The presence of South Asian characters in British theatre is not the extreme rarity it once was. Whilst South Asians and people of colour more widely are still hugely underrepresented in theatre – as actors, writers, directors and in storylines – there has undoubtedly been some progress in recent years. What remains less visible, however, is South Asian characters engaging in rich discussions of history in all its complexity, from a questioning, left-wing perspective. If this is not for you, you should probably avoid playwright and Momentum activist Sonali Bhattacharyya’s Two Billion Beats, showing now at London’s Orange Tree Theatre.
by Jonathan Lee
In a small apartment in the Sancaktepe-Emek neighbourhood of Istanbul, 12-year-old Miray sits at home, trying to get her 9-month-old brother to sleep. Her other younger brother, only 3-years-old, plays on the floor. It is just past midday on a Tuesday – a school day – but Miray is at home, looking after her siblings while her mother is at work; unable to attend classes because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and unable to join her classmates remotely because of her family’s precarious financial situation.
Miray and her family belong to Europe’s largest and most discriminated ethnic minority group – the Roma – who because of centuries of persecution and exclusion often exist on the margins of society, where they are subjected to racism and poverty.
After the government’s U-turn on GCSE and A-level moderation, widespread celebration has broken out among student and teaching communities alike. But, drowned out by the cheering, a yet unsolved problem remains: the injustice and uncertainty for those taking BTECs, who have been left behind in the race to secure places at chosen further and higher education institutions.
Last week, young people across Scotland reached the end of years of schooling and were presented with their final grades. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, these results were based not on a summer exam series, but on predicted grades from teachers and subsequent moderation by examining bodies. As many as a quarter of grades were lowered, hitting working-class pupils in poorer regions and schools the hardest. Further south, A level and GCSE students are still awaiting similarly-calculated results, due for release on the 13th and 20th of August respectively. But, with individual pupils’ futures at the mercy of wildly varying school averages, the most disadvantaged students are facing even more barriers to higher education.
by Laura Potts
The TARDIS programme at Chapel Break Infant School is an exemplary example of creative education and an inspirational learning environment. For 10 years, the programme has transformed classrooms into imaginative environments for young minds to explore and develop in. TARDIS stands for ‘Thinking Arts Reflective Dialogue Imagination Studio’. The aim of its resourceful staff is to immerse the children in philosophical and creative enquiry:
‘The learning consists of the development of a range of skills, including speaking and listening, debate and discussion, a variety of thinking skills, social skills, independence of thought and action and persistence. It builds a knowledge and experience of the visual arts beyond those that can be offered within the usual classroom setting.’
by Hannah Rose
Outside Selfridges on Oxford street at 5am Boxing Day morning, a queue had already formed. The sales could not start soon enough for some shoppers. At the same time, Aleksander’s father was waking his son up. He handed him a pile of thermal underwear and a hard hat and told him to get ready so they could go and ‘explore’ the site.
“Can I really see where you are working, dad!?”
“Of course, but you will have to stay in the cabin for a while as I have some large girders to move with the crane. If you stay in there you can watch out of the window. Bring your tablet and learn some English words while you wait, ok?”
by Hannah Rose
Later that night after Aleksander and his father had eaten too much food and watched a few films, and when Aleksander was asleep on the sofa, his father switched on the tablet and opened his emails. One was from his boss, the ops manager, and had an attachment. Do I need to read this now? He thought. Better to know what that tool has to say now, than worry about it all night. The email read:
by Hannah Rose
“What do you mean you sacked my team?” Aleksander’s father said to his boss, the operations manager late on Christmas Eve when he finally called him back. “It’s the day before Christmas and we were already behind schedule.”
“Look, mate,” the ops manager said. “the pound has taken a nosedive since Brexit, and your lot were asking for double their hourly rate, and expecting a Christmas bonus.”
“ ‘Your lot’” Aleksander’s father chastised.
The ops manager didn’t hear him.
“I’ve got the Sheikh of Abu Dhabi on my back threatening to pull the whole thing and leave a bunch of half built hotels in Battersea and a whole company of British workers made redundant if I don’t balance the books and get this thing sorted. I did you a favour by keeping you on. I had to let them go and get things level again. Otherwise there might have been a mutiny—sabotage—and how would that look for you, eh?”
‘You did me a favour’ Aleksander’s father silently repeated, bitterly.
“And what about my lot who have no money to send home this month?” He asked.
“Look, mate, we have to look after our own in this post Brexit world of ours. If you get the main building looking relatively ship shape by January 1st and the Sheikh is happy then I will consider bringing the Poles back for phase 2 of the project.”
“But why at Christmas?!” Aleksander’s father was desperate.
“Well it isn’t Christmas for the bloody Sheikh, is it?—he’s an Arab!”
by Hannah Rose
The PM placed the Impact Assessment on Effects on Building Site Managers carefully down in front of her, crossed her arms and looked to her cabinet. “This Christmas,” she said, “you all have homework to do.” I’d like you to read this Impact Assessment, inside out, and all the others, by the 1st January 2018.”
“Every single one ma’am?” The minister for education said, timidly.
“Every single one,” She replied. “And don’t call me ma’am. I’m not the queen—or Margaret Thatcher, God rest her soul.”
by Hannah Rose
Christmas in England this year made a festive looking smokescreen for the dirtiest of politics. Whilst civilians were stripping the shelves of Lidl of pickles, the PM and her cabinet were negotiating terms for exiting Europe for good—no one would see them slink away through the back door. In mid December the Brexit Impact Assessments, which had taken up most of civil service’s working week throughout the year, sat in a sagging pile on the Cabinet’s round table, resembling the Christmas cake which no one actually likes but must stay there reminding everyone of the hard effort some relative put in to making it. “Who has actually read these?” the PM asks. Silence, except for the shuffle of feet. She picks up the top file between her forefinger and thumb and waves it at the men sitting around her. “Has anyone read” –she pauses to peer at the title—“’Effects on Self-employed Building Site Managers’?” The Defence Secretary coughs and offers a response.
“That isn’t my area ma’am.”
“Esteemed colleagues,” the PM says to her cabinet, not unkindly. “Brexit is everyone’s area.”