Play about Roma community opens up dialogue
02 August 2022
A new production, The Stopping Place, which shines a spotlight on the challenges of exclusion and discrimination faced by the Roma community, opened to packed houses at Old Town Hall Stratford Hall.
The production has been created by Professor Dominic Hingorani of University of East London and responds to the latest attack on the Roma's nomadic way of life in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Act 2022 which criminalises trespass.
The Stopping Place put this latest assault in the context of historic persecution and features Roma singers Sindy Czureja and Niamh Bennett in its all-female cast alongside a chorus drawn from East London schools.
As part of the outreach work around the production, Dr Hingorani, Head of Music, Writing and Performance at the School of Arts and Creative Industries, worked with Ms Czureja and Ms Bennett and the Roma Bridging Sounds Orchestra, connecting them with six Newham secondary schools. Students from the schools were given the opportunity to work with the Roma artists, learning to sing in a traditional Roma style while also finding out more about the community's culture and heritage.
Among the sell-out audiences to the shows was specially invited guest Dr Laura Brassington, policy manager of the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), and author of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers: The ethnic minorities most excluded from UK education.
Dr Brassington's report reveals low levels of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers (GRT) participation in education. She found that GRT students are also significantly behind their peers; they face greater barriers to success and higher levels of discrimination.
One of the recommendations from the report is for HE institutions to acknowledge the troubled stories of GRT communities, a challenge that The Stopping Place rises to meet.
Speaking after the performance, Dr Brassington said,
The Stopping Place was a powerful production exploring the themes of identity and belonging. It was fantastic to see Roma culture and heritage remembered and celebrated, and a new generation of students learning about these hugely important issues."
The University and HEPI are now looking to work together to create joint messages to promote HE for the Roma communities.
Dr Hingorani said, "It was an honour to work with the amazing performers of the Roma musical tradition and heritage and the young women from Newham schools who made up the chorus for Brolly Productions to create the amazing show at Stratford Town Hall.
"We are extremely grateful for the support of Newham Music, Newham Council, UEL and Arts Council England and are now in discussions with HEPI, planning how we can work together going forward."
Banner image: From left to right: Interim Head of ACI Dr Natalie Garrett-Brown, Dr Laura Brassington, policy manager at the Higher Dr Laura Brassington Education Policy Institute (HEPI), Head of Music, Writing and Performance Dr Dominic Hingorani, and Brolly Production's Rachana Jadhav.
Smaller image: Dr Dominic Hingorani with the cast of The Stopping Place.
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