Film created by young people seeking asylum and refugees at Leeds Playhouse offers a message of hope and resilience
18th March 2021
“The world can be different. The world will be different.”
Members of the Hearts youth group at Leeds Playhouse have created an honest and ultimately uplifting short film to share their experiences of leaving their home countries, settling in Britain and the recent challenges of lockdown.
Hearts is a key part of Leeds Playhouse’s pioneering Theatre of Sanctuary work. Run in partnership with the Children’s Society since 2013, it offers 14–25 year old refugees and young people seeking asylum weekly creative activities, social sessions, life skills and advocacy support.
The young people themselves put together a successful bid for funding from the Children’s Society’s annual Pot of Gold scheme, resulting in today’s launch of UNITED WE WAIT, a heartfelt short film aimed at creating understanding, sharing experiences and celebrating achievements.
Fourteen Hearts members used the Pot of Gold money to fund two script development workshops with writer Andy Craven-Griffiths and six sessions with Studio12 filmmaker Jamie Hutchison, with the remaining funds used for editing and practical materials.
Shreena Gobey, Youth Work Manager at Leeds Playhouse, said: “Our Hearts Youth Group is a safe, welcoming space for young people seeking asylum and refugees to help provide stability, creativity and connection through shared experience and a chance to explore new opportunities together. We are incredibly proud of the young people for seeing through the process from applying to the Pot of Gold fund, which made the film possible, to now bravely sharing it with the public.
“UNITED WE WAIT is enlightening and touching and is also infused with strength and positivity. The young people’s resilience and hope to make the world a better place is a lesson to us all, encouraging us to take action and to strive to achieve our own aspirations while supporting others to achieve theirs.”
Members of the Hearts group, who cannot be named for safeguarding reasons, said: “To make the world a better place, we need to show people where they belong. We hope people will learn something from our experiences and then put that learning into practice – imagine what you want to see from a better world and help make our futures possible.”
Finn McKay from The Children’s Society said: “This film is a powerful and moving expression of young people’s experiences of coming to the UK as asylum seekers. Despite the difficulties of working remotely in lockdown, these young people have written and created a film which powerfully captures the many challenges they faced at home, on their journeys, and after their arrival, delivering a strong message of hope and humanity.”
Writer Andy Craven-Griffiths said: “It was a great pleasure to work with the young people on this short film. Throughout my part in the process, I was struck by how open, mutually supportive, and optimistic the group was about the future. I think that comes across in the film, and it’s a joy to see it finished.”
Jamie Hutchison of Studio 12 said: “The creation of UNITED WE WAIT was a challenging and refreshing project. The nature of lockdown, the restriction of no physical contact, and the time and resource limitations forced the group to be as innovative as we could in the production of the film. Each member had different experiences to tell but, by coming together in a virtual space, were able to find a common universal sense of hope for the future.”
Leeds Playhouse became the UK’s first Theatre of Sanctuary in 2014. As well as Hearts, its other ground-breaking projects include the Asmarina Voices Choir, Conversation Café, and Freedom Project, a poignant production written with young people seeking asylum and refugees that was postponed by the 2020 lockdown but is due to return later this year.
(Theatre of Sanctuary workshop (Leeds Playhouse became the UK’s first ever Theatre of Sanctuary in 2014)