldn’t be able to do such a thing
Instead ED got a group from Inter-Action dressed as Pierrots to go in and do entertainments
These were useful as bringing anything to somewhere where there is nothing is always an addition,
but not as productive and empowering as allowing the older people themselves to lead the work

Fun Art Bus

This wasn’t made up of Dogg’s Troupe per se although they were part of it as was TOC,
+ a couple of mimes Pentagon company
Liz Leyh painted a picnic on the top of the bus that could be seen from above,
sculptures, poetry issued as tickets clippies (by Roger McGough, ED etc)
Inspired by the idea that theatre should communicate itself in normal daily
movements of people –6am for market people, lunchtime theatre, bus trips
It looked like a bus but wasn’t
Mimed vignettes were acted in windows when bus pulled up
Some scripted (not so good), plays
ED wanted to revive bus for 2012 Olympics but didn’t feel there would be enough enthusiasm
Plays shown upstairs in the smallest proscenium-arch theatre in the world
Visit to Wales and London audiences
Went to Munich Olympics in 1972
Lot of Left-leaning theatre companies at that period
Quite a number performing at Olympics including Jerome Savary [Le Grand Magic Circus]
After siege and bombings groups met to pass a motion in support of Palestine and
blaming Israel for it
They wanted to go on strike or hold a memorial to the Palestinians
ED stood up at meeting and threw a scene
He couldn’t believe dishonesty around issues from assembled speakers
His side won the day
Fun Art Bus was very successful at Munich Olympics

Naftali Yavin and The Other Company (TOC)

ED had invited Naftali to join them at the Mercury Theatre after seeing his work in Manchester
He was more well-known in Israel at the time than Topol [Fiddler on the Roof star]
He and ED hit it off and Naftali was interested in Inter-Action games method
Naftali had an exploring mind, a theatre man to his finger tips
Directed ED’s plays Sagittarius and Virgo
At same time ED directed two of his plays, Freeze and Stamp
Story of Bob Hoskins joining TOC and paint episode at ICA during productions
Plays were received well
One about a woman in a cage. Cage rocked to and fro over audience
ED’s interest in relationship between action and audience
Created a formula for what he called participatory theatre
What did it mean? Would grade shows on a scale of 0 (where audience is seated watching action)
to 10  (where the audience improvised the whole piece)
Plays were developed on these lines
In Sagittarius  audiences sat on blocks within the action
It was about a dysfunctional family
Virgo had a woman in a cage and dealt with issues of female beauty being inside or outside
Naftali Yavin was a brilliant director
He had a girlfriend in the co-op who went off with another woman
This devastated him and he went about with a copy of [Arthur] Janov’s The Primal Scream
ED was trying to raise funds for Naftali to go to California and work with Janov’s Scream Therapy
but Naftali died before that could happen – he had been drinking
and took some sleeping pills and never woke up
Naftali’s play Precious Moments from the Family Album… was done in Manchester
and then at the Mercury Theatre, London under auspices of International Theatre Club
A harrowing play inspired by Naftali’s  relationship with his mother
Story of amputee actress (c 1967) in it
ED developed his idea of ‘environmental’ theatre – location and time whilst Naftali
worked in powerful dramas by Peter Handke, James Saunders and the like with TOC

Ronan Point enquiry and Joan Littlewood

ED was approached by Joan Littlewood to join her in a piece about the Ronan Point enquiry
Ronan Point was a newly-built multi-storey building in East London that
had been torn apart by a gas geezer explosion
There had been a whitewash cover-up enquiry
Joan wanted to hold a staged reading of the enquiry
They approached the Roundhouse but the authorities threatened Joan Littlewood,
saying she would never work again in the UK if she went ahead with it,
and she backed down
ED and Littlewood had previously worked together in Victoria Park on a Sharpeville [massacre] piece
At the same time ED and the Dogg’s Troupe were involved with a Black Power event at the Roundhouse
The Troupe were beaten up by some black guys
Soon after ED set in motion his Black Power Season of plays at the Almost Free [Ambiance]

Black Power Season at the Almost Free and other seasons (women’s, gay)

Ed Bullins, culture minister of the Black Panther movement in the US came to London
bringing his play The Electronic  Nigger with him
They added 3 other plays to that and ran a Black Power Season at the Almost Free in Rupert Street [Piccadilly]
Bullins married someone in Inter-Action company
At end of the season there was a meeting held to discuss allocation of funds into Black projects
£300 had been collected from separate collection – part of ED’s experiments in how
to pay for performances which eventually led to the formation of the Almost Free
Present at meeting were: Michael X (enforcer for Rachman, eventually the last man
executed in Commonwealth in Jamaica), John Arden, Bullins
Michael X said he was going to take money and put it into a ‘Black bank’
None of the others would back ED in his objection to this
[Susan speaks of Roland Rees’s involvement in Black Power Season.
The bringing in of Mustapha Matura and his Black Pieces]
ED says that they spent quite a lot of time and money sourcing Black British writers for season
After Black Power Season ED set up a caucus so that other seasons could be set up
– most notably the Women’s and the Gay seasons
How it was set up and run
ED became a bit of
a whipping boy with these groups, because he wanted final control over what plays
were chosen, and was only defended by Pam Gems
From there the Women and the Gays went on to form their own groups
ED and Roland Rees stayed more in touch and worked with the Black artists.
Approach by the Gulbenkian Foundation to help advise a North London Black arts group as to
how to run their company according to legal agreements and obligations
They saw it as white man’s game
ED failed to persuade them that if they wanted funding they had to comply with
certain ways of doing things
Many things happened because of Black Power Season
Mustapha Matura was a good conduit into the Black community as was Roland Rees
ED disputes notion of ‘the three Americans who spearheaded alternative theatre in
Britain’ [ED, Jim Haynes, Charles Marowitz]
All were very different and never saw each other’s work
ED interested in political and social issues
The US was however 10 years ahead in terms of racial, women’s and gay issues,
which he had experience of when he arrived in London, so he didn’t know what the
problems were as he saw them as pretty straightforward
No real class issues within Inter-Action – they had other things to focus on
There were some issues about his name being fronted by the press and media
concerning Inter-Action
But he only convened the company, he wasn’t their leader —
but can’t help what press and people choose to do and say
ED got grants and to a degree was deemed as person in charge which left him isolated
within company as the person in charge is always seen as common enemy for others

Second interview 13th February 2011

Almost Free Theatre in Rupert Street (1971)

ED worked to set up a theatre venue in Rupert Street [near Piccadilly Circus]
Lot of planning blight on property in that area at the time
A friend wanted to set up a language theatre for teaching English
In the end the person dropped out
Venue called Almost Free
Logo designed by Bob Gill – strong title of The Free Theatre with a handwritten inset
between The and Free saying ‘Almost’
Idea behind it was that everyone paid at least one penny to come and see a show
No upper limit. Often took more than was current in other theatres at time
ED was part of local campaign to stop Joe Levy (who had bought up a lot of the property
around Piccadilly Circus) from developing a high rise office complex
Campaign was ultimately successful. Supported by local businesses
Almost Free was near to the Rialto Cinema and had been an electric bingo parlour
Ground floor, rented, seated 60,100 standing
They did lunchtime and evening shows
Story of George Walker, who started Brent Cross, boxer, and agent to brother boxer
Billy Walker, who supported the campaign and who couldn’t quite come to terms with
modest costs and workings of campaign and of Inter-Action
Early productions at Almost Free included Peter Handke plays,
TOC production of a piece on the My Lai Massacre, directed by Naftali, work by James Saunders

Equity and working agreement at Almost Free

Equity approached ED and Mike Leigh to help unionise fringe
They drew up a contract of work which Equity agreed but when Equity tried to get ED to apply it
at the Almost Free he aid he couldn’t because the principle of the  Almost Free was such
that they could never guarantee making enough money to pay their employees Equity rates
All actors were paid £10 or £15 a week, they divided up the Arts Council grants equally amongst everyone
Productions helped give a showcase to up and coming actors
Prunella Scales had signed up for a play (she was a Patron of Inter-Action)
At end of rehearsal period her Agent rang to say she had been offered a TV series
and would they release her, which they naturally did. They were respected in the profession

Talacre Road home
They had moved by this time to their home in Talacre Road, Kentish Town, to  a derelict building site
Eventually developed sports and sitting-out areas where they could do plays
Had been an old factory sweatshop from early 20th century
Had a good relationship with both Tory and Labour councils who helped them have properties for very little money
ED had hoped to find home for Inter-Action under the West Way in Notting Hill but
planning permission there became too problematic
Productions rehearsed at Talacre Road before transferring to Rupert Street to play
Originally rehearsed and based in property opposite the Roundhouse, then somewhere
in Cressy Road, then Talacre Road
Technicians and administrators were core members of the Inter-Action co-op
ED was Artistic Director, he chose plays and developed Almost Free ‘seasons’
Except for Dogg’s Troupe and TOC productions, other colleagues directed the work
90% of time casting was ‘open’
They attracted plays from Stoppard, Bond and Arden.
Leading actors wanted to work with them because of quality of plays
Only did British or World premieres.
ED only interested in new work, not classical theatre

Almost Free seasons
(new and some repeated information)
ED wanted to promote libertarian theatre on race relations, women’s rights etc. for political and social reasons
For groups who didn’t have a theatre voice at that period
No black, gay theatres only Left wing
They had Arts Council grant by then
He advertised and convened a caucus
Women at time were only seen as ‘actresses’ very few were involved in technical or directing side
ED declared a caucus for those interested in development of women in theatre
The women were to work it all out, women nominated to shadow those working at Almost Free already,
choose plays (with ED reserving right to final selection to maintain standard for Arts Council
continued-funding potential)
Pam Gems, Michelene Wandor involved plus many other women
From the season two women’s theatre groups emerged [Monstrous Regiment
and Women’s Theatre Group] who disagreed and whose work developed in different directions
Similar companies emerged from seasons black and gay theatre
Gay Sweatshop emerged from that plus one other gay company [name unknown]
ED published the season of gay plays under Homosexual Acts  
He wanted to do book for each season but that didn’t happen
ED spent 12 – 13 years working in theatre, half the time being spent on community and educational work
When he saw the opportunity to expand into film, publishing, video he would do it
Interested in finding different ways for people to express themselves
especially those who had no voice at that time
Community Media Van was a good example of this
It had a radio telephone
Went around the country locating itself in a public place
Telephone connected through to mayors or leaders of councils and
members of public invited to speak to them about their grievances in public

Key Inter-Action figures and different projects

Community Media Van – Australian Clive Scully and Audrey Bronstein,
who went on to work with Oxfam
Dogg’s Troupe was key to many of Inter-Action’s projects as they were a versatile improv group
Core members were ED, Patrick  Barlow, Geoff Hoyle, Jim Hiley and various women who joined
from time to time
Harriet Powell (later with Spare Tyre) was their musician
Usually ED+ 4 others
Description of the iconic Doggs Troupe image of headgear worn with four faces on it, front and back
called ‘Fourth double back two-faced people’ – their street theatre had core themes
Another was ‘ Technicolor Peeler Colourful Coppers’
Other members were added from time to time, as in the Father Xmas Union
– a union for Mother and Father Christmases.
It required a lot of people to join for a day or a week to play the game
Description of how to join – make a fist, hit chest and say ‘Santa’, open hands,
face them outwards and say ‘Claus’. That’s it, you’re a member
No dues, but as in a true democracy you had to do what ED told you to do!
Father Xmas Union merged with Mother Xmas Union on the Oval Cricket pitch
There were one or two events a year after arrests following first action at Selfridges
where they were arrested for picketing the ‘red leg’ workers (Father Christmas version of ‘black leg’)
They appeared in court a few times
Description of another project ‘Bankers Misguided Tours’ visiting CIA operatives based in London
They got hold of their addresses via an earlier type of Wikileaks scam
Also ‘The Poor Man Think Tank’ which ED couldn’t recall at all and ‘The Piano Gift Show
There was a National Front man standing for a seat on the Camden Council
ED got a piano, removed all the black keys and delivered it to the man’s front door
with appropriate note, and accompanying press release
The man didn’t win the seat
They had an inflatable Hiroshima bomb outside the Almost Free for one season
of [anti-nuclear] plays which children could play on

Poor Man’s Think Tank and various Father Christmas Union events

The Poor Man’s Think Tank was a portable loo on the back of a milk float,
created prior to the National Theatre opening event referred to previously
Devised with a white board opposite loo seat (no functional loo, could seat 2) upon which comments
could be made
After NT event it was retired
Chair of Inter-Action threatened to stand down if there were any more Father Xmas Union events
First Father Xmas Union event was at Whiteley’s department store in Queensway
Inter-Action was hired by them in the early 1970s to deliver the annual Christmas grotto.
Story of how a team of Father and Mother Christmases with Eskimos and penguins entered the store
and began asking the customers what they said they wanted for Christmas from the store
and how the public began leaving the store with those goods
Describes the extreme shock of this ‘stepping over the mark’ action had on them personally
Made them realise they had to consider very carefully what they chose to do as ‘events’
The Father and Mother Xmas Union picketed Selfridges and they got arrested for blocking the pedestrian walkway
They had someone at hand photographing the event and in the end they were charged a £12 fine each
Case supported by the likes of Joan Littlewood and Vanessa Redgrave

The following year the company announced they were going to attack Barkers department store
where the British Army were demonstrating firearms to children in the Father Christmas grotto
ED sent out a press release saying they were going to attack the British Army
Vivid description of development of this happening, interaction with police,
the event itself. Following day British Army withdrew from Barkers

Company developed a National ‘Hello’ Day
Walked through the streets in costume saying ‘Hello!’ to everyone and noted down how they reacted
Got a lot of publicity.
Following year held a National ‘Goodbye’ Day
They strapped mirrors to their shoulders and walked backwards
Invited to go to Holland and France. They were in Amsterdam on an election day
Story of ED being propositioned by a Dutch nurse and letter from the local Elves Party, Kebauters [?],
who won two seats that day as a result of the Father Christmas event which they believed
helped their cause
Father Xmas Union activities continued
Rung up in Paris by the police about an ad they put in the paper for a Father Xmas Union
answerphone service
The press made a mistake with the number and a woman had been receiving thousands of
calls in error. Story of how police tried to charge ED with the offence and consequences of mistake

Libertarian Season at the Almost Free
ED asked Tom Stoppard to write a play for this season, which he did: Dirty Linen
Stories of the development of the play and the casting of Richard Goulden and
Stephen Moore in it. Late delivery of script and acting challenges
Very successful, transferred from lunchtime venue to the Arts Theatre where
it ran for four and half years
Not however sure whether it epitomised the Libertarian Season or not
Rochelle Owens play Homo was part of the season
ED thinks he met her through his contact with La Mama company whom he first met when based in
They were over there doing libertarian outrage things
When La Mama came to London ED was doing his play Super Santa at the Mercury Theatre
Story of this production opening Kensington & Chelsea Arts Council
Not best choice play for the event
At same time he presented La Mama in their Tom Paine at Mercury Theatre
ED remained friendly with La Mama for a year or so
ED directed Dirty Linen in Newfoundland, Chicago and on Broadway
Inter-Action greatly benefited financially from the tours of Dirty Linen,
which went straight back into their company coffers
Stories of ED raising issues with the Arts Council over subsidised companies,who made
commercial successes with their work without being required to repay the money to the Arts Council
Notes especially the issue of Alan Ayckbourn in Scarborough, where his plays were
first produced with Arts Council funding before transferring to the West End

John Arden & Margaretta D’Arcy’s Non-stop Connolly Show

ED helped produce readings of The Non-stop Connolly Show as no-one would touch it
because of the extreme political views of John Arden and Margaretta D’Arcy,
which ED thought unfair
Arden and D’Arcy wanted to set up a theatre writers’ union and ED let them hold
a formative meeting at Talacre Road to develop the idea
The Theatre Writers Union was formed and ran for a number of years [contribution from Susan about same]

Other ‘Seasons’ at the Almost Free and Press

Other ‘seasons’ at the Almost Free included the ‘Rights and Campaigns’ season in 1978,
‘The Last Anti-Nuclear Festival’ 1978/79
and the ‘Distant Encounters’ season of plays
‘Distant Encounters’ season reflected ED’s interest in Science Fiction at the time
Plays included Distant Encounters by Brian Aldiss, Player Piano by James Saunders [from Kurt Vonnegut jr novel],
The Alien Singer by ED B, One Off  by Bob Wilson
Had to promote own press because of budget limitations
Created different letterheads for different Inter-Action groups and events
ED learnt how to create press releases
Always attracted good press coverage to theatre shows and events and on the whole they were good

British American Repertory Company

They set up first British-American company using exchange of actors and stage managers,
agreed by American and British unions
It was a breakthrough as company was made up of ordinary actors rather than stars
Treated well by both Embassies either side of the pond
Did Dirty Linen in Newfoundland and Dogg’s Hamlet, Cahoot’s Macbeth
Restriction in agreement meant they could only do 4 theatres for a fortnight each in each country
– meant this play, which was a very sound piece of Stoppard writing,
was only ever seen by a small number of people

Development of Talacre Centre, City Farms and publishing

Inter-Action was flying high with Arts Council grants in support of their community arts programme
ED wanted to build a permanent centre
The Talacre site hadn’t been touched since the end of the war
Put in plans and got permission to develop in 1976
Used designer Cedric Price
Worked out well although there were some defect issues which had to be resolved
Wonderful centre with big open spaces
Down the road were their City Farm, Free School and housing association
Centre was opened by Princess Anne
The City Farm was run at that time by ED as he was living there.
There was an old timber shed turned into a riding school and a garage,
which was turned into a workshop
There had been allotments in the area previously and stables for the horses to turn the locomotives
in the Roundhouse so it didn’t take much imagination to re-engage this building and their purposes
Six of them lived in a house in the area – ED, Liz Leyh, Jim Hiley
Indoor riding school was for disabled kids. Local people took the old allotments
They kept goats, chickens, made yoghurt
Didn’t have cows as it was illegal to do so in the city
Had concrete cows and horses for kids.
Some horses donated, some liveried for locals, some bought
There was pressure for him to call them Urban Farms which he resisted
Other City Farms opened up, they established a National Association of City Farms
which they ran for a year and then devolved
It helped when British Rail agreed to release land for the City Farms

Inter-Action published small booklets and plays
Titles included Converting a Bus – about the Fun Art Bus
There was also the Islington Bus Company which provided a space for pre-school kids
and their Mums supported by Islington Council
Others were Print: How You Can Do It Yourself  – teaching people how they could print for themselves
Tools for Change and Video and Community Work –  they published a series of handbooks
At first were distributed co-operatively but eventually sold to commercial publishers A.N.C Black
as they couldn’t compete financially
Did two more song books and tapes for BBC – Healthy Learning Songs
They developed a vocabulary for teaching things like health to children with the idea that this way
they’d learn information for life
For each topic – say teeth cleaning – they’d have 4 different ways to learn: a song, a game, activity and game song
Story about buying out and rescuing ‘Beginners guides
One to One’ – booklet on experiments with community participation in long-stay hospitals and
Kith and Kids – children with disabilities
There were many movements which at that time had no publications – Battered Women and the Law
and Charitable Status and the Law – small publications for unrepresented voices at the time
Eventually they became mainstream of course
In the 1980s became more involved with emerging technologies – Working with Videos,
Which Software? and Breaks for Young Bands
Had a studio in Talacre Road and found way to let bands have access to latest technology

ED took a year out to work with Michael Heseltine in the Department of the Environment.
Title was Special Advisor in Inner City Matters and the Voluntary Sector
Brought in Black groups, set up various committees where there was wide representation
Hard for MPs to spend time with grassroots in their constituency, once in office

Inter-Action in Milton Keynes and other outlets
Carrie Gorney and Liz Leyh went up to Milton Keynes for a time to establish Inter-Action work
Liz Leyh was first artist-in- residence in the city
Created concrete hippos and dinosaurs which became landmarks in the faceless city
Lots of community work was done there
When Carrie Gorney and Liz Leyh returned the work was handed over to local community
Ran a Summer base in Sussex for a time
Stephen Pilkington (Pilkington glass, a decent man) invited them to use his home at
Rutherton Hall for summer residency for a time, late 60s early 70s
First summer, John Fox, later of Welfare State, was based there
Kentish Town kids taken there
Made small films
ED tended not to take holidays
Took Inter-Action Games Method to Scandinavia, Holland, Hong Kong
Theatre productions were taken abroad by him
Naftali Yavin took a production to his home country, Israel

Educational project and Weekend Arts College

Took over former rent office in Kentish Town and made it into one of the first alternative free schools,
for kids who were playing truant from school
Learnt that actors could make very good teachers as they new how to get attention of their ‘audience’
The Weekend Arts Colleges were set up by two dancers who taught in a local secondary modern school
They approached ED and ran it with Inter-Action doing press etc. in background
Extremely good project and has survived and is now part of Interchange
ED had done a deal with the local council whereby if they chucked people
off the Talacre site they would owe the then company 2 million pounds
This eventually happened and the people running Interchange [renamed when ED and Inter-Action left]
took the money and got match funding to re-locate to Hampstead Town Hall where they are now based
Interchange offers training and new age projects, training for charities and fundraising
WAC very successful and many kids got work after training there
A lot of money was paid to theatre professionals to help train the kids at weekends
Has lasted 30 -40 years. [Funding was cut in 2011 – WAC challenging cut]

Leaving Talacre, moving on with Inter-Action, HMS  President

ED felt the work with Inter-Action at Talacre Road had come to an end
and that the old incumbents were stifling development
and independence of up and coming people
It was now doing well with grants and those with jobs didn’t want to finish the work
Older core were – Carrie Gorney (running training), Molly Loll (fundraising), Liz Leyh, David Powell, 8-9 of them
Story of discussions that led to the older Inter-Action group leaving with most of the
Board of Trustees, minus the Chair.
Moved to the Royal Docks in 1985 with a large contract from the Department of the Environment
to develop work with the local community
Very rundown area of the docks
ED was in conflict with the local extreme Left down there who were trying to revive the Docks,
supported by money from Ken Livingstone and the GLC
It became very unpleasant and ED looked for other outlets
Story of passing the ships, HMS President and Chrysanthemum, on the Thames
and how he came to buy them for Inter-Action from the navy
Took a year to get them into shape
Moved into HMS President in 1988
Made into studios and spaces which were hired out by a commercial set-up,
managed by their charity: social enterprise
Not connected to the local community but provided space for groups to develop own work
or work within their communities
Many other groups were doing community work by then all over the country, and very well too
The other ship was sold to the Indiana Jones film company
HMS President was sold in 2002 when ED started working in India
It employed 20 -30 people including original designer and Fun Arts Bus driver, Graham Betts
Into computing, recording studios
Advice on setting up companies from Inter-Action days
Advisory service with help from KPMG and McKinsey & Co, still helping a lot of people

Work in Russia

ED had various contracts from the British Government at EU over about 8 years
to work in Russia for a few months each year
Did Games-Method with young people in custody and was Special Advisor to a number of Ministries
– Economy, Youth, Labour
Developed a Leasing Law. New concept for them after years of Communist rule,
where no-one could own anything
People couldn’t conceive what this all meant so set up adult training workshops to this end
Gives examples of different business schemes that were brought to him to help achieve:
the logging firm wanting to buy 500 Mercedes Benz,
the scallop firm whose merchandise had a nuclear-contaminated location
Had a scheme to bring the Russian ship that helped begin the Russian Revolution, the ‘Aurora’,
over to London Pool but denied permission by Yeltsin
There was a period after Glasnost that the West were investing in Russia to help it develop democratically,
but Yeltsin and Putin have helped keep things towards the Russian dictator/tsarist tendency

Speaks about his ‘Instant Social Enterprise System’ that he developed in the 1970s and
the need to give young people those structures
The system helps people to set up in business from the bottom upwards
Tried selling idea to Princes Trust but it didn’t work out
Belief that nowadays people need to do things on own or with others

Speaks about the concept of Creativity and how most people think about creativity
in terms of the arts whereas re-inventing yourself and ways of being/doing are creative
How we get  stuck in the way we view things and can’t step outside the box –
we haven’t learnt to move in different directions


India is his spiritual homeland
Only had the chance to start visiting and working there 7 years ago
Very early link when he met two Indian men at the International Club at his university
One of them, President Elect of the Madras Christian College, had asked him to edit
his thesis on ‘Gandhi in South Africa’
ED was only 16 and greatly inspired by these two: they opened his eyes to the world, apartheid and Gandhism
The wife of his friend is still alive and working in India
ED has done his Social Enterprise work there, helped people set up new businesses,
done charity work and educational work
He took on a professorship at an MBA school with an association with Yale
Finds the West moribund in contrast to what is happening in India
Creativity is needed where growth is required
Helped with setting up dog shelters to large businesses, environmental work
recycling plastics for building material, processing dirty to clean water

South Africa and looking back

Set up a centre in South Africa
Bought 3 properties in one street but project got caught up in some underhand, criminal practices
in the housing market. Story of this
But did manage to set up similar work there as elsewhere
Got a book published of young people’s writing

He looks back and sees his work as interesting though not ultimately that important
He perhaps feels the theatre work and profile stole focus away from the community and environmental work
Shallowness and narrowness of the way we are and think
The problem is in thinking out of the box

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