A few days after our exit from Europe a woman in Bodmin ran after me demanding to know where my voice was... where was the voice of Kneehigh?
Eight years ago I quietly wept as I listened to Barack Obama's inaugural speech. He talked of reaching out, of inclusivity and diversity, he challenged us all to be global citizens and I wept in the hope that we all could be.
I'm of a generation who genuinely believed we could make the world a better place. I grew up in Cornwall with her magnificent horizons and outward vision which encouraged an open mind and a sense of reaching out. Throughout the decades Kneehigh have travelled the world embracing diverse cultures. My proudest times have not been when we've played to packed houses in prestigious theatres but more those times of genuine cultural exchange and engagement in places like Soweto in South Africa, Aleppo in Syria or Beirut in Lebanon.
I despaired when Cornwall voted UKIP in 2014. Our theatre is not overtly political but "Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs)" raged at the state of the world, we then titled our local Rambles programme "Run for your Life" to delve into themes of fear, migration and homelessness. We spent time in the Calais Jungle and the backstreets of Bogota as well as amongst the homeless and displaced in Cornwall. We talked to those homesick for a home that no longer exists (like Marc Chagall in our most recent show “The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk”) our experiences were heart-breaking, especially when with the unaccompanied children in Calais. How many unaccompanied Syrian children have been given safety in England since the conflict began?
None. Not one.
Despite a promise to help a few hundred, MPs have recently voted against any assistance.
Eight years on from Barack Obama's speech and after what is a lifetime of wanting the world to be a better place we have spiralled into fear, hatred and segregation and I weep again, this time through shame and anger.
So there's my "voice" and probably Kneehigh's too. I hope we can build again from the damage we have done when we “decided” not to be a united nation with a shared responsibility for those in desperate need.
Meanwhile we'll continue to put up our Asylum (a place of refuge and sanctuary) and take stories which challenge and embrace all over the world.
With sadness but still in hope,
Visit Thank You Jungle for more on Mike’s experience of Calais.
What Can We Do?
Run For Your Life