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‘Reimagining Human Mobility’: Teunkie Van Der Sluijs on celebrating International Migrants Day

By youngviclondon 18 Dec 2020

Interior of Young Vic auditorium with audience members before a performance


The United Nations' International Migrants Day marks the contribution by migrants to building stronger and more diverse societies. The Young Vic’s Creative Associate Teunkie Van Der Sluijs celebrates the positive impact of migration on British culture and shares his views on the interrelation between migration and theatre.  

Theatre is not created in a vacuum; it is a product – and reflection – of the society where it is made. The country, city, and in particular the two London boroughs which form the Young Vic’s home have long seen a real and visible contribution by migrants. The work on our stages has been infinitely enriched by the vision and stories of artists with a background of migration. My hope for when theatre production resumes at scale at the Young Vic and across the country, is that theatres will continue to open their houses to those who have made Britain their home, whether they are audiences or artists.  

Today, I want to amplify the United Nation’s International Migrants Day and its aspiration for the future: to re-imagine human mobility. The collective power of (re-)imagination is what unites theatre artists and audiences, too. Making change in the world starts from making a change to one’s thinking; building a different world begins with imagining one. Theatre has a role to play there: to scrutinize the world as it is, and to collectively imagine how it could be. To counter exclusionary rhetoric through offering experiences of empathy. And to be representative of the diversity of society in the stories it tells, and in who tells them.  

2020 has been a tumultuous year – for our country, for our theatre, and for our industry. However, it has also seen an increased energy to tackle the historic under-representation of various communities who form an intrinsic part of our society. So, I also want to pay homage to the efforts of institutions and individuals who advocate for a more equitable and just future for our country and for our sector, and for more representative visibility - while appreciating that there are many and complex intersections where under-represented voices meet.  

The UN recognize migration as “a courageous expression of the individual’s will to overcome adversity and to live a better life.” As we move into 2021, I couldn’t think of a better manifesto for the theatre: as a place for the courageous expression of individual will in the face of adversity.  

Teunkie Van Der Sluijs  - Young Vic Creative Associate - Photo by Sandra van Egmond Before joining the Young Vic as Creative Associate, Teunkie Van Der Sluijs worked as a freelance director in Europe, staging the award-winning Raisin in the Sun cycle of plays at Internationaal Theater Amsterdam. He worked with HOME Manchester, Orange Tree Theatre, and Het Zuidelijk Toneel; his translations and adaptations of Dutch, British and French texts have been performed across the UK and the US.
Photo by Sandra van Egmond