There seems no likely prospect, at least for the time being, of being able to travel anywhere else in the world in order to teach Drama. This is, of course, because of Covid, which has now been with us for two years. It affected last year too, obviously, and while that did give me the opportunity to use the blog to dive back forty years into my past, and the journey that Val and I began then, it does now seem that things are starting to open up, giving me the chance to do the thing I know most about. And so I have been looking for opportunities to teach in this country, and to explore the option of working with some of the refugees and asylum-seekers who have managed to make their way to the UK.
It has not proved a simple process. After reading an article in the Guardian about a theatre group called Phosphoros, made up of refugees from various countries, I got in touch with them, and was invited to attend a performance they were presenting at Bedales School, in East Sussex. Ultimately, however, they were not the answer to my search. I enjoyed their performance, but they appeared to have all the help they needed, and in any case their approach, relying heavily on discussion and exploration of their experiences they had had while travelling from their own countries, was not something of which I had much experience.
I took to the internet to see what other possibilities might present themselves, and did try to contact groups closer to Oxford, but with no response, my emails presumably falling through the cracks of their communication systems. However, one of the national contact organisations suggested that I contact a lady called Matilda, and here my enquiry fell on more fruitful ground.
As well as being a playwright, artist and director in her own right, Matilda is a co-ordinator with the organisation Care 4 Calais. As the name indicates, their prime aim has been to supply support and other assistance to the refugees at Calais, but more recently they have also taken on the task of providing similar services to those people who are in the UK, and are very largely housed in enormous hotels in various parts of the country. She responded very positively to my offer of assistance, and suggested we try to set up a Drama programme in one of these hotels, the Holiday Inn at Wembley. Between them, Christmas and Covid intervened, but eventually we were ready to go.
And so, another year, another project. You may have noticed that previous projects have tended to be named after translations of Once Upon A Time, depending upon the language of the participants. Since the participants this time come from many places, I have focused on our venue, and the football chant version of its name. Wembley is, as most will know, also the venue of the National football stadium, and its huge arch dominates the area.