Migration Lab

Photo by Geraldine Heaney

“For sure, I have had an idea for quite a while and suddenly I’m looking at it through a different lens.  Also, I was maybe afraid to tackle this theme before, because it’s so complex, and so difficult. And it’s human lives, you know, you can’t really mess with this.  So, I will definitely consider working more in this area.  I have been having really great conversations not only with the participants, but also with friends.  Conversations about migration with friends, family and colleagues and sharing the stories that I heard from other participants, has been positive.  It’s the formal and informal conversations, they both count.”

—Lab participant

The third PUSH Lab, an 8-day residential laboratory focusing on the topic of Migration was led by our Irish partner – The Ark, a children’s cultural centre in Dublin. The lab took place from 20 February – 1 March 2018.

The 13 selected artists worked with Irish artist Veronica Coburn who was the facilitator for the week. It focussed on themes of immigration, emigration and asylum and their impact on Ireland and our European neighbours and partners. Many of the artists had their own story to share. Some of the questions explored by the lab were:

  • How can we talk about migration and asylum with our audiences, including minority voices, in a sector that is not yet diverse and a context that is highly political?
  • Over half of the worlds displaced people are children, what is the role of the artist in telling/representing their stories?
  • What do children in Europe understand of the current Immigration crisis? How can we explore and interrogate this in an age-appropriate and artistically interesting way?
  • Do children who have been displaced and live in Europe see themselves represented in culture?
  • What are the risks in trying to explore such an emotive issue through theatre and dance for an audience of children?
  • How do we actively make our sector more diverse and inclusive to encourage artists who are telling their own stories?

During the Lab, the artists met and heard from experts in the field of migration - Dr Liam Thornton, School of Law, University College Dublin, with an expertise in Asylum and Refugee Law, International Human Rights Law and ECHR Law. Hilary Harmon, Child Refugee Project Manager, Children’s Rights Alliance. And Dr Derina Johnson whose PhD was inspired by three years she spent on the Thailand-Myanmar border working alongside local migrant and refugee partners developing child protection and psychosocial programmes for children and youth.

On the Saturday, midway through the Lab, the artists had the opportunity to work with The Ark’s Children’s Council. The Ark’s Children’s Council is a group of eleven and twelve year old children who meet once a month over the course of a year to explore active citizenship through engagement with the arts. Part of its purpose is to amplify the voice of the child within the organisation making sure that children’s voices are included in the organisation’s decision making. The PUSH artists presented a programme of scratch performances and provocations, ensuring at all times that there was time for the children to comment and reflect on everything they had seen and experienced.

In the second part of the Lab, PUSH presented a special public event – a Talk on art and migration in the global world by writer Karthika Nair in conversation with Liz Roche. The following day Karthika worked with the artists, challenging them and helping them explore storytelling around this subject for children.

You can read facilitator Veronica Coburn’s reflections on the Migration Lab.

You can watch the PUSH Migration Lab film here, made by Geraldine Heaney