The theatre company, (who were awarded Theatre Company of Sanctuary status in 2018), are creating a ground-breaking, multi-sensory experience in the form of an installation called ‘Meet Your Neighbour’. This new work will celebrate and give voice to many of the wonderful people that make up the sanctuary seeking community in the UK.
The ‘Meet Your Neighbour’ installation will use audio recordings of stories collected from Refugee and Asylum seekers, to connect audiences with some of their newly arrived neighbours. Stories collected range from favourite homeland memories and favourite recipes to love stories, songs or poems.
You might find ‘Meet Your Neighbour’ in your local library, high street or school. Mysterious boxes will be piled high, like a new neighbour unpacking their things in your street. Inside each box is a glimpse of their lives, their favourite things, and clues about who lives within… The experience invites you to explore these boxes, to find a place to sit for a few minutes, have a brew, and listen to a tale or two.
The finished experience will be toured alongside the company’s latest show ‘A Thing Mislaid’ in 2021 as part of Maison Foo’s plan to engage and meet not only audiences who visit theatres but also those who live in the communities that surround them. In 2020 the piece will be developed in 3 cities Derby, Leicester and Sheffield working with partners Derby Theatre, Derby Refugee Advice Centre, Attenborough Arts, Journeys Festival and Migration Matters festival.
Bethany Sheldon, Artistic Director of Maison Foo said, “After our successful preview tour of ‘A Thing Mislaid’ last year (a show that touches on themes of migration) we came away feeling that we didn’t just want to tour this show into theatres in isolation, but we also wanted to connect people and build stronger communities in the places we toured too.”
Bethany continued, “The ‘Meet Your Neighbour’ strand of our work is all about helping to create positive moments for and about the sanctuary seeking community in the UK. It’s about welcoming people as neighbours into our communities, it’s about breaking down barriers, getting to know one another and hopefully making new friends too. So whether that’s through someone who stops to have a cup of tea and listen to a refugee’s story at our ‘Meet Your Neighbour’ installation on their high street, or someone who comes along to one of our ‘Meet Your Neighbour’ parties, we hope as a Theatre Company of Sanctuary we can do our bit to build a welcoming and supportive community in the places we visit.”
Nasrin Samavi, Derby Refugee Community Ambassador, said: “Maison Foo opened the door to me to share my story and gave me the opportunity to have my voice heard and provided a safe supportive space for dialogue and shared humanity. It’s important to me because it is a good platform for me, and I hope for a better future.”
The Meet Your Neighbour installation will be developed across the UK in three stages. The first series of story sharing workshops will be run in Derby in conjunction with Derby Refugee Advice Centre and Upbeat Communities.
The company will then test early ideas at Derby Theatre on Saturday 14th December, when Maison Foo will be co-hosting their third ‘Meet Your Neighbour’ party event with Derby Theatre and Derby Refugee Advice Centre. This community event was created last year to break down barriers between community groups; by sharing food, music and conversation from across a range of diverse cultures. Derby Theatre will once again, be giving away 50 matinee tickets to their show- A Christmas Carol, so that newcomers to Derby can experience a traditional, British cultural activity.
After the initial development of the ‘Meet Your Neighbour’ installation Maison Foo will be collecting stories from Sanctuary seekers in Leicester, working with Art Reach and Journeys Festival and will test the second stage of the installation at Attenborough Arts, Leicester in April 2020. Stage three will see the company tour to Sheffield working with Migration Matters Festival to collect further stories and present a showcase of the installation at Migration Matters Festival as part of Refugees Week in June 2020.
Sam Holland from Migration Matters Festival said: “We are so delighted to be collaborating with Maison Foo for the ‘Meet Your Neighbour’ project which we view as an essential collaboration for our 2020 festival and what will give a way of giving visibility to the often hidden and marginalised voices of the community.”
Alongside Arts Council England, the ‘Meet Your Neighbour’ installation is funded by Derby Theatre, Big House European Development Fund, Attenborough Arts Centre, ArtReach and Migration Matters.