YV’s arms are open – we are a Theatre of Sanctuary

The Young Vic is proud to be a Theatre of Sanctuary. Our doors are always open to refugees.

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In 2016 we at the YV extended our commitment to raising awareness of the plight of refugees with our Horizons season which will continue this year with Taha in July and The Suppliant Women in November.

Also last year we became the first London Theatre of Sanctuary, as awarded by City of Sanctuary.

David Lan, our Artistic Director, said of Horizons: “We are responding to the world as it is now. People in distress need help and they need to be heard. We want to provide a powerful means for audiences at home and abroad to connect with the political, social and human realities refugees face.”

We hope that being a Theatre of Sanctuary will help us to encourage more of our new neighbours to visit our theatre, making the Young Vic an important part of their new home.

In order to become a Theatre of Sanctuary, the Young Vic had to show written evidence of three key principles: that as a company we had enhanced our knowledge of asylum issues,  that we had embedded a culture of welcome into our professional community and that we had shared our learning with others.

City of Sanctuary is a movement committed to building a culture of hospitality and welcome, especially for refugees seeking sanctuary from war and persecution. Their motto is: “Wherever refugees go, we want them to feel safe and find people who will welcome them.” – an important philosophy in these times.

Find out more about City of Sanctuary and how you can help here.

Theatres urge Government to honour commitment to refugee children

Today theatre companies across the country urge Government to honour its commitment to refugee children with legal right to enter the UK.

 Today 21 theatre companies across the UK wrote to the immigration minister Robert Goodwill to urge the Government to honour its legal commitments under the Immigration Act 2016.  They particularly urge the minister to speed up the process by which those vulnerable young people currently living at the soon to be dismantled Calais refugee camp who are legally entitled to join their families in the UK can do so.

Though fully aware that a visit to the theatre will not be a priority for these vulnerable young people, the theatre companies are indicating their support for these children and the organisations attempting to protect them by offering the children and their families tickets to a show free of charge.

Those taking part are:  Battersea Arts Centre, Bush Theatre, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Bristol Old Vic, Chichester Festival Theatre, Colin Callender (Playground Entertainment), Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse, Lyric Hammersmith, The National Theatre, Nuffield Southampton, The Old Vic, Royal Court Theatre, Royal Exchange Manchester, Royal Opera House, Sadler’s Wells, Soho Theatre, Sonia Friedman Productions, Theatre Royal Stratford East, Unicorn Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse and Young Vic.

This is our joint statement:

We understand that there are currently 1022 unaccompanied young children living alone in the ‘Jungle’ refugee and migrant camp in Calais.[1] 

 Around half[2] of these children have the legal right to be reunited with their families in the UK under the terms of the Immigration Act 2016.

 As the authorities prepare for the camp’s demolition in the next three weeks, we urge the British Government to honour the legal commitment it has made to protect these children, to speed up the legal process in view of the impending eviction and to do everything it can to ensure the protection of all unaccompanied children living in Calais before the demolition begins. 

 We know that, on their hoped for arrival in the UK, a visit to the theatre will not be the most urgent of these children’s needs. Nonetheless we will all be delighted to welcome them and their families into our theatres across the country and to offer them seats to a show free of charge in the belief that this is one small expression of the desire of millions of UK citizens to do whatever they can to welcome these vulnerable young people in a generous and open-hearted way.”

 

 

[1] Help Refugees/L’Auberge des Migrants Census Report, September 2016

[2] Ibid

‘People need to know the stories of those who to everyone here are invisible’

Michael, YV TP LGBT Refugee Workshop Portrait

Michael, a participant in the Now We Are Here workshops.

I like the theatre. It’s something I know communicates something to everyone. I got involved in the Young Vic through another group. I went to a session, and they asked lots of questions. They asked me to write a letter as if I was writing to my best friend about my life. I haven’t seen my best friend in such a long time, the experience of writing that moved me. Then they asked me who my favourite person was. I said my grandmother. They asked me how I would describe her in one word, I said “flower”. They asked me how she would describe me in one word, I said “clown”. And then they asked me who she is to me, I said “shield”.

Then we started talking about our stories. The some people who gave their stories wanted to talk about their home country. Like Jamaica. Everyone here thinks Jamaica is a happy place, lots of reggae, lots of sunshine. They don’t know the reality of what it’s like to live there if you aren’t like everyone else. One person wanted to talk about his cancer. His cancer, and the vulnerability it gave him made him safer in the eyes of the social services. The cancer that was harming him was his protection, his proof that he was a victim and his guarantee that he could stay. He doesn’t want his cancer to go, because that means that he himself might have to go too.

But I wanted to talk about what life is like here. I don’t want to tell the story of how I got here. People always ask me about my journey but they don’t realise that my journey is still going on living here. People need to know the stories of those who to everyone here are invisible. What I want to do is to communicate that pain is not limited to being a refugee or an asylum seeker. Pain is universal, pain doesn’t discriminate. Pain is something that we all feel. Sometimes it’s like people don’t understand the every-day reality of what it’s like feeling lost.

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The cast of Now We Are Here. Photo by Helen Murray.

They treated us so well at the Young Vic. They gave us a lot of purpose, food to eat and friendship. I am still in touch with the people who we did the production with. I made sure that the money that was raised went to the charities that have helped us, like Room to Heal. An outcome that I am very proud of is the creation of the Cotton Tree Trust. An audience member with an amount of money they had saved for thirty years was so moved by the play that he has started to think of creating a trust to practically help refugees and asylum seekers like me. Theatre can keep creating this compassion, and I am grateful to have been apart of this project.

This blog post was originally featured by Room To Heal, a charity which supports refugees and Asylum Seekers in the UK. Their blog can be found here. This post was written by Michael, a participant in the workshops that led to the production of Now We Are Here which ran at the Young Vic in July 2016.

Now We Are Here | Michael

Now We Are Here, part or our Horizons season of work, features four true refugees stories which are drawn together into a heartbreaking tale of the pursuit of freedom. Taking Part at the Young Vic presents this extraordinarily beautiful new play.
We spoke to the people who were originally involved in our first workshops about where they are from and why they decided to get involved in this important project.

Michael, YV TP LGBT Refugee Workshop Portrait

Michael, a participant in the original workshop, originally from Burundi.

Q. How old are you?
A. Well, that’s a very tough question because in Africa we never ask about age…being a person who has never celebrated their birthday or anything like that, makes it very tricky. But as far as I can remember, maybe 1972 – so I’m getting to 43/44.

Q. Where are you from?
A. Burundi. But it’s all about East Africa for me because my mother’s origins are in Uganda and her grandmother is from Tanzania, so I’m all East African.

Q. How are you finding it in the UK?
A. Well, I would say safety is the only thing I can mention. It’s safe. It’s so challenging – I’ve been here 13 years. I fled my country because of the political and tribal tensions in Burundi – 2000 /2001. Having been imprisoned, free, then to Tanzania. Having to leave without the freedom…having been believed by the home office…having to be destitute…with no permission to work and having no representation. I mean, it’s all denial. It makes me doubt where there is freedom or where there is justice. Sometimes you find that you are not regarded as a human being. I have to avoid all the papers that talk about me so I feel dehumanised. I feel like, all the time, I have to prove who I am, where I am from – it’s a very dehumanising process.

Q. How have you found doing this workshop / what do you take away from it?
A. Workshops like this are a gamble. I was referred and I just came in for a chat because I’m not allowed to work…I’m not allowed to go to school. I just came in and I met Imogen and Ian and it was very interactive. In my opinion it was more like counselling – I started talking about my like and I never thought it would be something that people would be interested in; my kind of ordinary life which I think is very horrible, very un-entertaining. For a day like to where were have merged with different people, different feeling to come up with something that friends…people…can come and relate to makes me a human being like anybody else.

Now We Are Here will run 20-30 July in The Clare at the Young Vic. Tickets are free and all donations will go to Micro Rainbow International and Room to Heal.

HORIZONS | a season exploring the lives of refugees

The Young Vic presents:

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A new season across three strands of the Young Vic’s work – productions on all three stages, on film and through Taking Part projects – is launched today.

A note from our Artistic Director, David Lan:
“Horizons is the Young Vic’s response to the world as it is now. People in distress need help and they need to be heard. We want to provide a powerful means for audiences at home and abroad to connect with the political, social and human realities refugees face. These are the central stories of our age. We are thrilled and moved to be working with compassionate and fearless people, some of whom had never been to a theatre before, as well as writers and artists including Paul Mason, Ian Rickson, Deanna Rodger, Isango Ensemble, Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson.

We are delighted to welcome Good Chance to our home on The Cut as an associate company, and to be able to support the inspirational work of the Joes and their team. We are proud to have been recognized by City of Sanctuary with an award for our work with refugee communities. By becoming a Theatre of Sanctuary, we extend our commitment to raising awareness of the plight of refugees.”
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Horizons launches with the release of the Young Vic’s latest short film, Astoria, written and directed by Paul Mason, former economics editor of Channel 4 News and BBC’s Newsnight. It follows a Syrian refugee’s journey to the West. Once there, an encounter with the past in a Budapest hotel draws a parallel between Europe’s historical and current response to refugees.

We’ve also announced Now We Are Here (20 – 30 Jul) which tells the true stories of four LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) people, all asylum seekers and refugees living in the UK. Over eight months, they participated in a series of workshops at the Young Vic led by director Ian Rickson and in partnership with charity Micro Rainbow International. Now, working with award-winning poet and spoken word artist Deanna Rodger, four actors will bring these important stories of intolerance, belonging and courage to the Young Vic’s Clare studio. The strictly limited run of performances will be free to attend. To book tickets, click here. We are welcoming donations to two charities, Micro Rainbow International and Room to Heal, chosen by our collaborators which work with refugees in the UK. Donations can be give online when booking free tickets or at our box office.

Previously announced work in the Horizons programme includes Queens of Syria, a multimedia production featuring an all-female cast of Syrian performing a new version of The Trojan Women, to the background of the award-winning documentary of their story. Queens of Syria is performed in Arabic and will tour the UK following its opening at the Young Vic (5 – 9 July). And A Man of Good Hope, co-produced with South Africa’s Isango Ensemble and the Royal Opera House, brings to life Jonny Steinberg’s extraordinary book about one refugee’s journey from Mogadishu to Cape Town. A Man of Good Hope runs at the Young Vic from 6 Oct – 12 Nov. Tickets for both shows are on sale now.

We’re also excited to announce that pioneering theatre company Good Chance will have a new base here at the Young Vic. As the company prepares to develop and continue its work with refugees, it will receive support from the Young Vic team. Joe and Joe said:
“We are thrilled to be working with the Young Vic. Having a home is so important. We know this from the people we work with. We are thankful to the Young Vic for giving us a home in London as we strive to build new theatres of hope.”

We are also delighted to receive a Theatre of Sanctuary Award from City of Sanctuary. The Award recognises our past and current endeavours to raise awareness of refugee communities and to take action to welcome and include them in its activities.
Amongst other projects in recent months, in April 2016 the Young Vic hosted the free-to-attend Beyond Borders conference in association with Counterpoints Arts and Platforma. The day provided a chance for artists and companies to hear about the Young Vic’s work with refugees and asylum seekers and to open up discussions on wider themes including pathways for artists from refugee and migrant backgrounds, how participatory work can link to a theatre’s programming, and international connections between artists.
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More on our Horizons announcement here: www.youngvic.org/horizons