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CCMN Advocate – Andrea Kempson (Soundmix) attends the Beyond Borders conference

Counterpoints Arts/Platforma and the Young Vic led a half-day session on 1 April 2016 looking at theatre and performance with and by refugees and migrants. Andrea Kempson (Project Manager for Soundmix – a charity providing free, regular music-making sessions to young refugees and asylum seekers who are separated from their families) attended the event as a CCMN Advocate, and shares her thoughts in this story.

The aims for the conference were to create an opportunity for different organisations and individuals to network, share project experiences and best practice, and enable delegates to create new project ideas.

The event was hosted by Counterpoint Arts/Platforma, whose aims are to increase and create networks and the profile of arts by, about and with refugees and migrants from marginalised communities, and the Young Vic, a world-famous theatre company specialising in younger writers and actors.

Topics for discussion included:

  • Pathways for participants
    • Access
    • Further development
    • Career opportunities
  •  Connection with main house productions and community projects
    • Individuals
    • Theatres with spaces
    • Work in the UK and work overseas
    • Links
    • Possibilities

Young Vic gave a presentation on their LGBT refugee sharing stories project. Key aspects included:

  • The project took place over eight months of workshops, which were informal with no commitment required, and the project culminated in a Christmas feast at Platform in Southwark. From this large group four participants attended the creative workshops that followed to create a piece of theatre.
  • Sharing their stories: the facilitators found that it helped for both leaders and participants to share stories to create a sense of equality, authenticity and trust in the group.

Young Vic then presented on their parallel project, based on the production of Macbeth that was running at the time:

  • Young people worked with professionals, adapting the main house show to create a new piece that directly integrates with it.
  • They recruited participants by:
    • Visiting youth groups and the Refugee Council social evenings.
    • Playing games and promoting the project idea.
    • Arranging a trip to the Young Vic, picking up participants from their youth group and arranging transport home, as well as providing pizza!
    • As a result, 16 participants signed up; a mix of young people from refugee backgrounds and young people from London.
  • The creative process included:
    • Lots of non-verbal exercises
    • Physical theatre
    • Simple ideas, use of repetition, slowly building the form of the piece
    • Drawing pictures of the summary of the events from the play
    • Professional actors came to a dress rehearsal – the participants felt very proud of their work, inspired by the connection with the professional acting world
    • Facilitators were really involved in the improvisations as much as the participants
    • Some young people needed more support to attend, more text reminders, and direct contact with foster carers
  • Final performance:
    • Young people had 100% ownership of the piece
    • Young Vic arranged a trip to Manchester to watch another youth group’s parallel performance
    • One young person showed a huge passion for dance and the Young Vic was able to link him with professional dancers to learn about the necessary pathways into becoming a professional

Actor Juliet Stevenson introduced a new project she is supporting which documents stories of refugees and migrants in Calais: On Our Rader. The project allows people to speak for themselves, providing listening posts with interpreters. The result will be 60 interviews with subtitles.

Delegates broke off into discussion groups. Here are some of the conclusions, themes and ideas that came up:

  • Pathways
  • Challenges
  • Staying in touch with young people beyond your project
  • Role models in society
  • Accessible next steps
  • Creating a central online hub for transition into a career in the arts
  • Organisations providing volunteer opportunities
  • Tours and trips to professional settings, bring their aspirations to life
  • Sign posting to carers not just on the stage but off as well (i.e.technician)
  • Working overseas
  • Using social media to create links and network
  • Community links
  • Challenges
  • Language
  • Where to start, initiate contact, get sponsorship
  • Being brave about work in a new venue
  • Turn stories into change
  • How to approach hostile audiences
  • Resources: is this work valued in the same way as professional theatre.
  • Art creates a sense of community


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