One of Chester’s leading theatre companies Theatre in the Quarter has embarked on rehearsals for its new project Walk My Journey.
This is an ambitious live street performance and film involving more than 700 children drawn from 27 primary schools from across Chester and Cheshire.
Leading on from the success of its production of The Lost Boy in 2017, which told the story of a young Syrian boy as he learns to deal with the attitudes of British people living in a seaside town, the company is once again collaborating with national charity City of Sanctuary as well as refugee support groups in Salford and Hull to share the stories of young refugees from Eritrea, Sudan and Afghanistan.
Walk My Journey is a multimedia project, involving a short film, created in partnership with Andy Davies of The Video Company, and a mass choir of young people as they perform live in the streets of Chester on November 29.
Matt Baker, artistic director of Theatre in the Quarter, said: “We are delighted with the range of funders who have come forward to support us with this project, from the Foyle Foundation, Arts Council England and the Lottery through to the Marjory Boddy Trust and the Earl of Chester.
“It proves to us that we have an absolute endorsement for this vital and timely piece of work.”
Dr Jeff Morgan, trustee of City of Sanctuary, said: “City of Sanctuary is delighted to continue its relationship with Theatre in the Quarter, which began during the theatre company’s The Lost Boy theatre project.
“We believe it’s very important to inform the general public about refugees and asylum seekers; their journeys and the reasons why they flee their homes, careers and loved ones, and the horrendous challenges they face in seeking asylum in the UK, hearing from them first-hand as opposed to reading and listening to the media.”
Theatre in the Quarter has been working with three young men who have shared their experiences of their journeys into the UK, from time spent in Libyan refugee camps, perilous boat trips across to Italy and the notorious ‘Jungle’ in Calais. Jeff continued: “That’s why Walk My Journey is such an important project, because Theatre in the Quarter has engaged with three young asylum seekers, enabling them to share their stories on an artistic and educational platform and celebrating the potential contribution refugees can make to British society and local communities.
“I wholeheartedly congratulate Theatre in the Quarter for highlighting, once again, this subject matter is a sensitive and inclusive manner.”
Walk My Journey will be taking place on Thursday, November 29, and will incorporate the city’s Lantern Parade, led by Russell Kirk, before stopping at the West Door of Chester Cathedral where the film broadcast and mass community performance will take place at 7pm.
Matt continued: “It’s absolutely humbling to hear these stories, we knew after the feedback that we received about The Lost Boy in 2017, that we had to continue our work with highlighting the plight of young refugees.
“To have the opportunity to now share this project with over 700 young people means that Theatre in the Quarter is fulfilling the ambition that it set several years ago and that’s to challenge people’s attitudes and perceptions of refugees and asylum seekers and to educate our future generations here in Chester as to what it’s like to be displaced in the world in the 21st century.”
The schools have so far been involved with workshops which includes learning the songs for the film and also gaining more of an understanding about refugees making their journeys.
Fiona MacSween, deputy head of Highfield Community School in Blacon, said: “The children absolutely loved the workshop, thank you so much.
“We are looking forward to the filming and the live event in November.”