With the help of the Asylum Seeker and Refugee team at Northumberland County Council, we contacted the refugees/asylum seekers based around Blyth and Amble. We delivered three workshops between 19 June to 17 July 2019 and arranged to have an Arabic interpreter who was known to the group attend the sessions.


Around 30 to 40 adults and children from Iran, Iraq, Syria and Africa participated at different points in the programme.


At the first workshop we asked the group to map the journey from their homeland to Northumberland. We asked them to create paper birds and to write a message to their homeland on the bird and metaphorically send the bird back home. At points during these sessions our performer/musicians introduced them to local folk music. We ended the sessions asking them to bring something to the next session that held meaning to them.Khalil at Blyth


During the first Blyth session, one of the participants, Khalil Abdulrahman brought a musical instrument with him which we subsequently discovered was a tanbur (saz). He played some Kurdish music during the session and jammed with one of the November Club musicians. During the first Amble session we discovered that the participants had not been out of Amble since they had come to the country, they had no concept of Northumberland. All these factors led us to change our plans for the subsequent sessions.
One of the benefits of the way we work is that we can be creatively adaptable and responsive.


For the Amble group we negotiated with the Asylum Seeker and Refugee team at Northumberland County Council and Northumberland National Park Authority to fund a bus tour of the county. We used local community transport provider, NEED. We briefly stopped to overlook Kielder Forest before heading into Elsdon for a curry lunch at the Bird in Bush and for more creative exercises in Elsdon Village Hall.


As a result of the engagement of the refugees and asylum seekers, one of the Fairytales told the tale of Jamal, a young female refugee, coming to Northumberland. It is unlikely that our Fairytales would have included such a story without the involvement of the refugees, asylum seekers and their support team at Northumberland County Council. This issue of refugees and asylum seekers coming to live in Northumberland is pertinent to the county’s current situation.


To end our mini-project, we delivered a work-in-progress performance in October of three of the fairy-tales at the Buffalo Centre Blyth. We offered free tickets to the refugee/asylum seekers. Khalil performed in the work-in-progress performances and was watched by his parents.


Read more about Khalil here.

“Many of the components of the show have been included after audiences and local people shared what Northumberland means to them and the issues they feel. There's a real local connection.”