We've just spent a day with Chris in Ramsgate, setting up and hosting a group discussion and some 1 to 1 conversations. It's been a full day, beyond the time setting it up, and at the start I'd have to admit I felt was it really good use of time, when there's a mountain of things to do, not done and urgent. But we had a commitment and wouldn't do less than making it the best we could possibly do.
By the end of the day, it feels like a richly rewarding time, filled with provocation, hundreds of different thoughts on the notion of nationality, and also a warm feeling about people and how interesting and surprising they are - you really don't know anything until you find the time to have deeper conversations.
Fiona Campbell lent us the upstairs of Broad Street Hall and we had a mixed group of a dozen people arrive at 12.30. We had individually asked each person to take part, working to Chris's request for just a representative mix of 'people who live in Thanet'. It was important to think beyond our immediate circle, to think how we could find that representation of this isle on the edge of Kent. So there were creatives, people who were born in Thanet, people who have come to live here and people not from the UK originally.
Chris skillfully steered a 90 min discussion. It's easy for mention of, for example, immigrants, to lead off on a tangent into a whole different area, fascinating, valuable, but not the point that we're there to explore. Chris led us back to what he was there to find out, to see how Thanet would respond. I found it a privilege to listen to the stories, personal experiences and life histories of the group, from the grandparent who was a bare-back rider in a circus to the French/German children, born in England, who'd not think of themselves as British. The question of why do we need to establish our nationality. Thinking of oneself as an earthling, not defined by place. The idea of giving up your nationality and becoming stateless. Why some have to escape their homeland and establish a life elsewhere.
I don't know how Chris will distill all the discussions held across the world over many months, into one 90min (or so) play. There's to be readings at Battersea Arts Centre at the end of July and perhaps we can all go there or if lucky, have one here in Thanet. I hope all the people who gave time today will come and the play will give even more food for thought, and provoke responses undoubtedly to the idea of nationality. I can't wait. And I'm very glad that despite the pile of work, the day was given over to something that's left so many thoughts to explore and deal with. A rich day.
Suzy Humphries, co-producer, Looping the Loop
Chris Thorpe and previous work CONFIRMATION, The Guardian:
"Confirmation is no cosy Louis Theroux-style piece about meeting members of the far right."
For information about STATUS and the producers China Plate: https://www.chinaplatetheatre.com/status