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.

‘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.

NWAH_Cast

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 | Desmond

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.

Now We Are here - Desmond

Q. How did you find sharing your story through a performance?
A. There’s so much today but then you just have to take things in small portions. I guess it had its affect. I guess it leaves people more aware – wanting more. With a smile on their face; interesting, sad…all the emotions. It hit the mark.

Q. How long have you been living in the UK?
A. This year makes it 21 years.

Q. And how are you finding it?
A. For me it’s a sort of a culture I’ve always had in me in the sense that – well y’know the Caribbean can be busy. The culture can be busy, up and down. Overexcited sometimes but for me, I’m calmer which allows me to relax, to think, to feel, to share because it makes no sense being a busy-bee going nowhere without any emotion, without any caring, without any feeling.

Q. How have you found taking part in a workshop like this? Have there been any particular challenges?
A. I look on it this way, and for me it’s a simple way. Based on my experience, based on what I’ve been through – it’s not only for me. It’s for people who are probably not as strong, who probably can’t deal with…because it’s a lot of things out there that if they know the half of it, you realise how strong and resilient people can be because some people…they keep it in but they’re constantly fighting and sometimes they just need a simple kind word or somebody else’s experience to lift their spirit and for them to realise that ‘I’m not alone’. Life is never normally for you alone. Life is for everybody to learn from it even from one single sentence.

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.

Now We are Here | Mir

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.

Portrait of NWAH participant, Mir

Mir at the Young Vic. Photo by Leon Puplett.

Q. How have you found doing the workshop?
A. Imogen has been wonderful. I’ve worked with the Young Vic 2/3 times in the past. I never knew Ian in the beginning and then when I researched his work I was mesmerised. I was like ‘oh my god’. As an actor, as a struggling actor, for me it was like massive big break and again, working with the Young Vic as well… Imogen has been very supportive from the beginning and Ian brilliant. I mean it was a wonderful experience.

Q. And in terms of your challenging story, what have you taken away from this and sharing your story in such a public way?
A. I never thought about telling my story in this way. Nobody wants to have a sorry feeling y’know. It’s just I wanted to get it out of my system, it’s therapeutic. It was very much helpful just to take all of that negativity out of me. I like dark stuff normally, even in my performances as well so for me this was something dark that I could show to the audience…the brutal reality of life. So it kind of makes me feel lighter now.

Q. You’re based in London now. How are you finding it?
A. Um, it’s nice. It’s a lonely city I must say. It’s the most loneliest city but people are friendly and I’m doing a lot of stuff which I always wanted to do. So this country has given me all those opportunities which I wanted to do…what I wanted to become. So I find it like, wow. I’m doing it, this is what I wanted to do.

Q. Anything to add about your experience and the importance of things like this?
A. Meeting different people from different cultures. When you can associate with them… As Golda said, ‘broken hearts are universal and when all the broken hearts come together, it fixes them back in way’.

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.
You can read our other interviews with our Now We Are Here collaborators in these blog posts.

Now We Are Here | Tammy

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.

Now We Are Here Portrait - Tamara

Tammy at the Young Vic. Photo by Leon Puplett.

Q. How have you found working on a project like this?
A. Ian [Rickson] and Imogen [Brodie, Director of Taking Part at the Young Vic], especially Imogen…they make it so welcoming and there was no pressure. For example…this whole thing is about truth and wanting to be precise…they made sure I was comfortable because there are more vicious things that I’ve been through but I wasn’t ready to put it out there and they made it comfortable [easy] for me to realise that I can share just what I want…what I’m ready to. So it was very comfortable and very cool.

Q. You’re based in London now. How are you finding it?
A. I’ve been living here since 1999, so quite a long time. Liberating is the word. Liberating because…put it this way, for a long time I thought that something was wrong with me but then when I came here and found out that actually this was normal…that this was natural and that the church was being hypocritical and then I had to re-read the bible from start to finish a few times to realise that God made me in his own image so I am actually normal. The fact that I’m a lesbian doesn’t take away anything. I am his child. My great-grandmother was a Christian and I do believe in God so that was something that really brought me to a very comfortable place, comfortable in myself and accepting myself and loving myself because all the bad things that happened to me back then I just thought I deserved it because I wasn’t normal.

Q. You mentioned religion. How do you feel about religion now / are you practicing it?
A. I wouldn’t say I practice per se. I think religion should be a personal thing between a person and whoever they believed in. I think it’s your choice. I just got to church when I want, when I feel I need to otherwise I do it personally in my room or on the bus if I want to sit there and close my eyes and talk to him. So I don’t think that it’s this huge big thing that I need to throw into somebody’s face. I think that it’s something you have personally with you and your god or whoever you serve.

Q. And have you been back to Jamaica since?
A. No – I haven’t because of this asylum thing. When I lost my passport – well, the Home Office lost it – my lawyer said ‘better to claim asylum in that case’, and you have to wait for a certain period of time before you’re able to travel. So as soon as it’s safe for me to go back the first thing I want to do is to go to my great-grandmother’s grave because I haven’t been there. […]

Q. How was it telling your story in such and open and honest way?
A. The first time Golda [the actor sharing Tammy’s story]…when I first readied myself it was a little bit too much in the sense that I was breaking down because it’s almost like you’re there again. It just your life…you’re re-living your life so that’s why Ian got Golda to come in and do it. When she first did it in rehearsal, every time she does it actually I commented that it’s almost like I could smell that smell again of the boy burning. Ian pointed out to me that your smell and your brain are somehow connected to you memory… Just hearing her do it, y’know, it’s just as touching as if I was doing it y’know. I’m sitting there…it’s almost watching my life inside a TV or something like that.

Q. Do you think Golda, the actor sharing your story, did the piece justice?
A. I think she did more than justice. She did an incredible job. I just hope that it wasn’t too emotionally draining on in the end because it is like going through all these emotions, personal emotions. She did really well.

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.

Astoria | Latest YV short

Astoria, the latest in the series of Young Vic short films, was released alongside the Young Vic’s Horizons season announcement earlier this week.

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.

The experience highlights the necessity of resistance to oppression – and the danger of losing sight of history. In Astoria, Paul Mason explores the irony that today’s refugees are moving through a landscape that was the site of genocide; the limitations of what individual people can do when faced with atrocity; the way resistance and memory intertwine. Astoria was filmed in Budapest, Hungary and Stoke Newington, London in early 2016, Astoria stars July Namir and Sonya Cassidy.

In 2012, Paul covered the rise of the far right party in Hungary. Whilst there, his team stayed at the Astoria Hotel and discovered it was used as S.S. Lieutenant Colonel Adolf Eichmann’s headquarters and as a torture chamber during World War Two. Since then, Mason has wanted to tell that story.

Paul said, “It is axiomatic that the story of the refugees will be told by refugees. But the story of our inhospitable continent, and our forgetfulness about why people leave their homes, and where hatred leads – that is our story and we have to confront it. Astoria is my personal response.”

A new series of short films based on the experiences of refugees from around the world will be released in 2016 – 17.

You can find out more about Horizons, a season exploring the lives of refugees, at the Young Vic in our Horizons blog post.

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.