News: Derby based company Maison Foo back with ‘Meet Your Neighbour’

Derby-based theatre company are back with ‘Meet Your Neighbour’- breaking down barriers between local communities and those seeking asylum.

Following on from the huge success of their ground-breaking pilot event, Maison Foo theatre company are partnering up with Derby Theatre and Derby Refugee Advice Centre once again this April to host another “Meet Your Neighbour’ party. The event will help forge new friendships and greater understanding between people living in the county and those who have migrated here.

Nasrin Samavi, at the first ‘Meet Your Neighbour’ event in 2018.
Photo credit: A.G Photography


Back in 2018, Maison Foo, who are associates of Derby Theatre, hosted their very first ‘Meet Your Neighbour’ event. This innovative work was twofold- a creative approach in tackling isolation and loneliness amongst refugees in the UK and educating and informing local communities to other cultures.

Angela Russell, a volunteer from Derby’s Refugee Advice Centre worked with Maison Foo to develop the first Meet Your Neighbour’, after attending the event she said: “The theatre was alive, it’s like an interaction, it’s not just us enjoying part of the theatre, it’s the theatre opening its doors and showing it’s part of a wider community as well.”

Sarah Brigham

Sarah Brigham, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Derby Theatre, said: “The Meet Your Neighbour Party was a fantastic scheme for us to work with Maison Foo on. It opened the door to communities we had very little contact with and just as importantly allowed our audiences to also meet and greet new arrivals and share a theatre production together. The day turned our theatre foyer into a vibrant hub of activity and it genuinely felt like as a community we were taking real ownership over ensuring everyone feels welcome in our building.”

Since early 2018 Maison Foo have been working closely with Nasrin Samavi as a key member of their refugee steering group. Nasrin and other members of DRAC (Derby Refugee Advice Centre) worked with Maison Foo and Derby Theatre to create the first ‘Meet Your Neighbour’ party. This April will see Maison Foo support Nasrin as an artist to develop her work further.

Bethany Sheldon, Artistic Director of Maison Foo, said: “We’re really excited that Derby Theatre are supporting us to nurture Nasrin’s artistic talent and ideas further. Our up and coming Meet Your Neighbour party will see us work with Nasrin to take over Derby Theatre’s front of house meeting room and transform it into a relaxing sensory room inspired by her childhood memories of the Iranian countryside.”

She continued: “For the first ‘Meet Your Neighbour” event, Nasrin did a truly amazing job transforming a corner of the party into a Persian tea corner. It was definitely one of the highlights of the event. At a quiet moment together whilst reclining in the Persian corner post party we got chatting about drinking tea, cafes in Iran etc and Nasrin began describing to me the cafes she remembers in the Iranian countryside, that she would go to when visiting her family; the relaxing atmosphere, the sounds etc. It was really inspiring to hear her talk about it so passionately and fondly and in that moment, we hit on a spark of an idea ‘Why don’t we try and recapture/ recreate some of those memories and atmospheres at a future party?’ So we began plotting with Derby Theatre about how we could work with and support Nasrin as an Artist to make that happen at the April event.”

Nasrin said: It’s great to have Maison Foo’s support, we are working together, we are supporting each other. I couldn’t do this alone. We need to involve people more and mix. Hatred happens because people don’t know or understand each other. If you share and listen to each other there is no space for hating. We are all human, it doesn’t matter what religion or race. We need to do more showing and sharing of our stories to see we have no differences between each other.”

Once again Derby Theatre will be gifting free theatre tickets to the refugee community, giving 50 tickets to see the matinee performance of The Jungle Book, straight after ‘Meet Your Neighbour’. The event is being supported by Derby Theatre and The Clothworkers Foundation.

Meet Your Neighbour will take place at Derby Theatre between 11am-1pm on Saturday 13th April. Maison Foo welcome members of the public to come along at any point, the event is suitable for all the family. They’ll be a warm welcome, great music, lovely food and fun. It’s a chance to mingle, meet new friends from all over the world, share stories, exchange traditions and enjoy a great party!

Food contributions are also welcome for the community feast, you can just bring a prepared dish to add to the table on the day.

2018 saw Maison Foo awarded Theatre Company of Sanctuary status by City of Sanctuary, making them only 1 of 3 Theatre companies of sanctuary in the UK. As a Theatre Company of Sanctuary, they are passionate about giving voice and sense of belonging to members of the refugee and asylum seeking communities of the UK.

Maison Foo first came into the spotlight in 2010 with their show ‘Memoirs of a Biscuit Tin’ which Lyn Gardner, (Guardian) called her ‘surprise hit of the Edinburgh Festival’. Maison Foo make visual theatre and creative experiences for both indoors and outdoors that challenges audiences and tickles their imagination. The company’s work draws on influences from puppetry, clowning and physical theatre, combining strong narratives with visual storytelling – creating absurd pieces rooted in social conscience. Maison Foo are an Associate Company of Derby Theatre.

Launched in 2014, the Clothworkers’ Theatre Award is an annual award made by the Clothworkers’ Foundation of up to £150,000 to a regional producing theatre in England, with a different region selected each year.

More information here:

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