West Yorkshire Playhouse is supporting a national drive as one of 20 theatres urging the Immigration Minister to speed up the process for vulnerable young people living at the soon to be dismantled Calais refugee camp who are legally entitled to join their families in the UK.
Though aware that a visit to the theatre will not be a priority for these vulnerable young people, the theatre companies are indicating their support for these children and the organisations attempting to protect them by offering the children and their families tickets to a show free of charge.
In a joint statement they said:
“We understand that there are currently 1022 unaccompanied young children living alone in the ‘Jungle’ refugee and migrant camp in Calais.
Around halfof these children have the legal right to be reunited with their families in the UK under the terms of the Immigration Act 2016.
As the authorities prepare for the camp’s demolition in the next three weeks, we urge the British Government to honour the legal commitment it has made to protect these children, to speed up the legal process in view of the impending eviction and to do everything it can to ensure the protection of all unaccompanied children living in Calais before the demolition begins.
We know that, on their hoped for arrival in the UK, a visit to the theatre will not be the most urgent of these children’s needs. Nonetheless we will all be delighted to welcome them and their families into our theatres across the country and to offer them seats to a show free of charge in the belief that this is one small expression of the desire of millions of UK citizens to do whatever they can to welcome these vulnerable young people in a generous and open-hearted way.”
West Yorkshire Playhouse became the first Theatre of Sanctuary in 2014. Ruth Hannant the Playhouse’s Creative Engagement Manager said the theatre is proud to support the campaign:
“West Yorkshire Playhouse has led the way becoming the first recognised Theatre of Sanctuary in the UK, following our commitment to supporting Refugee and Asylum Seekers.
As well as offering a free theatre ticket scheme since 2013 and annual activities for Refugee Week we hold a weekly drop in for newly arrived and unaccompanied minors to meet and socialise. This is known as our Hearts Programme and is delivered in partnership with the Children’s Society.
We’ve also formed a choir called Asmarina Voices especially for Refugee and Asylum Seeking people providing them with an opportunity to build links and friendships with other women. This crucially includes child care provision for pre-school age children which is hugely helpful for these women who are often vulnerable and under-supported.
We also programme work which reflects and represents the experiences of Refugee and Asylum Seekers, such as Refugee Boy and Avocado.”
The full list of theatres taking part are: Battersea Arts Centre, Bush Theatre, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Bristol Old Vic, Chichester Festival Theatre, Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse, Lyric Hammersmith, Nuffield Southampton, The Old Vic, The National Theatre, Colin Callender (Playground Productions), Royal Court Theatre, Royal Exchange Manchester, Royal Opera House, Sadler’s Wells, Sonia Friedman Productions, Theatre Royal Stratford East, Unicorn Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse and Young Vic who became London’s first Theatre of Sanctuary in May 2016.
 Help Refugees/L’Auberge des Migrants Census Report, September 2016