Motherland is Women for Refugee Women’s performance event, which tells the true stories of women and children who have been detained in Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre. It was first performed at the Young Vic, April 2008 and this acclaimed verbatim performance event took the stories of women and children in detention to new audiences and helped to kickstart a massive campaign against the detention of families.
Motherland grew out of a visit that Juliet Stevenson and Natasha Walter made to Yarl’s Wood detention centre, where they met children who had been locked up, among them Meltem Avcil, who was detained for three months when she was just 13.The script is a verbatim recreation of the stories of Meltem and other women and children.
It is directed by Juliet Stevenson, with Juliet and her daughter Rosalind Brody telling the stories of Meltem and her mother. Motherland first showed at the Young Vic Theatre in London in 2008. Harriet Walter, Barbara Flynn, George Irving, Nancy Tucker, Imogen Hamilton-Jones, Noma Dumezweni and Paola Dionisotti joined Juliet and Rosalind on stage. Helen Bamber and Baroness Helena Kennedy spoke after the performances.
We then took Motherland to Westminster and showed it in the House of Commons, with the support of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees. Motherland was last shown at the Bedford Civic Theatre, near to Yarl’s Wood detention centre. Patrick Hall, Labour MP for Bedford, and Alistair Burt, Conservative MP for North-East Bedfordshire, joined an audience discussion after the performance. At each performance of Motherland we have been joined by women who have been detained in Yarls Wood, including Meltem Avcil, Trude Ndagire and Yeukai Taruvinga.
Motherland signaled the beginning of a change of public consciousness about the detention of children. It was covered enthusiastically by the press, and following Motherland the New Statesman ran a campaign against the detention of children. Many prominent figures began to speak out on the issue, and other organizations then built a coalition with us that has campaigned successfully to end the detention of children.
“A passionate and intelligent work, in which Juliet Stevenson brings these stories into shocking life” Gillian Slovo, author of Guantanamo
“A powerful and deeply disturbing play that first brought to my attention the plight of the asylum seeking families locked up at Yarl’s Wood” Michael Morpurgo, author of War Horse
Motherland discussed in Parliament
Patrick Hall MP: "Public awareness [of child detention] has also been boosted by Juliet Stevenson's Motherland. I was pleased that, at my instigation, it was performed in Bedford last month to a packed Civic theatre."
Alistair Burt: "It was an extraordinary production. Juliet Stevenson and her colleagues presented a series of stories of children who had been caught up in detention, excellently and, as the hon. Gentleman has said, to a packed theatre."
Motherland in the Press
Natasha Walter describes meeting Meltem Avcil and the inspiration for Motherland, The Guardian 14 March 2008
"Try to get in to see the play Motherland," Anthony Barnett comments on Motherland, The Guardian, 11 March 2008
"Stars of British theatre, film and television will tonight turn the spotlight on what they describe as the brutal treatment of women and children seeking asylum in the UK" - Robert Verkaik describes Motherland in the Independent, 2 March 2008
"From motherhood to MMR and now refugees, Juliet Stevenson has always been pulled by passions beyond acting", The Daily Telegraph interviews Juliet Stevenson about Motherland, 18th February 2008
"Actress gives a voice to the forgotten of Yarl’s Wood" - Juliet Stevenson speaks about Motherland in the local paper, Bedfordshire, 18th December 2009
Refugee women deserve dignity. They deserve to be heard fairly. They deserve to be protected, not to find here the same situation that they escaped from.
Women for Refugee Women is an amazing charity. It serves to draw attention to the injustices of the asylum process and to point out ways in which the process needs to change.
Women who have crossed borders and faced persecution have suffered fates that we can barely imagine. A civilized country would give them a fair hearing and a chance to rebuild their lives.
I admire the work carried out by Women for Refugee Women. By telling the true stories of women and children in the asylum process they woke a lot of people up to the scandal of child detention.
Michael Morpurgo, author of War Horse
I have been delighted to support Women for Refugee Women since its launch- I've been truly inspired by the great work this organisation does, enabling women who seek asylum to speak out - whether at the grassroots or to government ministers.
The Universal rights and freedoms Liberty campaigns to protect belong to everyone -.Women for Refugee Women gives a voice to those who'd otherwise go unheard. With so many across the globe still fleeing persecution it has a vital role to play in fighting for women seeking sanctuary here in Britain
Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty
Put the word refugee in front of woman and immediately prejudice and projection arise. Meet a refugee woman, hear her struggles – and her joys – and you encounter a person, like you and me, who has been more than unlucky....
....Women for Refugee Women joins the dots, restores our humanity to ourselves and enables women to fight for theirs. Please support them.
Susie Orbach, psychotherapist and author of Bodies and Fat is a Feminist Issue
Women for Refugee Women does valuable work in telling the human stories behind current asylum policy, and shining a light on injustices in the asylum process.
Helena Kennedy QC