On September 22nd at Deda Arts Centre, Derby, Joseph Chivayo, chair of the Derby City of Sanctuary network presented the Maison Foo Theatre Company with a sanctuary award following their brilliant production of “A Thing Mislaid”. In making the award Joseph congratulated Maison Foo on a stunning performance and for learning, embedding and sharing sanctuary values of welcome and inclusion in their work over the past few years.
Janet Fuller from the Derby Refugee Advice Centre (DRAC), some of whose volunteers helped advise and translate “A Thing Mislaid – writes of the production:
“I’d like to thank everyone at Maison Foo for such a stunning performance on Saturday. It was wonderfully uplifting as well as achingly sad and in a sense that combination is the way forward in highlighting the lives of asylum seekers and the bureaucratic processes they have to go through which are often so hostile, incompetent and unpredictable. Thank you for ensuring the script is so authentic and really reflects the experiences of those whose lives are torn apart. I laughed and I cried and I did, at the end, have hope for the future because we can welcome with a smile and many do. More may do in the future because of theatre like yours”
The Derby Telegraph Monday September 24th also carried reviews of A Thing Mislaid: “beautiful, sad, poignant, remarkable, at the same time funny, a brilliant piece… this is extraordinary and endearing theatre …
The distressing words from a refugee at a Derby support centre led to two home-grown writers and theatre directors to pen a new piece which premieres at Derby Deda. Bethany Sheldon from Holbrook and Kathryn Lowe from Mickleover run the Maison Foo theatre company. Their latest work A Thing Mislaid celebrates and questions the idea of what it means to leave your birthplace in search of a new place to call home. It uses Foo’s trademark style of humour, clowning and physical theatre mixed with experiments in miniature puppetry and live camera to create cinematic moments live on stage. The company has set up a Refugee Friend scheme after admitting the pronouncement from the man in his 50s from Africa “broke our hearts into a million pieces.” Bethany says: “We were visiting Derby Refugee Advice Centre last year. We wanted to identify ways in which we could support refugees and those seeking asylum. The centre does tremendous work and we have really got to know the wonderful people there. We were chatting to a refugee, a gentleman in his 50s, and at the end he thanked us and said that in the two years he had been living in Derby, we were the first people he had spoken to outside the centre – the first people he had had a proper conversation with.”
“A Thing Mislaid” is touring the Midlands this year – Birmingham, Lincoln, Wolverhampton, Burton on Trent, Nottingham and Leicester – do go and see it if you have the chance – details on Maison Foo’s website: www.maisonfoo.co.uk
During the past few years Maison Foo have involved sanctuary seekers in helping their Theatre Company to learn, embed and share City of Sanctuary principles including
- Developing a small steering group of sanctuary seekers and volunteers who directly contributed to the making of “A Thing Mislaid” and enabling sanctuary seekers to lead their own events
- “Meet Your Neighbour” a friendly space to meet new friends and share cultural stories with a foo creative twist will take place on the 1st December 2018 at Derby Theatre.
- Two members of the steering group have shared their ambition to engage more in the arts and perform their own work, such as poems or their ‘story’. Maison Foo are in a position to support this learning throughout their projects and their engagement with the show.
- One member has collaborated with the company to ensure that the Arabic translations that are used live during the show are accurate and true – he has been invited to rehearsals to help producer, Phoebe and ensure this element of Refugee Friends Scheme runs smoothly.
- Maison Foo have collaborated with the Roots group in Leicester and Journeys Festival International. Some of the steering group attended the first Meet Your Neighbour event at Attenborough Arts Centre in August. They are now at the stage of seeking expressions of interest from refugee artists to take part in the pilot of ‘Act 2’ – a post show platform for artists to share work in the making, in front of a friendly and supportive audience.
- Maison Foo directors and some of the creative team have had specialist City of Sanctuary training in Derby which has raised awareness, clarified terms and contextualised much of the news we hear day to day. They brought 2 staff members from Derby Theatre and their feedback was incredibly positive, with Stuart Allen (Senior Producer) saying it was some of the best training he had ever received. The second session was led by one of the steering group members N, and that direct learning and understanding from her was integral to the Company’s understanding and has informed the content of “A Thing Mislaid”. Their passion and commitment to the project has meant that N has also taken a lead on the December Meet Your Neighbour event.
- The diversity within both DRAC steering group and the Leicester Roots group has led to a sharing of stories, traditions and food from all over the world. Maison Foo say “We have so enjoyed embracing these hugely diverse cultures and appreciate the generosity of all of the individuals that have given us time to learn and absorb”. N and A on the steering group have been open to speaking to the press and will be featured in a press release; this has included their personal stories and Maison Foo hope it will play a part in the cultural change that is still needed in communities.
- The steering group and project partners were invited to the production and presentation of the award and Maison Foo took that opportunity to celebrate “the brilliant people” who had helped them create and develop A Thing Mislaid and Refugee Friends. A substantial number of free tickets were made available to allow those seeking sanctuary to attend.
In future, Maison Foo will continue working with the DRAC steering group and Roots to create ‘How to’ guides for venues and organisations to run their own Meet Your Neighbour events and share some of the learning and top tips from the groups point of view. They will continue to develop Act 2 in 2019, and will invite refugee artists to be part of these plans. So watch this space!
Endorsing the award, Ben Margolis, City of Sanctuary South East, Eastern and Central Regional Coordinator wrote:
‘Theatre has the power to transform. Maison Foo are transforming lives and perceptions through their impressive commitment in ensuring that people seeking sanctuary are not just talked about in their plays but are at the very heart of everything they do. Hopefully this award can inspire others in the arts sector to also become places of sanctuary and opportunity for some of the most marginalised people in our society.’
Maureen Priddin Derby City of Sanctuary network
“proud to welcome and support those seeking sanctuary in Derby/s”