Western Sahara

Of all the campaigns and issues I have been involved with over the years the Western Sahara Campaign has been one that has always dogged my activist heart, hanging around, sometimes slipping from memory but always popping back unheeded to prod away at me.

Western Sahara is one of the great forgotten causes of the world and for that fact alone it nips the heels of my conscience.

Western Sahara was occupied by Morocco from 1975 and for a short while became a cause celebre amongst the left but faded from favour as the struggle wore on to a stalemate.

There was a guerilla war to try to reclaim their land which was partially successful, Mauritania occupied the lower part of Western Sahara but were driven out – in part by Sahara fighters- only to be replaced by Morocco.

Between 1975-1976 some 250,000 Sahrawis fled to the Algerian desert where they have been living in exile for over 40 years in refugee camps, there remains approximately 165,000 refugees still there.

The more mathematical minded amongst you might well conclude that refugee camps should never be that old but they are.

A while ago I visited the camps, towns really in the middle of the desert, made of tents for the winter and mud brick huts for the summer. As is often the case it is the poor who are most hospitable and the care and kindness refugees showed to me was quite overwhelming.

So I am relieved to announce that this Monday’s show- Mayday- at the Tricycle is to be a benefit for the Western Sahara Campaign. The money will help the court case WSC are bringing, here are the details.


See you there.

Jess Thom and Backstage in Biscuit Land

Five years ago I meet a remarkable woman called Jess Thom. She got in touch saying she had Tourettes and would she be OK to come along to see my show Walking the Wall at the Tricycle Theatre. Instinctively and to be honest with little thought I said she would be welcome.

How wrong I was.

Jess does have pronounced tics and verbal outbursts, which are often funny, creative and beautifully absurd. However, some people in the audience objected to her ‘outbursts’ and complained to the theatre staff in the interval.

All of us were somewhat taken aback by this and Jess ended up in the lighting box, segregated from the rest of the audience for the second half. It was frankly awful. Here was I doing a show about separation and occupation and Jess was segregated from the rest of the community, shut away in a tech box.

Her response was as brilliant and inventive as her utterances. She wrote a show called Backstage in Biscuit Land, celebrating her condition and how people react to it. The show is imaginative, beautiful and different every time. I can not recommend it enough.

Backstage in Biscuit Land is on at the Battersea Arts Centre

19 – 23 Jul

It’s wonderful – don’t miss it!

Find out more about Jess and the show here: http://www.touretteshero.com


My response has been less creative and frankly less useful but I hope is valid nonetheless.

Where possible I try and organise relaxed performances of my shows. The relaxed performances encourage people to come to the show who may have learning difficulties,behavioural issues and syndromes such as Tourettes. There is a short speech at the start of the show to explain that the performance takes a relaxed attitude to noises, interruptions and fidgets, in fact we welcome it. Lighting plans and sound cues are changed to lessen any sudden or shocking change, there is an area set aside for people to leave the auditorium but stay inside the theatre and if they want to return they are welcome to do so.

There are many things we do to try and make the show accessible and welcoming for everyone.

I was delighted that Jess came along to my last show at the Tricycle theatre and the first half became a memorable and surreal double act with her. The show was one of my favourites of that year.

I am also delighted that Trespass returns to the Tricycle with a relaxed performance on the 4th of May.

There is a surtitled performance on the 27th April for those who are hard of hearing.