Photo of Little Amal meeting people in a crowd at the Roundhouse. Little Amal is the 12 foot puppet of a 10 year old Syrian refugee child.

Becoming a Theatre of Sanctuary

At the Roundhouse, it is our ambition to become a Theatre of Sanctuary, a space where refugees and people seeking sanctuary are not only welcome but actively included.

By Milli-Rose Rubin · 15 Apr 23

Becoming a Theatre of Sanctuary: We need to recognise the reality for refugees

“no one puts their child in a boat unless the water is safer than the land”
A poem by Warsan Shire

The UNHRC report that at least 89.3 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes. Among them are nearly 27.1 million refugees and around half are under the age of 18.

In Camden alone, the refugee crisis has increased dramatically and we are seeing more unaccompanied minors enter, often with a hostile welcoming, whilst they are also just trying to navigate day-to-day life as a teenager or young person.

There are 6,500 people on the housing waitlist alone in the borough of Camden. Often people don’t have a safe space to go to, which is why we want to make the Roundhouse a safe space for people seeking sanctuary.

Refugee Week

During Refugee Week, we welcomed Camden & Islington British Red Cross, along with the City of Sanctuary’s Arts Stream Lead, and heard about the experiences of young people entering the UK and how both organisations are practically, financially and emotionally, supporting people arriving in the borough.

The challenges for young people are huge. From finding a new home to settling into a new school, all the while interacting with different authorities and organisations, having experienced so much trauma. All of this alongside the normal challenges of being a teenager.

Creativity can be an incredible tool for many people. It helps people connect and express themselves, particularly during difficult times. This is why we’re committed to making the Roundhouse a safe space so people seeking sanctuary have access to creative projects in the Roundhouse Studios or can experience culture across the building.

Becoming a Theatre of Sanctuary

At the Roundhouse, it is our ambition to become a Theatre of Sanctuary, a space where refugees and people seeking sanctuary are not only welcome but actively included. We have so many different people coming through our doors on a daily basis and we want the Roundhouse to be as diverse as the city we’re in, which means being open for all people.

We have split our plan of action into three categories: Learn, Embed and Share, reflecting the principles of the Theatre of Sanctuary awards programme. The staff events we held as part of Refugee Week are part of our learning and we’ll also deliver further training for Trustees and the Roundhouse Youth Advisory Board (RYAB).

We’ll also work with local community partners to identify young refugees who might be interested in taking part in creative projects in the Roundhouse Studios. The creative offer will be alongside pastoral support that our Youth Support Workers provide. We’d love for young people with lived experience to be part of RYAB so that their voices are central to our decision making. This will also give people the chance to develop skills and access networks we have across the creative industries.

We need to shift the narrative about refugees and we can use our stages and our spaces to do this. We can provide the platform for people seeking sanctuary to tell their own stories and we can provide the space for young people to be creative and meet other young people from across London.

Theatres and venues are at the heart of communities and so over the coming months we’ll be working to become a Theatre of Sanctuary so that all people seeking sanctuary feel that the Roundhouse is a home for them.

Image: Little Amal celebrates her 10th birthday at the Roundhouse (credit: Nici Eberl)