Article by Katie Condon (UWC Atlantic College ’13-’15)
On Saturday the 11th of October, the Amnesty Street Theatre team and a group of volunteers armed with petitions and posters took to the streets of Cardiff. Their aim was to raise awareness of the discrimination that the LGBT community face across the world, and more specifically, the plight of Ihar Tsikhanyuk. Being an openly gay rights activist from Belarus, he was beaten, mocked and interrogated by the police last year on the basis of his sexuality.
The Amnesty Street Theatre activity, led by Catrin Harris (Wales) and Lucy Miles (UK) created the piece in 6 rehearsals, using theatre to inspire the public to sign the petition. Each performer wore a black t-shirt with a coloured t-shirt underneath. As the piece progressed, the performers pulled off their black t-shirts to reveal their colour, creating the LGBT rainbow at the end of the piece. They tried to convey the fear and terror that the gay community face, whilst also sending a message of empowerment. Students from Nigeria, Iran and Pakistan shared insights into the situation in their own country. The power of love, identity and acceptance was emphasised. One performer, Noam (Israel), cited her favourite part of the pieces as “the beginning when it showed how society rejects people who are different. It was a truthful reflection of society.”
They performed the piece several times along Cardiff Queen Street, the central shopping street of the city, receiving reactions of support, shock, disgust, humour and interest. Ciara (Ireland/France) was one of the students collecting signatures for the petition: “A lot [of people] were actually quite opposed to the idea when I mentioned we were protesting for gay rights. Some reacted by saying, “Oh God no!” But the highlight was meeting people who were supportive and approached us for more information. I guess it showed me that people are interested and they do want to see a change.”
Last year, students within the activity created a piece defending women’s rights in Afghanistan. Catrin continued the activity this year, because she realised that you “should always try and achieve change through something enjoy: ‘Enjoy the process and not just the outcome.’” It is an exciting way to captivate the attention of the public, raise awareness and incite interest in a cause.
Atlantic College students will continue performing street theatre to speak out for human rights and will create a theatre piece to open the Middle Eastern Conference in November.
In total, the petitioners managed to collect 670 signatures. The petitions will be sent to the General Prosecutor in Minsk, the capital city of Belarus, calling for an investigation on the case in order to bring the perpetrators of Ihar’s abuse to justice. For more information, check out Amnesty’s page on the campaign: http://www.amnesty.org.uk/justice-ihar-tsikhanyuk-beaten-police-being-gay-belarus#.VDqSVBaJtiZ
By: Katherine Condon (UK) ’13-’15