Arts embrace Refugee Week

THEATRE OF SANCTUARY: Events will be taking place for Refugee week (June 19 -25) including at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.
THEATRE OF SANCTUARY: Events will be taking place for Refugee week (June 19 -25) including at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.
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We seem to be going through a bit of a mini ‘golden age’ of television drama at the moment.

Over recent weeks I have been glued to Jimmy McGovern’s thought-provoking inner city drama Broken, the dark psychological thriller Paula from Irish playwright Conor McPherson and Fearless, starring Helen McCrory as a human rights lawyer under surveillance, which started this week and looks set to become a slow burning, twisting treat. The one that I can’t stop thinking about, however, is C4’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Based on Margaret Atwood’s acclaimed novel, it is a scarily prescient dystopian tale in which a slow, almost imperceptible erosion of liberal values leads to minority rights being ripped away including those of women, whose bodies are used as a reproductive commodity. Atwood’s book was written in 1985 and was, she has said, inspired by among other things the rise of the Christian right, the 1979 Iranian revolution and 17th-century puritanism.

The TV series sets the action very firmly in the 21st century and, with the Christian right currently occupying the White House, it couldn’t be more pertinent. It makes for uncomfortable, but totally compelling, viewing. It is art as a warning, and I’m watching it through my fingers...

But there are some good things happening in the world. Next week is Refugee Week (June 19-25) and there are a whole host of wonderful events taking place. I urge you to seek some of them out. Time and again we hear that one of the first things that refugees want to do when they reach a place of safety is to engage with the arts either as audience or participants. Reading groups, theatre and concert outings as well as music, poetry and drama workshops are all extremely popular – and life-enhancing in ways that are impossible to quantify. Just some of the things on offer in our region include UK City of Culture’s special celebration of the contribution that refugees make to life in the UK with an event featuring live music, short films, exhibitions and the declaration of Hull as a City of Sanctuary, in Leeds the West Yorkshire Playhouse, the UK’s first Theatre of Sanctuary, will be exploring refugee experiences through a series of performances and discussion, Sheffield’s Migration Matters Festival will be bringing communities together through art, performance, music, food and film, and Gallery II at the University of Bradford will be hosting Our Shared Future an all-ages exhibition of artwork by schoolchildren, established artists, refugees and asylum seekers.

Art, as ever, bringing greater understanding.