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An alternative view.

With the European referendum taking place in the UK this summer, one of the "dog whistle topics" (called that because it is basically coded language which appears to say one thing but actually subliminally states something else to its targeted audience) has been immigration and specifically, our refugee crisis. It is a crisis which has been used throughout Europe as a rallying cry for the far right. Theatrical groups throughout the UK, though, are fighting back and mounting projects which hopefully give not only a snapshot of refugees' lives but go a long way towards humanising their plight.

Two such theatrical events this summer are LIFT (London International Festival of Theatre) and Platforma's Refugee Week, both of which seek to present a very different view to the one often presented in the media, the view of the refugee.

"On the Move" is a day-long collections of events, films and talks which all revolve around the plight of refugees. Staged at London's Royal Court Theatre as part of the LIFT festival, all the pieces and panel discussions address the harrowing circumstances that refugees from both the Middle East and parts of Africa often face.

Two of the events presented at the Royal Court particularly stand out. One is "As Far as My Fingertips Take Me", which is basically a conversation between a member of the public and a refugee seated behind a wall. It is a chance to see someone who is a refugee as not part of a mass migration but an individual, someone who has their own story and of course, their own humanity.


The other piece is "Haunted", a film which looks at the lives of families and individuals living in conflict zones through video diaries, filmed by themselves, about their daily lives. It asks the questions, how long does someone remain, how close do the bombs have to land before they leave and if they can take only one suitcase with them, what is it that they will choose to take away?

Platforma is a leading UK body which supports refugee artists and in the UK it has curated Refugee Week, a yearly event which is part of the global Refugee Week, started in 1998 as a direct reaction to the often hostile reactions refugees face. The event takes place in June and this year is no exception, with a week-long celebration of the positive contributions refugees make to the country as a whole.

In London some of the largest celebrations will take place at the Southbank Centre and will include performances by acclaimed Guinea kora player Mosi Conde and his band, Kaira Kora Afrika. The singer-songwriter Josephine Oniyame will also appear alongside members of the UK-based heritage Survival band from Harare, Zimbabwe, who have been brought together for the event.

The organisers of Refugee Week state that in our current politically volatile atmosphere, they hope that this lovely annual event will serve as a reminder that most refugees bring much more with them that is positive, than they take away.

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Title Annotation:Arts: MUSIC; London International Festival of Theatre, Platforma's Refugee Week and the refugee crisis
Author:Andrews, Beverly
Publication:New African
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 1, 2016
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