By Christine Bacon and Clea Langton
SWANSEA JUNE 13
The first gig! After a three hour journey of cast bonding and lots of coffee, we arrive in sunny Swansea. Off to the Swansea Museum to meet the remaining two cast members, Swansea locals, who have been helping to promote the performance over the previous few weeks (thanks Miriam and Kene!). An excellent rehearsal followed by a fabulous first show to an audience of about 50 – four students had even come from Cardiff to see it! Off the next morning on the first train back to London and the three hours was used to have a good kip this time!
NORWICH JUNE 16
The first UK ‘City of Refuge‘ hosted Asylum Dialogues at the Norwich Playhouse encouraging audience members to be proud of Norwich’s commitment to supporting persecuted writers from around the world and to take action to support those let down by the asylum system in the UK. A new member of AFHR, Anthony Abuah, read ‘Patrice’ with sensitivity and completed an excellent cast on day two of this seven day UK tour.
OXFORD JUNE 17
Day three and the cast was joined by the ‘real’ John Catley, performing to a full house at the Old Library Oxford. Hosted by a City of Sanctuary group whose members have been at the forefront of campaigns to end detention with campaigns such as the Campaign to Close Campsfield, the response was overwhelming, if not least for John Catley. John’s insightful talk brought home the reality of his journey, from contemplating giving the BNP a vote to tirelessly working to stop deportations of people seeking sanctuary in the UK. With new members signing up to City of Sanctuary Oxford and current members feeling spirits revived it was a memorable night.
SHEFFIELD JUNE 18
As the first City of Sanctuary and iceandfire’s new home for regional work it was an exciting performance. Local charities that work tirelessly to support refugees and asylum seekers in the region had stalls buzzing with people ready to sign up and take action. The post show talk was enlightening, with refugees dispersed to the Sheffield showing how important the support they get locally has made to rebuilding their lives. The actors showed great sensitivity to the voices they read and much praise came to them from the audience, a number of whom were themselves refugees and had experienced similarly harsh journeys through the UK’s asylum system.
BRISTOL JUNE 18
Father Richard McKay gave us a warm welcome when we arrived at St Nicholas of Tolentino Church – a beautiful space! After some confusion about what time the show was actually starting (we had advertised it as starting at 6pm, but in the Refugee Week flyers it said 6:30pm) – we finally got the show on. We opened up the floor to a discussion afterwards and had some excellent feedback. There were also a number of people in the audience who had been through what some of the people in the play had been through. They told us how powerful it was to hear their stories given such a platform and urged us to keep on going!
LEICESTER JUNE 19
We arrived at the lovely Leicester Curve theatre one actor short – she had missed the train in London and couldn’t make it. After much texting and calling on the train, we managed to find an actress based in Nottingham to join us. However, what would normally have been a 30 minute journey turned out to be over two hours because of a major accident on the motorway! We didn’t have very long to rehearse, but thanks to Sharlene’s professionalism, we pulled it off! A fantastic audience, and of course, John Catley, one of the people whose stories is included in the play, spoke to the audience afterwards and really made an impact. A few ‘random’ people wandered in who could not get into An Inspector Calls and were very moved by what they heard and pledged to get involved locally with City of Sanctuary. Thanks to all of the fab people at the Curve!
LONDON JUNE 21
The end of the road and a wonderful show by all accounts. The actors were brilliant as usual and the large London audience, already warmed by the sun, further warmed to the stories of solidarity in the play. The performance was followed by the presentation of three London Citizen for Sanctuary Awards – given to Neil Gerrard MP, Pater Tatchell and Juliet Stevenson for their long-standing support of those seeking sanctuary in the UK. There was lots of chatter in the New Players Theatre bar later, with plenty of people signing up to be further involved and many a drink consumed at the end of a very busy week. June 22 – all that is marked in my diary is an instruction to sleep in. See you next Refugee Week for a bigger and better series of events!