This July will see the Belgrade Theatre shine a spotlight on radicalization amongst young British Muslims living in the UK today with the premiere of a provocative new play by Asian Youth Theatre, Somewhere To Belong. This brand new collaboration between the Belgrade and Vamos Theatre Company, one of the U.K’s leading producers of masked theatre, has been created by the venue’s resident ‘Asian Youth Theatre’ group as part of a new festival of work taking place at between Wed 8 – Sun 19 July which will showcase some of the best new theatre by and for young people produced in the UK today.
The group, which runs weekly on Wednesdays between 4pm – 6pm is open to ages 8 -11, was originally set up in 2014 to offer young people from Asian ethnic minority backgrounds in the city with the opportunity to develop their performance skills in an inclusive, professional theatre environment. No previous experience of drama is necessary to take part in the group and all communities are welcome to join.
The youth group is run by the Belgrade’s Community & Education Company, which this year celebrates 50 years of delivering pioneering educational projects to young people and communities across Coventry and Warwickshire.
Following a racist incident on the bus, Ahmed walks into a man handing out leaflets… is this the turning point he’s been searching for? A moving and resonant tale of the inner-jihad of an Asian Youth, this powerful and entirely resonant new drama will be performed on the Belgrade B2 stage on Thurs 9 July at 6pm, Sat 11 July at 2pm, Mon 13 July at 6pm and Sat 18 July at 11am.
Workshop Leader Reena Jaisiah said: ‘I hope that audiences will come away from this piece with a clearer understanding of what ‘jihad’ actually means. ‘Jihad’ translates as ‘struggle’ but it’s a term that is constantly being hijacked in a very negative way. I hope that the play goes some way towards dispelling popular myths about young Muslims today in showing that radicalization is often a consequence of not being engaged with your faith and that other factors can lead to radicalization such as dysfunctional family units and feeling alienated from your community.’
Festival Producer and Associate Director at the Belgrade Theatre, Justine Themen added: ‘As the title of our festival suggests ‘Inspiring Curiosity: In Our Own Words’ is all about giving a voice to the diverse experience of Coventry’s young people by exploring issues and stories which impact directly upon their lives. The legacy of TiE, invented in Coventry in 1965, continues to inspire much of the Belgrade’s work within the city. For the last few years, we’ve been working hard to build links with local BAME groups in particular through targeted initiatives such as Asian and Black Youth Theatre and our nationally recognized new writers programme, Critical Mass. Whilst the representation of BAME communities in our existing groups is largely reflective of the city ratios, the voices of these communities are rarely heard since they are always a minority voice within a group. Drama is an essential tool for encouraging young people to take an active interest in the world around them and to investigate challenging subject matter for themselves.’
‘Inspiring Curiosity: In Our Own Words’ will see participants from the Belgrade Theatre come together to present a programme of six exciting new works produced in association with some of the UK’s top theatre practitioners including Frantic Assembly, Vamos Theatre, curious directive and Newcastle’s Gateway Studio Project.
The festival will culminate in a weekend of live performances in which all seven Belgrade participant groups will be invited to perform one more time. They will be joined by visiting Youth Theatre companies from across the UK including Bristol Old Vic’s Propolis Theatre, Bulwell Youth Theatre, EGO Performance Company and Highly Sprung.
The July Festival is part of a year-long programme of activities to celebrate the 50th anniversary since the invention of Theatre in Education at the Belgrade.