Walk For Your Life - Photo by Robert Day.

Stories of Immigration - In Our Own Words

Produced by Justine Themen and Janthi Mills.

Based in Coventry, one of the country’s most diverse cities, the Community & Education Company were particularly delighted to celebrate stories of immigration in the Belgrade’s third In Our Own Words Community Festival, which ran in B2 from 12 to 17 July 2010.

The Festival was made up of six brand new, short plays, written by some of Coventry’s up and coming playwriting talent, and based on interviews with Coventry residents who had settled here from all over the world.

The productions saw one young writer interview his grandmother, who came over from Pakistan in the 1960s; and a woman who had arrived in the UK escaping a situation of domestic violence in her village in Zimbabwe share her story with the Belgrade’s Black Youth Theatre; whilst another young writer interviewed a broad spread of people arriving from Jamaica in the Windrush era.

Justine Themen, Associate Director for Community & Education, said:

“The plays they have come up with are wide-ranging and various in their themes and execution – inspiring, shocking and hopefully challenging of people’s perceptions of what it means to be a new arrival in a community, and what it means to host new arrivals in your own community.”

The plays included:

Walk For Your Life – Written by Lola Johnson with the Black Youth Theatre . Directed by Justine Themen.

This play dramatised the story of Anastasia Chokuwamba who, married at just 14 years old to her husband, defied tradition by fleeing her home in rural Zimbabwe after seven years of domestic abuse.

Lost & Found – Written and Devised by Acting Up with Orla O’Connor and Lisa Byrne

Following the journey of Keira, a young girl uprooted from her home in Coventry, and thrown into the hostile surroundings of an Ireland very different to the one that she had imagined, Lost and Found explored the notion that belonging is not about where you were born but where you settle and make your home.

Brit Grit – Written by Hanzla Arif MacDonald, directed by Tracey Street.

Inspired by an interview conducted by the writer with a woman who came to settle in Britain from Pakistan in the 1960s, the play considers what it means to be British in 2010, how we define our identity and how the rest of the world views us.

Look Wid Yu Eye – Written by Daniel Christie, directed by Leon Philips.

This story was an exploration of the writer’s own Jamaican roots and was based on interviews he carried out with people who arrived in the UK from the Carribean in the 1950s, including his own grandmother and local celebrity, Ray King.

Earth is Hard, Heaven is Far – Written by Ahmed Khan, directed by Jon Morris.

This play tells the story of Rostum and Gul, two desperate men who have travelled half way around the world in an attempt to forge a better life for themselves and for their families and who, whilst facing persecution and humiliation, are driven on by the one thing that motivates us all – hope. – Written and Devised by the Senior Youth Theatre, with Tracey Street

Exploring the experiences of young people from Poland, who have travelled to Coventry since their country joined the EU in 2004, the play brings to life the meeting of two communities – the established Polish community, present in Coventry since World War II, and the emerging community of new arrivals.

As part of the Festival, the Belgrade also screened animation films made by pupils of Coventry’s St. Elizabeth’s Primary School, including Jealous Joe’s Journey, A Different Corner and Friendly Fire.

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