We just have to figure out how to weave the strands together…

Malcolm J

I had mixed feelings when Gary and Deborah told me that I would be working on our preventing violent extremism programme, Tapestry. Excitement as this was to be a high profile project dealing with up to the minute issues that had great impact on all of us. There was also a significant level of trepidation, even fear. Would we do justice to this very complex and sensitive area? If we got this wrong we could make tensions worse.  So no pressure there then!

Inspired (if that’s the right word) by the protests in Luton around the soldiers of the Anglian regiment returning from Iraq we chose to set our drama in a closed down shop unit on a recession hit city high street (you might think Woolworths, but we refuse to comment…).

We created Jason, fighting on behalf of “The Young Patriots”, a far right organization; Hassan, arguing in support of an extreme Islamist organization, “The Circle of Truth”; and Naz, caught in the middle, a young British Muslim woman trying to make them see the complexity of the truth.

This allowed us the opportunity to explore parallels in right wing and Islamist extremism, each fuelling greater excesses in the other.

The research sessions we ran with a variety of diverse groups served to allay some of my anxieties. One of the key things that helped was the eagerness with which people wanted to talk about extremism in all its forms.  It was something everybody was thinking about but not talking about as if they were as worried as me about saying the wrong thing and offending people. I took great heart that people were less sensitive than I had imagined ready and willing to have this conversation.

But the violence in the City Centre in early September reignited worries in me that we might be opening an extremely lively can of worms. It felt as if we had been overtaken by our own prediction.

As we continue the tour it is the young people we are meeting on a daily basis that are quietening my fears. They are thoughtful, sensitive, optimistic and passionate. They challenge each of the extremists in the programme equally whilst acknowledging that both have some justification for their disenchantment. It is the courses of action that Jason and Hassan have chosen to resolve their frustrations that the young people so vehemently take issue with.

Which begs the question: what can each of us do to avoid the future of death, fear, anger and revenge that is predicted in the drama if Jason and Hassan continue on their present course?

Answers on a postcard please! Or simply comment below.

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11 Responses to “We just have to figure out how to weave the strands together…”

  1. Mike says:

    Thanks for an enciting and diverse afternoon. Really enjoyable and puts across some key issues. Reading your blog here really links the play in with the troubles in Birmingham During August. Working in the city centre on weekends, you can understand how “Naz” would of felt to be trapped by protesting groups.

    Also, i noticed that “Hassan” was waring a Lonsdale top, was this a comparison with Hassans group the Neo-Nazi party as it is said that the group wairs lonsdale to show the gropus initiials “NSDA”.

    Once agian thanks

  2. Ben says:

    I actually found your play very interesting. I learnt a bit more about muslims, and now think more about racism.

    Also, why did it take them a week to visit their friend in hospital?

  3. malcolm says:

    Mike

    Glad you enjoyed the programme and thanks for taking the time to write.

    In our story Hassan has joined the circle of truth an extreme Islamist organisation rather than a neo nazi organisation, though I suppose you might argue they are very similar in lots of ways. Any connection between the brand of his clothes and any organisation you may have heard of is, sadly just a coinicidence.

    I appreciated your observation though it shows you are thinking.

    take care
    malcolm

  4. Malcolm says:

    Ben

    Thanks for your comment. Your question is very interesting.

    I’m sure you could imagine all the different things that would be going on in Jason’s and Hassans lives in the week after the protest. All the different conversations they overhear about the protest as they go around town. How does this affect what they think and feel about what happened to Naz? Who have they speaking to? what has been said? What do you think they have been doing and thinking?

    As far as Jason is concerned we know he chooses not to go to the victory drink and he sets up a meeting with a man at the college. Perhaps he has been to see his sister to try and find out if she knows how Naz is. Whatever, I think it takes him a long time to sort out his confusion and decide to go to the hospital.

    Perhaps you could talk through some of these things with friends.

    take care

    Malcolm

  5. Sara Ghafoor says:

    well, i ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT!!!!!!!!!
    it was ace!!!! i think that all of our lessons should be like that becasue it engages us and makes us think about it ourselves and is a great way to learn about many controversial issues such as racism and politics. I think that they should do a play on the BNP group becasue they are very reacist to muslims, also like in the play when they talked about peter jeferson and also about Dr. Farooq. I think that naz,jason and hassan are really good actore becasue they mixed humour with avery serious issue which made it more APPEALING. I WOULD ABSOLUTELY BE HONOURED IF THEY CAME TO OUR SCHOOL AGAIN!!!:)- my school is Hodge Hill Girls School by the way!!!!HINT, HINT!!!!!
    From Sara Ghafoor-Year 9!!!!!!

  6. Malcolm J says:

    Thanks for your comment Sara we enjoyed our time at Hodge Hill.

  7. Carvina says:

    hi its carvina the girl from wiseman school were you performed this afternoon.
    and i just wanted to put forward that the play is extreamily educated and for sure had educated me. for only this reason i would like to know more about this perticular issue and educated the world with;by sing sothing to do with this type of issue in the project that iam involed inwich is called cohision.
    thank you. Hope to hear from you.

  8. Becky says:

    Hey, you guys came into my school (Thomas Telford] this morning – I thought you all did an amazing job! It was really enjoyable, funny and me and my friends learnt a lot. 🙂 you guys can come anytime haha

    Becky, year 9

  9. Malcolm J says:

    Carvina

    it was good to meet you, good luck with your project

  10. Malcolm J says:

    becky

    Thanks for your comment. We would be very interested to hear of any work that you do connected to our work. We would be happy to come back any time (now we know the way.

  11. […] Tapestry is currently touring schools and is our participatory theatre programme that explores violent extremism. In the story Jason, Hassan and Nazia find themselves in a derelict shop, taking cover as a protest they are involved in becomes violent. Jason and Hassan are from opposing ends of the radical spectrum with Nazia caught in the middle. (You can read more about this in the previous blog entry “We just have to figure out how to weave the strands together”.) […]

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