One of our aims at the beginning of making Lampedusa was to highlight and spark a conversation about the migrant crisis through theatrical experiences.
Originally, Wonder Fools’ plan was to deliver workshops in areas of Glasgow with high levels of refugees. Along with producer Steph Connell, I met with various different groups and individuals including Tricia McConalogue from Bridging the Gap; Pinar Aksu who is an activist and Community Development Worker, who works with Maryhill Integration Network; and the Citizens Theatre’s very own Elly Goodman who works with the Participation department. Through discussion and consultation with them, we decided to challenge ourselves and push our engagement programme further than simply delivering workshops. We opted for a more sensitive, holistic approach to working with the different groups involved which better served what we wanted to achieve. It felt felt important that we tried to engage with people who were affected by the issues in the play – the migrant crisis, austerity – but who might not see the play itself.
There were two words we kept coming back to. The first was ‘hope’, which was what confirmed in my mind that I wanted to stage Lampedusa in the first place – the note of uplifting defiance the play ends on. The second was ‘celebrate’, whatever it was that we created outside of the performance to engage people needed to ‘celebrate’ the values of the play. In this vein, we began to plan an event which would invite the different groups we had spoken to, groups which work with refugees within their respective communities, to come to the Citz on an afternoon during the production run where they could bring friends and family and enjoy performances, food and conversation. We began referring to this event as a ‘Celebration’.
Over the next month or so, Steph and I set about planning the event – who would perform? What food would we offer? How would we ensure that people knew about the event? We contacted Tricia, Pinar and others to ask if there was anyone from their groups who might be interested in performing. The answer was a resounding ‘yes’, and the challenge then became logistical – could people make it on the day, what would they perform, and how long for? Etc. We decided to offer, as Wonder Fools, the bus fare for anyone who wanted to attend the event but could not afford to do so. We found an organisation, Social Bite, who would provide catering. They were the perfect match for the event as ¼ of their workers are formerly homeless people and 100% of their profits go to charity. Finally, we revisited groups like Bridging the Gap to spread the word about the event, and created a poster to post around Glasgow and on social media.
The event was held on 17th November 1pm – 4pm and included performances of Albanian singing, Indian stick dancing, spoken word, Bollywood dancing, Persian / Flamenco dancing, and composer of Lampedusa, Stuart Ramage, singing songs. Over 60 people attended throughout the day and the event achieved what we wanted it to: to highlight and spark a conversation about the migrant crisis and we did this in a hugely positive way, by celebrating the rich culture and diversity of Glasgow.