What are cultural rights and why do we need them? In the author’s words, ‘Everyone, everywhere has a right to thrive.’ It is an issue of justice, an essential service like education, health. Culture is not benign, he says. It is a powerful narrative contagion which binds us together. We need to pay attention to it and be vigilant, not for the few but the whole. Because if we don’t it can be used against certain sections of our society, demonising them or rendering their story invisible and citizens vulnerable. In Australia we pride ourselves on our cultural diversity but have little self-knowledge.
This paper draws from Rankin’s 26 years’ experience living with Big hART, a regional performance company and digital content producer based in Burnie, ‘the poorest electorate in Australia’, that uses the arts and performance to stimulate social development and better cultural understanding. He reflects on the lessons learnt from their successes and failures; and places their body of work in an international context of alternative company practice.