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Theatres of Sanctuary

West Yorkshire Playhouse became the first Theatre of Sanctuary in 2014. The journey to recognition and a public commitment to being a place of safety, hospitality and support for refugees and asylum seekers began with the production of Refugee Boy and the theatre’s  efforts to reach out and engage the community with a better understanding of the refugee experience.  All staff have had training, and new projects include a singing group for refugee women Asmarina Voices, workshops in  Public Speaking and Presentation Skills for refugees and asylum seekers and free tickets for Playhouse productions to refugees and asylum seekers. Refugee Boy enjoyed a wide tour in the UK and the theatre has produced a schools resource pack to support schools work around the play and the novel by Benjamin Zephaniah. Yorkshire Playhouse has continued to engage with local refugees and raise refugee support issues.  For example The Playhouse was one of 20 theatres urging the Immigration Minister to speed up the process for vulnerable young people (who are legally entitled to join their families in the UK)  living at the Calais refugee camp in 2016.

Other theatres include:

The Young Vic (10th July 2016) who are involved in ground-breaking work with refugees and the Horizons project.  David Lan, the Artistic Director received the award and said, Theatres are places where strangers come together in peace. While the world feels chaotic, the Young Vic is happy to welcome people who need a home they didn’t know they had”

Belgrade Theatre in Coventry become a Theatre of Sanctuary on 21st November 2017. Belgrade Associate Director Justine Themen said: “Whilst continuing to build our longer term relationships with existing communities, we want to open our doors to newly-arriving communities to share their stories and build understanding. We look forward to the challenges and inspiration that come with this. A theatre is a space for dialogue within the city and celebrating both our differences and our shared humanity.”

Octagon Theatre in Bolton become a Theatre of Sanctuary on 15th of May 2018. Octagon’s Artistic Director Elizabeth Newman said,  “I am so proud and thrilled to be accepting this award on behalf of theatre. We are committed to being an open and safe place for people to come to and have worked with key partners across Bolton to engage people in an authentic and meaningful way which has helped make a real difference in Bolton.”

Now theatres from Derby, Nottingham, Coventry, Manchester and Norwich are working towards the award to further inspire others to commit to the Sanctuary vision of welcome and inclusion.

SBC (Stand up and Be Counted) became the first Theatre Company of Sanctuary on the 1st October 2016 after their work around detention which engaged an asylum seeker in research and then gave her the lead part in heir play “Tanya”.

World Stages Now (2017) is a Theatre Company of Sanctuary Southampton based organisation that provides a space for asylum seekers and refugees to collectively and creatively address issues of migration through drama and performance.

Maison Foo became a Theatre Company of Sanctuary (22nd September 2018) after their work around welcoming spaces to refugees and those currently seeking asylum. Their full report is available here.

PsycheDelight (Nov 2018) is a theatre company that creates new shows that are socially engaged, giving an opportunity to people on difficult paths to have their voices heard. Alongside performances, PsycheDelight also run various workshops to help expression and integration. Find out more here.

Opera North became an official Theatre of Sanctuary on 20th December 2018 for demonstrating it’s commitment to making refugees and those seeking sanctuary feel included; giving them a sense of being valued and celebrated through increased accessibility to music, drama and opera.

Phosphoros Theatre Company became a Theatre of Sanctuary in June 2019. They began as a Supported Housing project for young men who came to the UK as unaccompanied minors as a way for the participants to tell their story. The group has grown over the years and now consists of a core group of refugees and asylum seekers from Albania, Afghanistan, Eritrea and Somalia.

Please note a full list of theatres, theatre companies, museums and festivals can be found here.

Here is a Theatre of Sanctuary Power Point Presentation which was used at a meeting in Manchester.