Shannon Mulvey unpacked her bag on December 14, 2016 by the oak tree on the River Lee at the border of Hackney Wick and Stratford London, in the frame of “Misplaced Women?” performance workshop in the public space lead by Tanja Ostojić, hosted by LADA.
While discussing the experiences and issues of displacement of our workshop collective, I began to remember a story that my mother had told me of my grandparents’ assimilation into British culture and their experience of xenophobia. My grandparents on both sides immigrated from Ireland at the age of 16. Reflecting upon my 16 year old self, I could not have even conceived leaving home never mind immigrating. Yet all of my grandparents left their small villages in rural south west Ireland to seek a better life across the water in the UK. Shortly after arriving in the UK they were welcomed by signage clearly stating “no blacks, no Irish, no dogs” on nearly every tenement building and work place. With opportunities lacking, it was desperate times but my grandmother managed to find a small room in which she and her husband could stay. The only rule was no children. Hiding her pregnant stomach, Eileen accepted the room and continued to keep her now heavily pregnant stomach under wraps. A few months later, my uncle Michael was born. However, Michael was fully deaf and suffered from colic which caused him to scream loudly with the pain of the infection.
Trying desperately to protect her livelihood and save her family from being thrown out onto the streets of London mid-winter, Eileen tried desperately to calm her distressed child.
It was no time before the land lady; who was also Irish but had immigrated years before, found out about the child and threw the family out onto the streets.
Although Eileen and Paddy felt abandoned and alone in a new country, they knew they could always rely on the help of one thing- the generosity of the Irish community who had immigrated alongside them and become kind hearted friends throughout the process. A friend they had met on the boat over offered them a place to stay and soon they began to settle back into London life.
It saddens me that this story was reminded to me by the shared stories of xenophobia and mistreatment of immigrants discussed within our “Misplaced Women?” workshop. It is documented that the recent rise of racist attacks occurring within the UK took place immediately following the UK’s Brexit vote determining the country’s’ decision to leave the EU. I think it is a vital point in history in which to take action and challenge this racist rhetoric that is being promoted and to take pride in our mission as artists to make work that recognises and resists racist prejudice.
As a theatre maker, it was a truly enriching experience to be able to work collaboratively with such talented artists and to be inspired and informed by their vast and varied processes and modes of thinking and creating; which is a pedagogy I have not encountered thus far in my training as a performer. It was absolutely wonderful working with Tanja Ostojić.
Shannon Mulvey has been trained on the American Theatre Arts course at Rose Bruford drama school. Whilst studying she spent an exchange semester in Chicago where she worked professionally with the avant-garde, experimental theatre company Trapdoor Theatre. After graduating in June 2016 and receiving a first class degree, she founded the theatre company Sisters of Eden, a feminist performance collective that makes work that challenges patriarchal, hetero-normative ideologies and celebrates the female form.
Check them out on:
Twitter &Instagram: @Sistersof3den
Facebook: Sisters of Eden