Two local theatres are among a swathe of major arts companies offering free show tickets to refugee children and their families in a gesture welcoming the youngsters to the UK.
The Bush Theatre and Lyric Hammersmith have pledged their support for the free tickets programme. It is part of a campaign urging the government to take action on refugee children with a legal right to enter the UK.
The theatres – part of a 21-strong cohort calling on the government to act faster to allow the children into the country – have written to the immigration minister Robert Goodwill outlining their plans.
The letter estimates that more than 1,000 unaccompanied children are living in the Calais migrant camp, of which roughly half have the legal right to come to the UK because their families are already here.
The Bush and Lyric have joined acclaimed theatres including Sadler’s Wells, The Royal Opera House, the Young Vic and Old Vic to back the campaign.
In a joint letter to the government, the theatres state: “We understand that there are currently 1,022 unaccompanied young children living alone in the ‘Jungle’ refugee and migrant camp in Calais.
Around half of these children have the legal right to be reunited with their families in the UK under the terms of the Immigration Act 2016.
“As the authorities prepare for the camp’s demolition in the next three weeks, we urge the British government to honour the legal commitment it has made to protect these children, to speed up the legal process in view of the impending eviction and to do everything it can to ensure the protection of all unaccompanied children living in Calais before the demolition begins.”
While the Bush and Lyric acknowledge that a visit to the theatre will not be a priority for the children and their families, both are determined to add their weight to the cause to speed up the process.
We know that, on their hoped for arrival in the UK, a visit to the theatre will not be the most urgent of these children's needs,” the letter continued.
Nonetheless we will all be delighted to welcome them and their families into our theatres across the country and to offer them seats to a show free of charge in the belief that this is one small expression of the desire of millions of UK citizens to do whatever they can to welcome these vulnerable young people in a generous and open-hearted way.”
Theatre's open doors
The Bush Theatre and Lyric Hammersmith are no strangers to opening up their performances to visitors who may not usually have the opportunity to enjoy the arts.
The Bush has recently been working in partnership with H&F Council to offer free tickets to W12 residents during its Breaking Out season, while the theatre’s regular home in Uxbridge Road is closed for redevelopment until early next year.
The team has also been running workshops for children at St Stephen’s CE Primary School this month, making short plays about Shepherds Bush.
Meanwhile, the Lyric Hammersmith gives out free tickets to local residents and workers in its free first nights scheme, and offers apprenticeships, work experience and performance opportunities through its Young Lyric activities.