In January 2019, we launched “Migrations Harbour Europe” a call for plays about the recent migration crisis written by non British writers (especially women and writers of migrant descent). We received 157 plays from 17 countries. A panel of multilingual readers selected 3. We presented them as staged readings. As part of the project we began to run free workshops for migrants and refugees in Tottenham, North London. Tottenham is the most diverse area in Europe, the borough where many new migrants arriving in the UK settle. Despite some recent urban development projects, it’s still quite deprived. We wanted to involve in the selecting and creative project the very people the project was about. Invite them to read and work on some of the plays to see which ones resonated with them.
However over the weeks the workshops developed a life of their own. We were totally open. We teamed up with the local Migrants resource centre welcoming to the sessions whomever walked through the door, inviting them to feel free to express themselves, find their voice, reclaim space, or simply practise English. By March the workshops were so successful we extended what was supposed to be a three month series to six months. We produced a short performance. We took participants to the theatre to see anything from contemporary writing to Shakespeare. The group has now become a big family. People who were hardly able to speak English by the end of June were confident enough to act a scene from Measure for Measure.
We can’t stop here. We want to start again in September, produce a longer performance for Christmas, developing the short one we did in spring into a full show mixing participants’ personal stories with extracts from plays, songs from their countries, and projections. We want to be the place where people new to Tottenham and the UK go to meet friends and feel at home.
Funded by Awesome Without Borders (September 2019)