Archive for February, 2016

Theatre gives me strength!

Today’s drama club was full of fun and mischief!” explains Mura, one of the centre’s Theatre coordinators. Every Thursday, Mura and Eve invite refugees who come through our doors, to join their theatre workshops, a space of creativity, relaxation and fun.

Today, says Mura, we played a chair swap game where participants had to swap chairs without the person who is “on” stealing the chair off them. The class got completely into the spirit of it, so much so that when I stood up to demonstrate how not to do something, someone stole my chair as quick as a flash, to howls of laughter from the group!”

The group of women is visibly relaxing together and making a joyful noise. For C., a refugee from Democratic Republic of Congo:

“this is a moment for me. I can relax, forget all my problems and feel really good. It’s therapeutic.”



The theatre club offers a genuine space that looks directly at building refugees’ confidence using their bodies, their voices and their emotions. “For example, details Mura, “ today we did soundscapes in a circle, everyone adding a sound to the other’s sounds. It was amazing to hear people doing lions not as a “roar” as people in England would do, but with the real sound, more of a quiet menacing growl.”

Many of the women attending the workshop hardly speak English; they are cut off from their own culture and not sure what tomorrow will be made of. All this fragility enters the studio when the workshop starts, but drama gives them a voice and a sense of belonging.

N., also from DRC, explains:a space of freedom

“Theatre gives me strength. Here I am able to express myself. It’s a space of freedom. There’s no other outlet where I’ve been able to express what I feel and still feel happy”.

The drama club also helps in overcoming isolation and loneliness – a major issue for refugees.

R. from Sudan recalls:

When I first came to theatre club,  I knew nobody and was intimidated. But after the session, it was a transformation. I had new friends and felt much more confident. There are moments of real communion that make you stronger and closer to the others”.

Mura remembers one strong moment during a session: “the group were asked to translate emotions into human statues, using their bodies. One participant stood with arms outstretched, their smiling face to the sky. We had to guess the emotion and we decided upon: hope”.

Today, hope and joy were all around in the theatre club. “The joy of not being afraid to look silly , concludes Mura, “the joy of playing games with others and the joy of coming together and being open and ready to have a go.”

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On the 25th of January, ‘Start the Week‘ on BBC Radio 4,  presented by Andrew Marr, was devoted to the question of refugees, migration, and border controls.

Well worth listening to on i-player if you missed it, some light as well as heat was generated.

The speakers were Ben Rawlence, who has just published a book ‘City of Thorns‘ about the four years he spent working with refugees in the world’s largest refugee camp, near the Somali border in Kenya. The others are Daniel Hannan, Tory MEP, who speaks from his experience working with migrants in Southern Italy, Frances Stonor Saunders, who was about to give the London Review of Books winter lecture on borders (5 february, British Museum)  and Professor Thom Brooks from Durham, who gives a hilarious description of his (unsuccesful) attempt to pass the UK Citizenship test.

Backscatter x-ray image woman

An image of Susan Hallowell, Director of the Transportation Security Administration’s research lab. taken with backscatter x-ray system, which is in use for airport security passenger screening.

There’s a good discussion about the fairness or otherwise of current procedures for accepting refugees, and a really scary part about how the Americans now (post 9/11) have trained ‘detection officers’ who observe your every movement, your features, and your speech at ports and airports, but have yet to catch a single terrorist. (They use a system first rolled out by the Israelis).  ‘ You may as well walk naked through the airport’ – they and their machines can see everything. What’s more, someone has demonstrated that you can construct an explosive device AFTER going through the checks, using only products (hair dryers, coffee cups….) on sale in the airport shops.

Here is a direct link to the program, which should stay online indefinitely, according to the Radio 4 website.


Migration and Citizenship (Radio 4)

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