Through a collaboration between NTU’s AHRC-funded Crossed Lines project and Compass Collective – devised by Dr Sarah Jackson (Nottingham Trent University) – the launch of Calling Across Borders succeeded in providing a raw and moving platform for young people seeking sanctuary to have their voices heard.
Compass Collective is a non-profit theatre company who work with those looking for refuge in the UK. Their aim is to build resilience and confidence in communities who have come from hardship, celebrating their individuality with self-expression through creative pieces. Sarah Jackson devised four creative writing workshops from October until December 2020 with ambassadors from Compass Collective and eight other young refugees and asylum seekers.
The objective was to promote the voices of marginalization – using the motif of voicemail. With stunning animation by Maria Belik and sound design by Rosie Ash, this conversational four-minute film has the audience transfixed upon each message by the powerful voices of Nagwa, Salma, Musharraf, Ramin, Delacky, Aden, Frank, Asiyo, Ali and Massi.
The short film features voicemail messages intended for those that they would most like to speak to, highlighting the importance of calls and technology for families separated by war and poverty. There are messages of friendship and hope as we are told “People are trying to join hands in order to build a peaceful country” and “Your vision is your future”, weaved with colourful and abstract art by Maria Belik.
Themes of loss and recollection are courageously discussed: “We would like to live in our own country, but we cannot”. These honest, real messages register deeply with any listener.
According to data from the United Nations Refugee Agency UK (UNHCR), there were 79.5 million forcibly displaced people worldwide at the end of 2019. This is a shocking figure and it is why projects like Crossed Lines and all work by Compass Collective are increasingly important in providing a means for those displaced to be able to integrate more comfortably within a different society.
Current issues and news are among the ideas explored as the plea is given to “please look after our planet”, evoking environmental concerns and echoing other influential voices such as that of the great Sir David Attenborough.
Another highly spoken about campaign is the Black Lives Matter Movement. This is mentioned through a beautifully reflective passage: “I just want to let you know how you inspire me as a black woman.
“You stood for what you believed in without wavering”. This film provokes personal reflection. If anyone could hear your message, who and what would it be?
Following the launch of the film, there was a Q&A with all the participants and designers, allowing audience members to meet everyone involved in the creation of the project and have the chance to get any thoughts answered. The team and performers introduced themselves and their home countries, ranging from Afghanistan and Iran in the Middle East across to Sudan in North Africa. When it came to answering the emotions that the voicemails tried to achieve, the message was clear – it was easy, “the same message to reach out with love.”
Regarding what is next for the group, the suggestion of an autobiography capturing the individual struggle of a young refugee or asylum seeker was revealed so watch out for that!
Continuing the creativity, one of the members has submitted poetry to the TogetherintheUK’s Story-Telling Competition where all first- and second-generation migrants to the UK can share short stories, essays or poetry.
Head over to the website to vote for your favourite, or indeed take part yourself if you meet the criteria here.
Keep up to date with future projects by Compass Collective on their website or social media.
By Yasmin Turner
Feature image: Maria Belik