The WAST play – HOW I BECAME AN ASYLUM SEEKER
A WAST production,
Written by Lydia Besong
Developed and performed by members of WAST 2009-2010
WAST CAST MEMBERS
2009-2010 -Performances as Partnership projects between Women Asylum seekers Together (WAST) and; Community Arts North West (CAN), Gender and Participation Project, (GAP) , WAST London with Women for Refuge Women, Musicians without Borders and supported by Oxfam.
‘How I Became An Asylum Seeker’ ‘is a thought provoking and inspirational play written by a member of WAST, Lydia Besong and is performed by Women Asylum Seekers Together (WAST) directed by Magdalen Bartlett and produced in a partnership between WAST and Community Arts North West (producer Yasmin Yaqub ) based in Manchester.
The story concerns a woman, Monique, and her experience of seeking asylum in the UK after fleeing persecution following the murder of her husband. This is an all too common, real life occurrence. She has been forced to leave her children behind, her emotional state suffering as a result. Finding herself within a remote and unsympathetic immigration system, Monique finds support through a women group where they often share similar experiences.
The play was written with the intention of raising awareness of women asylum seekers’ plight. It is also intended to demonstrate the creativity, honesty and humour that women share, to a wide audience. By writing, performing and producing this play, these women employed their creative expression through working together, learning new skills and creating a space in which to share their stories.
The play was first developed in Autumn 2009 WAST approached CAN with a script that had been written and developed by its member Lydia Besong in consultation with other WAST members. It was a story that reflected their experiences of seeking asylum and the hurdles and obstacles that they have to overcome on a daily basis. This is an inspirational group of WAST women who are at the forefront of raising awareness about themselves to a wider public and the media.
With passion, determination and commitment they premiered their work-in-progress play at the Zion Arts Centre in December 2009 to a packed auditorium. WAST went onto develop the play further with the GAP Unit in Hulme to audiences in Manchester and Liverpool which also included people from the private and public sector and the wider Manchester communities. Salford CVS also hosted the play as part of Refugee Week 2010.
In November 2010 WAST then went onto perform the play at Salford Lowry as part of The Voices of Slavery, Asylum and Freedom Conference / Symposium organised by Salford University and the Lowry in association with Feelgood Theatre. This work will also formed part of Exodus Onstage Theatre Season that is being produced by Community Arts North West. As part of the symposiumFeelgood Theatre are produced a powerful new play called Slave – A Question of Freedom about Mende Nazer, a Sudanese woman’s experience of slavery and asylum. WAST performed a 40 minute adaptation of the play followed by a Q & A session.
Finally WAST were invited to perform in London by Women for Refugee Women and On 28 November Women WAST took the play to the Riverside Studios in London , staying overnight at a youth hostel with 40 members including some members of the newly formed WAST choir to perform Lydia Besong’s extraordinary play. Juliet Stevenson hosted “Break the Silence”,( as it was called for the London performance) which was performed to a sell-out audience of 350 and WAST Manchester were joined on stage with the members of WAST London for the finale. After the play Juliet was joined by Lydia, Asli Tedros ( Secretary to WAST) Emiola Fadeyi ( WAST management group member), Helen Bamber, Bridget Phillipson MP and Natasha Walter for a discussion of the issues raised in the play.
“It was inspiring to hear the stories of these women refugees and to witness their remarkable courage and creativity.” Juliet Stevenson