Migrant Steps is a theatre project that engages migrant women living in the UK and Europe. Starting from the figure of a travelling tortoise and combining methodologies such as psycho-geography, performance art, physical theatre and autobiographical writing, the project explores the participants' relationship with the cities where they live.
Migrant Steps is a community theatre project that engages migrant women living in the UK and Europe. Starting from the figure of a travelling tortoise and combining methodologies such as psychogeography, performance art, physical theatre and autobiographical writing, the project aims to transform participants' relationship with the urban environment.
What happens if migrant women engage creatively with the urban space? How does it affect their understanding of home? Can those who often stay within restricted areas and stick to the same routes between the house, the shops, kids' school, be encouraged to wander freely? London (or York, or Amsterdam, or Berlin, or Vienna!) is a vibrant, dynamic, mysterious town with epiphanies waiting around each and every corner; it is only a matter of stepping outside habitual ways of negotiating the urban space. Is it possible to cultivate a culture of walking amongst migrant women to give them a chance to meditate, to get to know the city on an individual and visceral level, to render it their own?
Working in collaboration with Day-Mer, London's Turkish/Kurdish/Cypriot community organisation, and funded by Arts Council England and Goldsmiths University Enterprise Fund, the first stage of the project has been completed. Between October 2013 and February 2014, on Sunday mornings, I organised drifts in different parts of London with Turkish-speaking migrant women, encountering unfamiliar neighbourhoods or familiar ones anew, engaging with the urban space in strange and playful ways, and creating the possibility of new experiences. Without a destination or a map, participants had the chance to choose which way to go, take their time, get lost and freely play with the streets. On alternating Sundays, I led workshops to cultivate the presence to drift theatrically: we worked on building psychophysical awareness, drew attention to the mechanisms of putting one foot in front of the other, noticed how we listen, see, breathe, and move. We investigated new, strange and playful ways of engaging bodies and voices, this time discovering unfamiliar parts of ourselves or meeting familiar ones anew.
Our journey was captured in a short documentary by filmmaker Alev Erdogan. The material generated on these Sundays was also later consolidated in an intensive composition and rehearsal period in a theatre piece which was performed by participants on International Women's Day 2014 . Between April 2014 and February 2015, the project visited other cities in the UK and Europe. In each visit a series of events involving a drift, a workshop, a viewing of the performance video and the documentary was held with local groups of Turkish-speaking migrant women. The aim was to share the process and invite women elsewhere to also walk their cities.
The results have been revealing. Participants tell us that the process of walking has brought about a renewed sense of freedom and agency. Now we would like to open up the project to all migrant women, regardless of their language or background. We would like to reach out to migrant communities elsewhere and invite migrant women everywhere to walk their cities and promote a connected culture of walking!