Earlsfield Theatre Designated 'Official Theatre of Sanctuary'

Tara is the only theatre in London to achieve this status

Garratt Lane’s Tara Theatre. Picture: Google Streetview

August 1, 2023

Tara Theatre in Garratt Lane has been recognised for its work with refugees and communities seeking sanctuary in London. The Arts Stream of Sanctuary this summer designated Tara Theatre an official ‘Theatre of Sanctuary’.

Developed by City of Sanctuary UK and Counterpoint Arts, Arts Stream of Sanctuary is a country-wide charity which uses art, theatre and culture to welcome people seeking sanctuary in the UK.

Tara Artistic Director Abdul Shayek said, “Two years on from relaunching Tara Theatre, this recognition is truly fundamental to our impact and relationship with our local, national, and global communities.

“It shouts loud and proud that we are here, and we are offering sanctuary to those escaping challenges caused by war, climate change, sexual orientation, or political circumstances.”

Tara, which is currently the only theatre in London to hold official Theatre of Sanctuary status, specialises in creating innovative and politically charged works exploring “the complexities of our world through a South Asian lens, championing South Asian voices and artists, identifying new narratives, new ideas and new forms”.

Other organisations achieving Theatre of Sanctuary status this year include Birmingham Rep, Reading’s Rank and File Theatre and the Mafwa Theatre in Leeds.

Tara Theatre has long been committed to using theatre, artistry, and creativity to reach across social, cultural, and geo-political divides. Over the last two years it has built a relationship with CARAS (Community Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers) in Tooting. The partnership has led to weekly coffee afternoon groups for sanctuary seekers where anyone is welcome to join for food, drinks and creative activities in Tara Theatre’s studio space.

Associate Director Natasha Kathi-Chandra, who oversees the CARAS sessions, said: “As we continue to evolve at Tara Theatre, our communities grow stronger and more effective in advocating for change, representation, and a better world. To be awarded Theatre of Sanctuary is an honour and bold step in a supportive and equitable direction. Let’s keep evolving and revolutionising inclusion and access for everyone, reiterating that this is a journey not a race and remembering the power of standing united in the face of adversity. Together, we are better.”

In addition to Tara’s Caras sessions Artistic Director Abdul Shayek has, since 2020, led a programme where Tara Theatre’s work has platformed stories centred on migrant narratives, including verbatim stories from refugees and asylum seekers, as well as a consistent commitment to spotlighting voices rarely heard on London stages. These shows have included Dawaat, Silence (a co-production with the Donmar Warehouse), AMMA, Tara Theatre’s Young Company production DNA, and a mixed media exhibition called Artists Make Space.

Tara’s charitable work also includes fundraisers for women in Afghanistan, involving refugees and migrant artists alongside representatives of other leading sector organisations to raise money and awareness for the largest non-government Afghan women's rights organization in the world, ‘Women for Afghan Women’.

The team at Tara Theatre said, “We are proud to receive this vital status and hope as an official Theatre of Sanctuary we can offer peace, warmth, and community for many years to come.”

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