The issues surround immigration and refugees have been in the political forefront for well over two decades, and as Scotland moves to vote on independence, and the UK on a split from the EU, national awareness is once again focussing on the role of Scotland and the UK within the global community, and the place for asylum seekers in Britain. Begun in 1998, Refugee Week was a response to the increasingly negative perceptions of refugees and asylum seekers held by the general public in Britain. Now in its 16th year, this UK wide festival of arts, cultural and educational events celebrates the contribution of refugees to the UK, and encourages a better understanding between communities.
Programmed at the heart of Refugee Week Scotland (17th – 23rd June), Some Other Mother tours to FTH (Falkirk Town Hall) on Saturday 22nd June and is preceded by an exciting and informative free local event, The New Bairns.
From writer AJ Taudevin (Chalk Farm, Demons) and director Catrin Evans (Demons, Could you Please Look into the Camera, Chronicles of Irania), Some Other Mother explores the traumatising experience of the asylum system, told through the eyes of ten-year-old Star. Set in a Glasgow tower block, Star and her mother await the outcome of their claim for asylum, but as Mama’s mind fragments under the pressure of their unknown future, Star constructs a poetic and fantastical world of her own. Their story is one of loss and survival, which should resonate with anyone just looking for a place to call “home”.
Having spent six years as an activist and community, drama and youth worker, but most importantly a friend, sister and loving member of the Knightswood communities, where many asylum seekers are housed in Glasgow, Taudevin’s play was inspired by the language she observed, particularly amongst children. ‘I consciously chose to go through the eyes of a child,’ she says. ‘We see the whole experience through her fantastical view of the world. She is trying to understand all of these totally nonsensical things that are happening to her and her mother. Children in these high-stress situations are able to flip from extreme distress to finding the joy and the light straight away.’
Immediately preceding this is a unique event, The New Bairns, an opportunity to share one family’s story as they make a new life in Falkirk, and to understand the struggle beyond the tabloid headlines. Leonard and Nosheen D’Souza and their two boys arrived in Falkirk on 12th October 2010 as religious refugees having fled Islamabad for firstly East London, before moving to Scotland to stay with friends in Grangemouth, Mr. Aftab Gohar, First Asian Pakistani Minister of Church of Scotland - Falkirk. They had with them only their clothes and a few possessions.
As founders of The South Asian Research and Resource Centre (SARRC), a registered, non-partisan, non-profit and non-governmental organisation for research studies in development and peace with special emphasis on the rights of religious minorities and indigenous people of Pakistan, Leonard and Nosheen lived a comfortable, well respected life in Islamabad, with their two young sons. As Pakistan born Roman Catholic Christians, they campaigned for the rights of minorities within the country including Christians, Hindus, and Sikhs, in a country where increasingly life is economically and socially difficult and even dangerous for non-Muslims, in an effort to promote cultural tolerance, interfaith dialogue and religious harmony among society.
In 2010, after three deadly attacks from Islamic Extremists, they were finally forced to flee the country. The New Bairns is an insight into the dramatic change in one family’s life, from that of prosperity, reputation and peace, to that of religious asylum seekers, whose journey for acceptance, tolerance and life without fear was far from over.
‘The emotional impact is shattering and beautifully conveyed.’ ****
Joyce McMillan, The Scotsman, on Some Other Mother rehearsed reading, June 2012.
These two complimentary pieces will be presented at FTH on Saturday 22nd of June, The New Bairns at 6.30pm and Some Other Mother at 7.30pm. Tickets for Some Other Mother are available through the Steeple Box Office, Falkirk High Street (01324) 506850 at £12/£11, groups 6+ £10, The New Bairns is a free, un-ticketed event as part of Refugee Week Scotland.