How does it feel to leave everything behind and run, fearing your life, into the unknown? How does it feel to find yourself again in words, song and dance? Fear, anxiety, faith and hope come together in STILL WE RISE, devised and performed by Women Asylum Seekers Together (WAST) Manchester

A touring, multi-disciplinary and multi-media roadshow, and WAST’s first independent production   in -STILL WE RISE –women express their stories of loss, terrifying state-imposed insecurity and the love and hope they find together in STILL WE RISE, a perception-altering, collaborative performance and roadshow.

It features the WAST Nightingales Choir (Winners of the Liberty Human Rights Arts Award 2015) singing new, vibrant songs of activism with messages of hope, support, and challenges to policy makers for the inhumanity of the asylum system, the  new immigration bill, and  the  holding of  women arbitrarily captive in ‘Immigration Removal Centres’ such as Yarl’s Wood, Bedfordshire.

WAST women give spirited performances, changing the perceptions of asylum seekers and engaging the audience to laugh, cry, empathise and finally to dance with them in celebration of their resistance, resilience and their hope.

Audiences will and have seen the bravery and vibrancy of the group, whether setting out to free themselves of painful experiences, communicating direct messages to the audience or simply enjoying a break from the tension and stress in their lives by performing with their friends.

The roadshow, managed by the renowned writer and director Lydia Besong, and directed by Magdalen Bartlett, brings 20 women together who have found each other through the WAST self-help group in Manchester, now in its 11 year. The performances, premiered at Z-arts in Manchester in April before touring to Bury and Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Lydia Besong says: “My journey from Cameroon to acceptance as an asylum applicant by UK authorities was a long and difficult one, but the support I gained from WAST and discovery of writing as a way to express myself helped me so much. STILL WE RISE empowers women to make sense of what they have been through and are still going through. They also feel that, by communicating these stories, the British public will gain better understanding of the pain they feel in leaving their lives behind, how challenging the process of asylum is and that it is love and hope that helps them to keep going.”

WAST members performed “How I Became An Asylum Seeker”, written by Lydia Besong and developed in partnership with Community Arts North West (CAN) in 2010.  STILL WE RISE follows those landmark performances, allowing a broader range of voices to write a script with no rules, gathering together poems, songs, choreography and more. STILL WE RISE sees WAST instil their founding principle to a touring arts production, of giving women asylum seekers a safe, women only, secular space to meet with each other.  Founded in 2005 by Farhat Khan, herself fleeing a life of abuse in Pakistan and granted asylum in 2006, WAST is made up of woman from disparate backgrounds including people of all religions and none who come together and find both practical and emotional support, as well as developing campaigns to support individual asylum cases or challenge unfair application rules, regulations and procedures.

Link to Promo

STILL WE RISE is supported by Arts Council England.