In November 2009 iceandfire will launch a free, unsolicited script service for playwrights exploring human rights stories, PlayRights. But what is a human rights story? We have prepared the below in order to try and answer that question and would really value your feedback as to whether you feel it does. Any comments, amendments, extensions gratefully received!

iceandfire exists to tell human rights stories and with PlayRights our aim is to provide a natural home for writers who want to create plays with these stories at their heart.

To have your human rights recognised is to receive equal justice, equal opportunity and dignity without discrimination. Well known rights include the right not to be subjected to torture; the right to freedom of expression and opinion; the right to education. All these rights are outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which has spawned many Conventions including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention Against Torture.

So how can human rights be translated from formalised, aspirational ideals to real, breathing things that affect peoples’ lives in profound ways? It could be that you write about clear human rights abuses e.g torture in Guantanamo; the inhumane treatment suffered by asylum seekers; children denied education and forced to work from an early age and the impact that these abuses have on the people who experience them. Or it could be that you take a situation that examines human rights from different perspectives: e.g a play that we are working on, Bind, examines how the MMR vaccination illuminates Article 29, ‘Everyone has duties to the community.’ It may be that you examine the concept of human rights and create a piece that explores what it means to have them and whether they have achieved their purpose. We acknowledge that human rights need to be questioned and we understand that they are not just a uniform good but nuanced and layered.

Our overarching aim is to create theatre that makes human rights real and relevant to peoples’ lives by humanising these often complex and contentious issues. We are aware that this can often be perceived as ‘worthy’ or ‘earnest’ and we are keen to encourage work that takes a fresh and dynamic approach to the idea of a ‘human rights story’, creating surprising and entertaining theatre.

So – does the above sufficiently answer the question ‘What is a human rights story?’ Let us know!

Sara Masters, co-Artistic Director of iceandfire

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