A powerful new performance about refugee children is being created especially for this year’s Hay festival. Hereford College of Arts BA (Hons) Performing Arts students have collaborated with local children’s author Nicola Davies and Herefordshire’s innovative Open Sky Theatre Company to produce the piece.
‘3000 Chairs’ is an uplifting and immersive show about a refugee child and the extraordinary power of kindness. The play is based on ‘The Day the War Came’, a poem by Nicola Davies. Nicola was moved to action when the government withdrew its pledge to take in 3000 unaccompanied child refugees to the UK. She had recently been told the story of a refugee child being turned away from a school because there weren’t enough chairs. Following the publication of the poem in The Guardian, a national #3000chairs campaign emerged, with artists throughout the UK sharing images of empty chairs online to highlight the issues facing child refugees.
Nicola described the approach to the project as child-centred; “The instigation for the story is that I feel everything related to war is set in the adult world - adults create war and adults report on war, and so on. Children are voiceless. Whilst parents always try to make it alright, sometimes they can’t and that’s where this story starts.”
The play will be performed by first year BA Performance Arts students with costume design by HCA BA (Hons) Textile Design student Megan Swancott. Illustration student Andrew Graham has designed the set which will involve using an overhead projector and live-drawing on to acetates with crayons and pens, which has “clever links to the school element of the story”. Andrew also said all of the students are “absolutely thrilled to have been given the opportunity to work with Nicola.”
The play aims to show how war affects the lives of ordinary people all over the world, and has been written in an accessible style for anyone over the age of 9. BA (Hons) Performance Arts course leader Gillian Hipp said “We were keen to portray this as a story of something that could happen to anyone, anywhere. Whilst it’s a very challenging subject it has a hopeful resolution”. Nicola added that “children see things in a very moral, black and white sort of way, which is why the piece ends as it does….children simply want to help, they must help and they must act.”
3000 Chairs takes place at the Hay Festival on Sunday 28th May and Wednesday 31st May. Tickets for the event sold out within just a few days of their release.