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Global Development Institute

Theatre production supported by University researchers up for award

13 April 2018

A play on migration produced by a theatre group and researchers from The University of Manchester is up for a PR award for Best Use of Creativity.

Be//Longing was a multi-media theatre production by the University’s new Migration Lab at the Global Development Institute and Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute,  and Take Back Theatre, which produces theatre pieces in response to as an artistic response to social and political events.

Co-produced by the Hope Mill Theatre, the immersive production used installations, an exhibition, music and video alongside scripted theatre to highlight the findings of the Migration Lab’s research and boldly address perceptions and myths about migration. All proceeds went to migration charities.

For the production, the theatre was completely transformed to resemble a warehouse on the edge of a border, and after making their journey to the theatre, audience members reached an arrivals area where their tickets were checked and processed before they cross the border to Be//Longing.

The audience then received a map to a world of performed narrative, film, music and installation which touched on everything from everyday bordering, to second generations experiencing racism. It also looked at the effects of Brexit on EU workers, the hierarchy of belonging and how we redefine borders.

Formed in January 2017, the Manchester Migration Lab has brought together more than 70 researchers across the University. Be//Longing was the flagship production in Migration Lab’s activities which included writing a newspaper with refugees in Manchester, a research conference, and publications.

The play was a successful public engagement campaign with five nights of performances sold out. Surveys done with the audience pre- and post-performance revealed that 76% will challenge more when they hear negative conversations on migration. “The play was excellent and easy to access. It has prompted me to stop saying this is terrible and take some action,” said one theatre-goer. “The characters portrayed by the actors had a real impact on me. I not feel compelled to help refugees more,” another attendee informed us.

“Public opinion on migration has been manipulated for political and ideological reasons by the right-wing press, and a lot of popular discourse is very far removed from the actual facts,” said Lab Coordinator Dr Cathy Wilcock. “This is one of the reasons we were keen to collaborate with creative practitioners – it’s essential that academic researchers make use of as many communication channels as possible, in order to expose these myths and raise awareness of migration research at The University of Manchester.”

The Global Development Institute continue to do work on migration including researchers Dr Tanja Müller and Oliver Bakewell, both who have recently authored contributions to books and continue to work on pressing issues such as Israeli expulsion of African refugees and intra-African migration respectively. 

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