Blog: John Tomlinson

One half of Strawberry Blonde Curls Theatre
Company blogs as he prepares to present their work to Parliament

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Hello Big Issue North readers,

Let’s get to it. We’re very excited to be able to tell you what we’re doing and you’re the people we want to tell most.

We, Strawberry Blonde Curls Theatre Company, are John Tomlinson and Rosie MacPherson. We’ve been working together for about five years now, beginning with a show at Salford Lads Club, where The Smiths made some music that changed the world. We don’t make music and we haven’t changed the world, just yet…

Next week we’re presenting a piece of work at the Houses of Parliament. The actual Houses of Parliament, Westminster. We can’t quite believe it either but, for a short time, we’re going to have the undivided (we hope) attention of the room, which will be full of MPs and key figures explaining to them what the refugee crisis really looks like and how they can change hundreds of people’s lives. It’s the most important thing we’ve ever been involved in, so believe me, we’re going to do everything we can from here on in to make sure we engage, enlighten and educate people about the work of City of Sanctuary, our partners on the project, and how we all need to fight for this. It won’t be easy.

How did we get to this? Well, we’ve always created political theatre. The work we make has always been in response to what we see in the world and how we can put it right, together, little by little. Opening up conversations is why we make theatre and they’re mostly hard-hitting dramas. We’ve been lucky to have lots of companies, venues, partners and funders who support what we do. This one is much the same, but it’s never been so real.

Tanja is a drama about a woman. She’s an individual and she stands for and represents a whole load of women who have, and continue to, suffer. Set in her room at Yarl’s Wood, this is her story, her life, her love of culture and music, her (despite everything) love of England and its quirky eccentricities, and the abuse she has suffered in her quest for refuge.

When we, including the brilliant Hannah Butterfield who we’re making the show with, take to that committee room on Tuesday, we hope you’ll be with us in spirit. We hope you tell someone about what’s going on at Yarl’s Wood and we hope you research more about the women in there and tell your MP to be there in person to listen.

Theatre is reactive in its nature. This one has a good chance to actually make a change. We’ve got a massive opportunity and we’re grateful, but we won’t rest until this is settled. We’ll make, rehearse, tour, talk and shout about it for a long time. We work in an industry of make believe, but not this – this is now, this is real. Let’s challenge the injustices experienced by women who seek asylum in the UK.

So, like a certain Mr Morrissey said, how soon is now?

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