Little Amal comes to Wigan

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On a wet and windy afternoon Wigan was privileged to welcome Little Amal to our town. She was almost at the end of her 8,000 km journey from Gaziantep nearthe border of Syria and Turkey to Manchester. On the way she had travelled through Turkey, Greece, Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany and Belgium before arriving in the UK. After Wigan she will travel to Rochdale and then, on Wednesday, will come to the end of her odyssey in Manchester.

Little Amal is a 3.5 metre puppet by War Horse creators Handspring Puppet Company of a young girl refugee from that troubled and war torn region of the Middle East. Her journey has been undertaken to bring attention to the plight of young refugees forced to risk arduous journeys for the chance at a better life.

The project’s website tells us

Little Amal’s story began in Good Chance Theatre‘s award-winning play, The Jungle. The critically-acclaimed production was based on the stories Good Chance’s founders Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson encountered when they created their first Theatre of Hope in the 2015 Calais refugee camp. Little Amal appeared as a character in The Jungle who represented the hundreds of unaccompanied minors in the Calais camp who were separated from their families.

Walking with Amal website

Sadly, there are many people in this, and other countries who are unsympathetic or even hostile to refugees. They don’t want any “foreigners” or aliens “over here”, despite the horrors taking place in the countries where they have left, for which the UK and other Western countries bear more than a little responsibility.

They don’t understand

no one would put their children in a boat
unless the sea is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
wants to be beaten
wants to be pitied

Extract from Home by Warsen Shire

As we left home it began to rain – very heavily – and we got drenched walking along the canal to Trencherfield Mill. Little Amal was due to arrive at 3 pm but this was delayed by 30 minutes due to the weather as the rain continued. We were already soaked, so it hardly mattered.

Waiting for Little Amal

Eventually Amal arrived, to be greeted by the Wigan Community choir. She passed through the crowd gathered in the mill yard and stopped to watch a the local WigLe Dance company who performed bravely in the rain.

She was then welcomed by local dignitaries, including The King of the North, Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, who used to be MP for nearby Leigh.

Little Amal meets Andy Burnham

She then continued, walking along Pottery Road and Southgate before doubling back along Wallgate to The Edge conference centre for a performance by Manchester Street Poem – an art collective of former homelessness people.

Despite the awful conditions there was an impressive turnout from the people of Wigan braving the elements. Yet we were all wrapped up in raincoats and many with umbrellas. What we experienced was nothing compared to what refugees have to endure.

The spectators clearly enjoyed seeing this impressive puppet. It almost seemed as she was a real person – it seemed as if the puppeteers, although in full view, were not there, which is a credit to both their skill and the work of the people who created Amal.

I hope that they also took away with them an appreciation and some sympathy for the plight of the refugees.

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark

Home by Warsen Shire

11 thoughts on “Little Amal comes to Wigan

  1. There’s o way we would have wanted to miss this despite the atrocious weather. I only hope at least some of the spectators went home with an increased understanding of the issues.

  2. Great to see such a good turn out in spite of the terrible weather yesterday. This was an inspirational read, thank you.

  3. Inspirational and heartbreaking in equal measure. Everyone should read that poem and pause for thought afterwards. Some of the rhetoric I hear in the UK makes me feel ashamed at times. Great post and thanks for sharing.

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