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Creative Matters Focuses on Finding Refuge and Sanctuary

Exploring the personal journeys of those who have sought safety in Norfolk.


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Our new Creative Matters season aims to explore the personal experiences and journeys of those who have sought safety and sanctuary in Norfolk with a series of activities during October.

The programme, taking place mainly in Stage Two, complements activities in the wider community which have been part of the ongoing Norwich City of Sanctuary project which aims to build a culture of hospitality towards those who have lost their homes or fled persecution and now seek safety here.

The Creative Matters programme, titled Finding Refuge and Sanctuary, starts on October 4 and will include first hand stories of LGBT+ refugees who have fled their home countries for fear of persecution, a drama created by one of the UK’s leading refugee theatre companies, an art installation which challenges people to visualise the scale of those going missing as they try to reach safety in Europe, and the dramatised testimony of an Auschwitz survivor.

The Theatre Royal is also working towards becoming a ‘Theatre of Sanctuary’, joining organisations which already have Sanctuary status, such as the University of East Anglia, Norwich Arts Centre and the Octagon Chapel, all of which have committed to supporting refugees by being as inclusive as possible.

A project which will bring home to people the scale of the humanitarian loss of those seeking asylum in Europe will be a free-to-attend installation in the theatre’s Circle Lounge by Bern O’Donoghue, which will run throughout October and can be seen during theatre opening hours. Previous venues for O’Donoghue’s installation have included the Tate Exchange at Tate Modern.



Dead Reckoning is the artist’s ongoing project bearing witness to the thousands of migrants and refugees who have died, and continue to die, attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea in search of sanctuary and a better life. Made up of hundreds of tiny, hand-marbled paper boats, each boat is marked with a relationship to another person, a fragile reminder of the individuals caught up in the biggest humanitarian crisis in Europe since World War II.

O’Donoghue worked with pupils at Catton Grove Primary School to create the boats that are part of the installation.

This-Is-Who-I-Am-Ice-And-Fire-Stage-Two_Women hugging

On October 17, there will be a performance in Stage Two of This is Who I Am by Ice and Fire, who will present verbatim first-hand accounts of LGBT+ refugees and the struggles faced both in their own countries and upon arrival in the UK. These interwoven testimonies will be read by guest performers who are members of the Actors for Human Rights network. (Thursday October 17, 7.30pm, tickets £12 – age recommendation 14+ and there will be a Q&A session following the performance.)


One of the UK’s leading refugee theatre companies, Phosphoros Theatre presents Pizza Shop Heroes for two performances on October 25 in Stage Two. It features four young refugee men who made the arduous journey to the UK on their own as children from Afghanistan, Eritrea and Albania. From the precinct of a pizza shop, the audience embarks on a journey across time and continents to explore how they got here, where they’re going and what they’ve learnt along the way. It’s a story of male and cultural identity, family and fatherhood, memories, hopes, dreams and imagined realities. (Friday 25 October, 2.30pm & 7.30pm, tickets £12 – age recommendation 12+).

On October 14, for two performances in Stage Two, Rachel by Small Nose Productions will tell the story of Mrs Rachel Levy, a survivor of Bergen Belsen, Auschwitz Concentration Camp and the ‘Death March’ that took place when the Nazis wanted Auschwitz emptied as the allied war effort drew ever closer. Small Nose and Trestle weave together an intricate full mask theatre experience, with elements of clowning to share this incredibly moving performance. (Monday 14 October, 12.30pm & 2pm, age 14+, tickets £9).

Other activities include: Mediterranea – film (cert 15), Stage Two, October 9, 7.30pm –  two men make the dangerous journey from Africa to Italy for a better life. Free tickets must be booked. No Place Like Home imagination workshop, Stage Two, October 21, 10am-11am for ages 5-7, 11.30am-12.30pm for ages 8-11, £5. Paddington – film (cert PG), Stage Two, October 22, 2pm – the tale of a young Peruvian bear who travels to the UK in search of a home. Free tickets must be booked. Family Crafts & Costumes, Circle Lounge Theatre Royal, October 23, 10am-11am & 11.30am-12.30pm, ages 6-11. Free tickets must be booked. Family Movement and Dance, Stage Two, October 24, 10.30am-12pm, tickets £7, adults free.

To find out more about the Creative Matters Programme, click here.