Qultura started from an idea by Stella Baker late in 2002. At the time she was working as a Fringe playwright and stage director in Polish theatre and had had the ambition of uniting the cultures of Eastern and Western Europe through a common link since the late 1980's and the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Inspiration from Marek Kotanski.
While working in Poland Stella became aware of protests by Polish people over homes being set up in local communities for the homeless, ex-offenders, people with HIV, homosexuals and single mothers. This was in the mid-1990's and she became aware of social exclusion through learning Polish, which she speaks fluently. This was how she became aware of the work of Marek Kotanski and social exclusion.
Marek Kotanski was a Polish psychologist and charity worker who developed the MONAR system in a psychiatric hospital in the mid-1970's for drug addicts at a time when the Polish authorities denied that drug addiction existed as a social issue. The MONAR system was developed in a derelict house near the psychiatric hospital which was renovated by psychiatric patients from the local hospital outside Warsaw. The method was based on the creation of opportunity, empowerment and integration with the local community. Kotanski later set up MONAR as a charity and later MARKOT for single mothers, homosexuals and people with HIV. Today there are more than 150 MONAR centres operating throughout Poland and just as many MARKOT centres.
The Warsaw Underground
Stella Baker was a Fringe dramatist and stage director working in Polish theatre who developed a reputation for creating small Fringe theatres in community centres working with non-professional actors in a simplified system of teaching acting. To some hardened theatregoers she was considered a contemporary of the Polish director and authority on modern theatre Jerzy Grotowski. Known for her originality of work, unconventional use of space and work in comedy she was popular and a strong influence on Polish culture.
Unlike the serious work, repetition and practice advocated by Grotowski Stella Baker's work in theatre was spontaneous, free, and accessible. In the 12 years she lived and worked in Poland she wrote and staged 15 plays mainly in two languages, both English and Polish, and she developed a reputation for being able to create a professional standard theatre production from people walking in off the street within several weeks. Her work was focussed on social issues, she was a strong advocate of social realism and the 'kitchen sink' drama and since 1996 developed a simplified theory of modern drama.
In 2002 during a chance encounter with the homeless at Warsaw Central railway station she decided to use theatre as a vehicle for helping the socially excluded, and later attempted to set up the Warsaw Underground in a well known bar Klub Harenda in the centre of Warsaw working with the homeless and professional actors. Denied funding by the then president of Warsaw Lech Kaczynski Stella Baker quit Warsaw theatre triggering 'A CurtainFalls', a well known article in Gazeta Wyborcza, a national Polish newspaper and sister to the UK's Guardian.
This was motivated by her meeting with Roman, a homeless man at Warsaw Central station. At the time Roman approached her asking for a cup of tea. This was during a harsh winter evening with snow on the ground and subzero temperatures. She decided to purchase tea and food for all the homeless taking shelter in the waiting room. She learned of the struggles of the people, their history and involvement with the Polish Solidarity movement, their subsequent loss of work, jobs, homes and families in Poland's transition to become a member of the European Union. Roman asked her to do something for the homeless and she promised him that she would, which led directly to the attempt to develop the Warsaw Underground.
Stella Baker later moved to Zywiec in the south of Poland where she successfully created a theatre which involved drug addicts and alcoholics. This was ended when she later came out publicly as a transgendered woman in support of equal rights for the Polish LGBT community in direct opposition to Lech Kaczynski, who was about to become the national President of Poland.As a result she became homeless and destitute and all evidence of her work and artistic achievements were erased. Losing friends, contacts, family, her home, work, and all her personal fortune she was forced to return to the UK. This was shortly after an article in Gazeta Wyborcza stated.
"While the work of alternative theatres sought to emulate the Edinburgh Fringe the concept of the Fringe was introduced to Polish theatre by the work of Stella Baker.
Drama and creativity
While homeless and in the UK Stella Baker sought to continue her work starting with the homeless and setting up a charitable theatre company known as Qultura Fringe early in 2008 to share her theory of modern drama in a way so as to support people out of social exclusion, just as she had been doing in Poland. She created Qultura originally as a parent charitable organization which would involve mainly a Governing Body of Trustees to oversee Qultura Fringe.
However she still needed to explain the phenomenon of drama and what motivated people to seek out drama and what relationship that had to creativity.
It was in November 2009 that Stella Baker discovered that drama was part of a larger cycle and opposite to trauma. She worked out that she had developed a theory of creativity and worked out the basic principles of energy which existed on a spectrum, and from this developed the componehts of her theory. Seeing that the potential for creativity was much greater than just theatre or the performing arts she set up Qultura as a charitable organization to support people out of social exclusion through a strategy of cultural development and community support.