After a sold-out tour in autumn 2022, the journey of Quiet Rebels in the community continued in Hackney, our London home, where the spark for young people’s storytelling was firstly ignited with Creative Futures’ artists at Hackney Empire.

Drawing inspiration from the research and stories unearthed in the theatre play, writers / directors of Quiet Rebels, Julie McNamara and Hassan Mahamdallie, led a programme of weekly creative workshops with and for young people at Hackney Quest, a local youth organisation.

Together with young people they explored ways to search and discover forgotten stories in their families and community, remember and celebrate people that have shaped Hackney’s history and what this means to them.

Guest facilitators Awate, Musician / Composer, and Deni Francis, Actor / Improviser, who had been involved in the development and the tour of Quiet Rebels, added their unique touch with creative approaches to storytelling.

Read more about the Quiet Rebels’ journey with Hackney Quest’s young people and their legacy: a song and music video of their own!

It’s been a year since we toured Quiet Rebels across England along with our co-producing partner, Dervish Productions.

The journey continues this autumn with a series of creative workshops with and for young people at Hackney Quest, a local youth organisation, led by the writers / directors of Quiet Rebels, Hassan Mahamdallie and Julie McNamara.

Drawing inspiration from the research and stories unearthed in the theatre play, young participants have been exploring ways to search and discover forgotten stories in their families and community, remember and celebrate people that have shaped Hackney’s history and what this means to them.

The group recently spent time at Hackney Museum, delving into the current exhibition At Home in  Hackney and the Block by Block display – and even re-enacting life in small local businesses, such as a barber shop.

Group of people in a museum being briefed by staff. Framed pictures hang on the walls behind them.

Hackney Quest group visit to the Hackney Museum. Photo by JulieMc.

The three photos in the banner above show moments from the group’s visit: three young participants re-enact a day at the barbers’, two members of the group closely examine a big replica of the Holly Street Estate flats and one of the young participants is about to become a chef as he puts on his chef’s hat.

A big thank you to Museum’s staff generosity during the visit a space that is ‘huge nourishment for creative minds seeking out stories’, in the words of JulieMc.

The workshops were made possible  with The National Lottery Heritage Fund, with thanks to National Lottery players.

Photo of the diverse creative team at The Albany Featuring, clockwise from left: Theresa Veith and Simon Startin (Vital Xposure staff), Stephen Rudder (filmmaker), JulieMc McNamara and Hassan Mahamdallie (writers), Deni Frances, Charlie Folorunsho and Fiona Whitelaw (actors). Photo credit: Isobel Hawson.

Team photo at The Albany Featuring, clockwise from left: Theresa Veith and Simon Startin (Vital Xposure staff), Stephen Rudder (filmmaker), JulieMc McNamara and Hassan Mahamdallie (writers), Deni Frances, Charlie Folorunsho and Fiona Whitelaw (actors). Photo credit: Isobel Hawson.

It is our turn to share the joy of being back in a room after all these months and make theatre!

Earlier this autumn the R&D team met at The Albany for a rehearsed reading of the script.

In the meantime, Stephen Rudder has added his magic touch to the play’s journey by creating a visual and aural sense of dystopian future and the underground world where the action takes place in. A new trailer, edited by Mohammed Ali, offers a glimpse into the stories that will come to life on stage next year.

Read more about White Pariahs: Quiet Rebels

Disability History Month 2020: Julie McNamara pays tribute to beloved comrades of the Disability Arts Movement

 

Two images against a dark orange background. Image one: Magazine cover of Disability Arts in London - DAIL on its 10th celebration in 1996. The cover features a portrait photo of the late Chris Ledger. Image two: a poster of the Workshouse Cabaret by the London Disability Arts Forum, late 1980s

Magazine cover of Disability Arts in London – DAIL on its 10th celebration in 1996 featuring the late Chris Ledger (left). Poster of the Workhouse Disability Arts Cabaret by the London Disability Arts Forum, late 1980s (right).

 

My friend woke up in an Intensive care ward with DNR written over her head. DNR, Do Not Resuscitate. Before we left that unit, we’d ripped it off the wall and stuck a picture of a well -groomed male in Highland kilt, blowing up over his pert naked and very fulsome arse with the words NOT DEAD YET! scrawled underneath.

We have to push back.

How swiftly our humanity has been reduced to statistics. Disabled and Deaf people, now neatly parked aside as “the vulnerables” and “those with underlying conditions” are literally left off the agenda in the latest hard decisions in budgets squeezed together by this government’s drive towards economic recovery. Left off the agenda and erased entirely, if you’re Deaf and need British Sign Language interpretation – still missing from our national daily Coronavirus briefings! Meanwhile we are dying in numbers too great to grasp. We have barely time to dust ourselves down from the one brutal funeral to another with scant numbers of mourners being herded through like sheep at the dip to gaze briefly upon a closed casket with little ceremony. I have attended four funerals on Zoom (detached but desperately grateful to be able to see familiar faces touching the coffin, or playing that tune) and three quiet gatherings with candles aflame, stories and songs in the empty room about us. It has been tough, but where there is breath, there is hope. And sometimes we might feel we are drowning in tears, fighting for our very breath, so we shield each other, we gang together, those who can take the frontline today take the lead. Those who are weary and worn down, sit back awhile, turn your face towards the wind, the sun, the stars, the smell of the earth. If living on the 17th floor without a lift makes that too tough, go deep into your imagination and dream. They cannot take our dreams away. Hope is what we do with our despair.

For those of us who have lost precious souls these past few months…

I appeal to my slapper angels, to the mighty women who have gone before me, who held me up in this lifetime, to the powerful fallen women at the grave of the Outcast dead. And when I am utterly unravelled, I ask:
Do you carry your dead within you or upon you?

Born between two dead sisters, Shirley Josephine and Linda, I have been acquainted with death my entire life. I still carry them with me. But the past is for reference, not for residence. I am cautious how many times I cross between the veils.

October 30th two years ago I was digging my mother‘s grave, my youngest sister watched with the casket holding her remains. A gravedigger with long hair in a silver plait, with a tightly rolled joint stuck to his lip, watched over me. “Don’t worry, the ground’ll settle with the weather”, I don’t know why I was affronted. My Mother wasn’t there. She wasn’t there when I laid her out and kissed her goodbye. She is out there somewhere, but not here, not in this clay soil. So, I jumped, danced, and pounded the ground beneath me. He watched unmoved by this Banshee, with the wounded animal that had crept beneath my skin.

Do you carry the dead within you or upon you?

Some of those ashes have been to Australia, Los Angeles and finally to the South Shore, Belfast Lough, Bangor – that’s the North of Ireland, not the Welsh one. Shirley McNamara was one of Chris Ledger’s favourite rebels and became her poster girl for Arts and Biscuits, University of Atypical’s creative hub and hang out café for people with Alzheimer’s. So, her ashes accompanied Chris Ledger on to the next great adventure.

Some of Chris’ last words to me speak volumes about the business of dying. She asked: “What the hell have you done to your hair?” I told her, “It’s a Covid cut, DIY…I did it myself”. “I can see that!” she said disapprovingly and turned to more important matters like where was Louise, her wife. Chris and me have known each other in arts and activism for over 30 years, and I am reeling at the loss of her. Where is she? That bolshy, wise, generous, soul with such a mischievous sense of humour, such a distinctive laugh that rolled from the belly upwards. The high femme punk queen of fifties fashion and ferocious red lipstick is nowhere to be seen.

Do you carry your dead within you or upon you?

Was it Caroline Gooding’s fault in 2014, she always led the way with her bright mind picking through the minutia of legal challenges to create the Disability Discrimination Act legislation back in 1995. I blamed Sophie Partridge for a while, Sophie who fought so hard to keep the Independent Living Fund, before it was grabbed by the government under the guise of reform. Sophie it was who made me stay and sit in on the debates at Equity’s Disability and Diversity meeting. “Stay here JulieMc, I need you here.”. “Well, I’m here Soph, where the hell are you?” Sophie started this bleeding out of our warriors of the Disability Arts sector.

I thought Katharine Araniello would go on for ever. I will miss that deliciously bitter humour, the sheer brilliance of her ingenious creative mind. She was a prolific activist and artist, determined to disrupt the complacency of the creative industries. There was a time, back in the early 2000s when our people were leaving in droves. I was distraught with grief. I lost my mind, my home and any sense of dignity.

Ian Stanton, a beloved comrade and giant of the movement. We were constantly thrown together on the same bill, the same shabby chic hotels, the same penchant for politics late into the dark after a show. We both loved Ian Dury whom we’d worked briefly with on the Poor Dear series that Sian Vasey had produced for the BBC’s Disability Programmes Unit. Ian Stanton was a hero of the Disability Arts Movement, writing some of the best anthems of our time. He left the stage too soon leaving our Audrey utterly bereft. Where are you now, out there somewhere still singing Tragic but Brave? Chip on Your Shoulder? And then you dragged Ian Dury off with you. That was just greedy. And I do believe the dead get greedy. They eat away your breath, sit hard upon your chest while your heart fights for every beat. We have lost so many giants of the movement, where do we begin to weave again, the web that holds us up?

Mike Oliver who helped reform institutionalised thinking, challenging charities and the medical profession with his concept of a Social Model of Disability, working constantly for change, for equal rights for Deaf and Disabled people that has had a lasting and far reaching international impact.

Do you carry your dead within you or upon you?

We have lost too many mighty souls who blazed the trail in Disability Arts these past few months. Sian Vasey gave me my first job in Disability Arts at London Disability Arts Forum. She was an unexpected rebel on her Queenly throne. I admired her constant wry comments, occasional caustic remarks and absolute refusal to take “No” for an answer, giving that steely eye and a stern reminder: “I am relying on you Julie McNamara!” She was flawed, like the rest of us, and I still giggle at the memory of her rolling around the pavement after a night on red wine, having fallen out of her chair outside Barbara Lisicki’s place. Those were the days when the coven would gather and brew trouble, the gang of four with Elspeth Morrison and Mandy Colleran frothing at the latest atrocities in human rights violations. We were planning the revolution and we almost pulled it off. Now Sian has wheeled off the stage, tugging on Geof Armstrong, whose activism goes right back to the 80s when National Disability Arts Forum was spawned. Geof who agitated and activated so many disabled artists in the North, now gone too suddenly.

How do we begin to address our losses? In 2012, well over 60 million people worldwide witnessed David Toole, fly high into the air across the Olympic Stadium, gracefully moving his powerful arms with extraordinary lightness as he flew to Bird Gurl? Dave, we hope you are celebrating with a copious supply of bubbles as you fly on and ever onward. Dave, the straight talking, Curmudgeon, grumpy old’ Yorkshire bloke whose dreams reached the stars, who broke the mould in contemporary dance and taught us all to fly.

Do you carry your dead within you or upon you?

We nurse the souls we’ve lost like ghosts within, inhabiting every room. We can light candles for those we honour, echoing their names. We can offer thanks and prayers of remembrance and speak in hushed voices while we speak of those we’ve lost. When truly what we want to do is bawl and rage in disbelief. We are bent but not broken. We are weary, but we won’t give in. No surrender.

Remember our slogan: NOT DEAD YET!

We carry our dead within us, deep into our bones.

In autumn 2019  we undertook a research  and development period of White Pariahs, unearthing the hidden stories of white working class women who crossed the ‘colour line’, and fell in love with, or married Black men.  This was the beginning of an exciting collaboration with Dervish Productions that brought two innovative artists and theatre writers in the same room: Hassan Mahamdallie (Writer / Dervish’s Artistic Director) and Julie McNamara (Writer / Vital Xposure’s Artistic Director).

Following the R&D in 2019, Hassan and Julie continued to develop the work towards a new theatre production entitled White Pariahs: Quiet Rebels. They decided to call the protagonists of the real-life stories ‘quiet rebels’ because they found them to be both ordinary and extraordinary individuals, self-effacing and courageous at the same time.

As we entered one of the strangest period of recent times, a global pandemic in spring 2020, the team shifted to new, digital ways of working and sharing, with the support of renowned, Birmingham-based digital artist Mohammed Ali of Soul City Arts.

Navigating through online platforms of remote collaboration, the two writers brought the story forward to 2028, in a dystopian future where the glaring figure of Enoch Powell dominates, and Racial Purity Laws now control our communities. In part, Julie and Hassan wanted to show that history does not always go forward, sometimes it is thrown backwards, and our hard-won gains are erased. They also experimented with their own script writing, tackling the question how to translate the live theatre experience into online platforms, that have become the new, but so different, theatre stage during  the pandemic.

You can watch a short trailer of the Online R&D to get a flavour of the work produced (click play below):

Two online sharing events of the second phase of the ongoing Research and Development took place on Zoom in July and August 2020. The team used these events to test the story and ask questions about audience’s live engagement with the subject matter through online platforms. Thanks to the digital wizardry of Mohammed Ali, the creative team also pushed Zoom’s boundaries for creativity and the aesthetics of access within this work.

Below are a few screenshots from the online sharing:

We were amazed by the responses received by our critical friends and the insightful feedback towards future steps:

“That was the most powerful experience I have had on Zoom yet. Such creative use of the platform.”

“I’m so impressed with the experimentation with zoom and pushing its (desperately annoying) limits, and I’m also fascinated to see what you take from here into next format (post-Zoom?). I also was mostly grasped by the moments when I could really focus on the story and feel more emotionally connected.”

“I really like the futuristic thread you’re weaving into the story,  it allows past present and future to coexist in parallel. A strong reminder to the viewer that times change but the human condition often remains the same.”

“This kind of dystopian drama is frightening, as it’s not too distant from reality, or possibility.”

“I enjoyed the experimentation with the zoom format, both for its filmic qualities and its potential to comment on history and archiving.”

“I thought the way the read was tailored to Zoom (really engaging with the form, rather than ‘merely’ being on Zoom out of necessity) such a refreshing change from many other things I have seen recently.”

“I thought using the detective/narrator character as a form of integrated audio description in this setting was extremely inventive.”

“Wonderful textures, I was transported, ethereal but real point in time. The interplay of BSL positioning was too good. It felt dystopian! Yes!”

“So different to watch on this platform, chilling, confronting, well done!”

“Audio describing was on the point…well done”

 


Creative Team (Second R&D 2020)

Researchers / Writers / Directors: Hassan Mahamdallie and Julie McNamara

Digital Arts Director: Mohammed Ali, Soul City Arts

Actors / Researchers: Charlie FolorunshoDeni FrancisFiona Whitelaw

Actor / BSL Interpreter: Clare Edwards

Movement Consultant: Jeanefer Jean-Charles

Project Producer: Isobel Hawson


A creative partnership between Vital Xposure, Dervish Productions and Soul City Arts.

The second phase of Research and Development was supported by Arts Council England and City Bridge Trust.

White Pariahs: Quiet Rebels will be further developed towards a national tour in 2021 -2022.


For further information about the project  please send us a message using our online enquiry form. Alternatively, drop us an email, give us a call on 020 8123 9945 or send us a text (SMS / WhatsApp) on 074 3242 18253.

In autumn 2019  we undertook a research  and development period of White Pariahs, unearthing the hidden stories of white working class women who ‘crossed the colour line’, and fell in love with, or married Black men. The women risked hostility from wider society and often from those closest to them, to defy convention, cross the colour-line and marry men from the colonies. These ‘White Pariahs’ of the 50s, 60s and 70s demonstrated rebellion, defiance and courage in the face of racism and class and gender prejudice.

A new thrilling collaboration with Dervish Productions, that has brought together two creative forces to make this ground breaking work, Hassan Mahamdallie (Writer / Dervish’s Artistic Director) and Julie McNamara (Writer / Vital Xposure’s Artistic Director).

 

Hassan and Julie collected testimonies from mothers, partners, fathers, husbands, wives and children – all of whom have their own stories to tell.  They invited  3 superb actors with lived experience of dual heritage families to work with the team: Fiona Whitelaw, Charlie Folorunsho and Deni Francis.

The initial exploratory work took place at Brady Arts Centre and The Albany, where the team presented the work in progress before an audience of critical friends and peers.

Tender and moving stories emerged, telling of women, men and children of mixed relationships, who faced hostility from the wider society, often from those closest to them. Ostracised by their own communities, suffering abuse and battling discrimination, the stories showed their defiance and courage in the face of racism, class and gender prejudice. These moving stories revealed extraordinary survival and lasting, loving relationships.

Photos from the research period at Brady Arts Centre. Credit: Rehan Jamil

 

The sharing event at the end of the R&D was followed by a discussion session, with a vibrant room filled with people keen to respond to the questions raised in the piece.  We are grateful to everyone who joined us on the day, the Q&A could have lasted all evening!

“I love the way it is fluid and ambiguous in the script. I love the relevance of this piece. We need this work now! Great work in progress. Vital work.”

“Thought-provoking, poignant, inspiring. Love the richness of the stories against the bleakness of the wider political structures that prop up racism. Disheartening to realise we are moving into the same kind of racial politics again.”

“Great story-telling, would love to see more. So much history that speaks to today. It’s made me realise I need to stop being passive. Thank you.”

“Beautiful show – telling important stories really humanely. Interesting to talk more about white women entering BME communities.”

“Very powerful. Much needed. Good having both African-Caribbean and Asian mixed stories.”

 

 

Photos from the sharing event at The Albany Credit: Rehan Jamil

 


Creative Team (First R&D 2019)

Researchers / Writers / Directors: Hassan Mahamdallie and Julie McNamara

Assistant Director: Simon Startin

Designer: Khadija Raza

Project Producer: Isobel Hawson

Actors / Researchers: Charlie FolorunshoDeni FrancisFiona Whitelaw

Historical Consultant: Professor Hakim Adi

Movement Consultant: Jeanefer Jean-Charles

Photography: Rehan Jamil

Filming: Mohammed Ali

BSL Interpreter: Audrey Simmons

Photo of the Creative Team involved in the R&D (from left to right): Fiona Whitelaw, Hassan Mahamdallie, Charlie Folorunsho, Isobel Hawson, Khadija Raza, Simon Startin, Julie McNamara and Deni Francis.

White Pariahs R&D Creative team. Photo by Rehan Jamil


The Research and Development stage of the project was supported by Arts Council England , City Bridge Trust and The Albany.

The research will feed into our the next stage of development in 2020 and the future theatre production of White Pariahs: Quiet Rebels (touring nationally in 2021-22).


For further information about the project or to enquire about the tour in Autumn 2020 please send us a message using our online enquiry form. Alternatively, drop us an email, give us a call on 020 8123 9945 or send us a text on 074 3242 18253.

In summer 2019 we collaborated with poet, playwright and performer, Tanaka Mhishi on the development of his extraordinary new work, a visceral excavation of the impact of sexual assault on young men, entitled This is How it Happens.

The work aims to shine a light on the hidden everyday of the many different men living in the wake of sexual violence, as they navigate love, health, sex, work and fatherhood.

The creative development days at Chats Palace in late August culminated in an intimate sharing of four stories inspired by lived experiences, charting a journey from deep in the forests of trauma out to the clean air of hope, visibility and recovery. Tanaka presents the process below in his own words:

“I had the great pleasure this summer of partnering with Vital Xposure on a short R&D of This Is How it Happens, a semi-autobiographical show exploring men’s experiences of surviving sexual violence.

I began the first drafts of This Is How it Happens in late 2014, ten months after being sexually assaulted. Since then it has been waiting, quietly and patiently, for the right team; for a community which could support me as both an artist and a survivor. So many discussions around abuse and harm are happening in the light of #MeToo, but I knew that if I were going to pursue this project I would have to do it in the safest, most nourishing way- for both me and the audience.

Vital Xposure have been there every step of the way and I found myself constantly astounded by their patience and support. Putting together this stage of the project taught me a lot about my own capabilities and limits and I don’t mind admitting that I both over- and underestimated myself in certain roles. Julie McNamara and the rest of the Vital Xposure team handled all this with aplomb, whether it was coaching me through a pre-show mental health dip or helping out when I was quivering over spreadsheets.

We finished the three day development process with a small showing. It’s difficult to believe how uplifting it was to share difficult material like this with an audience, to find them willing to process and parse it, to hear the increasingly enthusiastic engagement in our Q&A afterwards. And I marvelled at how emotionally supported the performance itself was. It set a benchmark for the next steps.

I am so privileged to be have worked with a group capable of weaving passion and compassion together so seamlessly.

And as for the next steps? Watch this space.

Tanaka Mhishi”

 

 

We were thrilled to be involved in this process and it has been a privilege to work alongside Tanaka on this piece of work.

The intimate sharing event offered some touching responses from attendees which have positively fuelled us for the project’s future steps. We are sharing some of these responses below:

“Very powerful, intense piece! Well done!”

“It provided the insight of the inner world also how the trauma was played externally.”

“Becoming aware of the silence of this issue, the lack of narrative in media on this.”

“It was important to tell the impact beyond the assaults.”


R&D Creative Team

Writer / Performer / Lead Artist: Tanaka Mhishi

Director: Julie McNamara

Movement Consultant:  Imogen Butler-Cole

Photography: Copy to the Writer Photography

 

The Research and Development stage of the project was supported by Arts Council England and City Bridge Trust.