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Good Chance Theatre's work continues: art works, it really does

Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson reflect on the past of their work and the different incarnations of Good Chance Theatre since its beginning in Calais in 2015

Good Chance
©Raphael Hilarion

Good Chance began without a name. It was, at the very beginning, a few people sat around a camp fire in a refugee camp in Calais, sharing stories about each other's lives. We were two of those people, and the rest were young men and women from a number of different countries across the Middle East and Africa.

Camp fires in Calais weren't just to keep warm. They were also places to share and learn about each other. Sharing and learning was a way to get through.

Good Chance then very quickly became 500 poles that we intended, with the help of residents of the camp, to fit carefully together to create a theatre. As soon as we'd built it – and we really did need all the help we could get – we all named it. A good chance, some of the residents said, was the hope to get to the UK. This theatre, this Good Chance Theatre, could be our hope while people waited to get there.

We danced and sang that night more than any other night we've had in our lives. Forgive us if we sound hyperbolic, but it's the truth. That night, for ourselves and for the hundreds of people who experienced it, was amazing. It quickly became a measure for us, of how amazing something has to be in order to be of use in such unforgiving times.

Since then, we've built many theatres in Paris, London and New York. A strange collection of places, for sure, but each with the common thread that wherever we have gone we have landed in places where different communities are living together. We've built five theatres in Paris in the last two years, starting outside the city and gradually, insistently moving into the centre, and in each place we have attempted to use art to provide introductions between refugee and migrant communities and those communities who have lived there for a long time.

Good Chance
©Raphael Hilarion

That's been the heart of our work in Coventry over the last six months, a city bustling with different cultures, new and old. This week we're building the original dome from Calais in the centre of the city to celebrate that work. It will unite friends we first met back in Calais in 2015 with new friends from Coventry and around the world, and with an open invitation to everyone to come and make their voices and stories heard. We feel that communal spaces like this, which welcome and involve everyone who enters, are more needed now than ever.

Turns out, art works. Don't be embarrassed to say so. It really does. Today is World Refugee Day, and as a group that has always worked with refugees, we know that art has a special ability to pick away at words that stand as grand, dull, misleading signs: Refugee! Migrant! Borders! All completely understandable words on first sight, but all with a sea of deeper meanings beneath them.

Art doesn't do groups. It doesn't really believe in them. It likes to know who you, as an individual, are. World Refugee Day is about uniting around an essential concept, that everyone has an individual responsibility to help those in need. It is not actually about refugees. It is about everyone.

We've got a Good Chance to do that now. That's why we ended up with this name.

Good Chance will be presenting a day-long arts extravaganza called Dome in a Day in Coventry on Saturday 22 June from 11am.

Good Chance is looking for Coventry-based artists from all over the world and from all disciplines to perform and share their art at Dome in a Day. To apply, email: [email protected]