Inspired by concern for the plight of thousands of refugees that are displaced due to war or poverty, and the rise in xenophobic tension, Driftwood uses an outdoor performance and visual arts workshop to explore how communities welcome newcomers and offer sanctuary in our towns and cities.
Researched and Developed with funding from Arts & Humanities Research Council as a collaboration between Faceless Arts (Creative Community Engagement Experts) and University of Leeds TLANG (Translation and Translanguaging: Investigating Linguistic and Cultural Transformations in Superdiverse Wards in Four UK Cities), Driftwood draws from the culture and experiences of recent arrivals to Wakefield and Leeds in a way that everyday people, including children, can understand and empathise with the current migrant crisis.
The resulting show is an emotional portrayal of a driftwood boat travelling across a perilous sea carrying a precious cargo of puppets cast adrift from their communities. Will they survive the journey? Will they be welcomed or will they have to continue on their search for sanctuary?
A typical Driftwood day is as follows:
Driftwood Community Visual Arts “welcome” workshop 2 hrs
Inspired by the participants’ sense of place and belonging, a 2 hr ‘drop in’ or ‘sign up’ visual arts workshop is delivered, where participants are given the opportunity to make a welcome flag, in a visible outdoor location on the street or at a festival. Conversations around refuge and asylum ensue, and the community is encouraged to remain or return for the performance, to welcome the arrival of the Driftwood boat and its ‘cargo’, and collect their flags to keep after the performance.
Driftwood Outdoor Arts Production – Promenade Performance - 40 mins
A driftwood boat with driftwood puppets sets sail through a town, city or festival, stopping on occasion to show vignettes of the ‘refugees’ journey. The Driftwood performance comprises a striking visual non-verbal performance using skilled and sensitive puppeteers, set to an original pre-recorded soundtrack created by vocal world music composer Maria Jardardottir.
Driftwood Welcome Crowd-Gathering Show – up to 20 mins
The “refugees”, in mortal danger, continue their journey into the given space. As they spot land, the audience/participants are facilitated to help and welcome them. The puppets, given safe haven, are left as an installation in the space for the rest of the day.
Should the community not feel able to welcome the boat and its’ “people” at this time, the boat will continue to sail on until it is out of sight.
Video courtesy of Ambrose Musiyiwa, CivicLeicester
"Incredibly powerful ... beautifully moving"
Audience member at Utopia Fair, June 2016
Cost per day (2 hr workshop + 1 x 40 minute promenade and 1 x 20 min crowd-gathering performance) inc. materials but exc. travel & accomm.£1175
Driftwood will be available for national tour in 2017 and we are presently seeking funding to develop this piece further. There are potential bespoke and extended participatory options for Driftwood, please contact us on 01924 335985 or email to arrange a booking or to discuss your ideas further.
While developing Driftwood we consulted with people who have recently arrived in the UK and asked them what a welcome would look like in an ideal world, the video below by Professor Paul Cooke of University of Leeds, documents some of our initial research workshops: