The journey to Be//Longing

This is a surprise project, the one you don’t expect and didn’t imagine, but then becomes a defining moment that opens a whole world of new possibilities.

Earlier this year the University’s of Manchester’s new Migration Lab got in touch with the brilliant, but ambitious, idea of using writing, theatre, and live events to ignite and inform debate in local, national and global communities to support and communicate its work. You can read more about this here.

After a good deal of thought, we decided that of course the arts are a form of communication, and why can’t we bring in some brilliant partners to collaborate and tell this important story.

Manchester Migration Lab was formed in January 2017 and brings together more than 70 researchers across the University’s Schools and Research Institutes that focus on migration issues as part of the University’s research expertise in addressing global inequalities.

We’ve worked with Hope Mill Theatre since they opened, and they have gone from strength to strength, winning awards, 5* reviews, and putting on definitive shows in a versatile and beautiful space they made themselves.

Next up, and essential to the success of the project was the inspirational Take Back Theatre collective, a company set up by actor Julie Hesmondhalgh, writer Becx Harrison and visual artist Grant Archer as an artistic response to the politics of austerity.

With the perfect team in place, and a solid comms strategy to back them up, we set about turning research into a piece of theatre.

The essential first step was to arrange a meeting of minds, orchestrating a fascinating combination of academia and creativity; a development workshop took place at Hope Studios, a rehearsal space in the Northern Quarter also part-owned by Joe and Will from Hope Mill Theatre.

There the team was joined by MML coordinator Dr Cathy Wilcock, a selection of Manchester Migration Lab researchers from across the University, in addition to the Lab’s co-convener, Dr Tanja Müller. The session opened with a showcase from Take Back, performing a selection of scenes show us what they do; and they grabbed the room with a passion that made us all realise the potential of this project.

The next step was to look at the research and stories the Lab is keen to share widely and create conversation around. We settled on the theme of ‘crossing borders’ a concept that has so much meaning, and made the decision to create a multi-media piece that looked at all types of emotional, physical and societal borders expressed in many different ways.

Take back listened hard, went away and came back with a plan… Be//Longing was born.

The immersive production will run from Tue 31st Oct –Sat 4th Nov with proceeds going to migration charities, and it will use installations, an exhibition, music and video alongside scripted theatre, to create an experience that will boldly address perceptions of migration and expose myths.

Throughout the run, Hope Mill Theatre will be completely transformed to resemble a warehouse on the edge of a border, and after making their journey to the theatre, audience members will reach an arrivals area where their tickets will be checked and processed, and they’ll cross the border to Be//Longing.

We’re now beginning our bespoke communications campaign, using specially created social channels to engage with targeted accounts on a peer to peer level whilst putting the initial story in all of the right hands.

As you can imagine, we are incredibly excited to see and promote the production. Do come and see it.

Tom x


The session opened with a showcase from Take Back… and they grabbed the room with a passion that made us all realise the potential of this project.

The journey to Be//Longing 3

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