A Refugee Voice at Fringe

By John Martin

The experiences of Eritrean refugees in the Calais refugee camp known as the Jungle is the centerpiece of a play sponsored by the Church of England at this summer’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Still Here traces the nine-day journey of a man who fled Eritrea, one of the most repressive countries in Africa. His mother and sister were imprisoned for their faith and their church was shut down.

This Christian victim of persecution told his story to playwright Rachel Partington, artistic director of the Bristol-based Theatre for Justice. She visited the camp as part of a church group delivering donations a few days before last Christmas. The play’s hero was one of several refugees she met.

His escape from Eritrea to Calais meant crossing deserts and the dangerous waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Partington says she has no idea what happened to the man after their meeting. “We were planning to go back, but the camp and the [makeshift] church were demolished. I don’t know where he is now. But I had that time talking to him and others, and now I feel a responsibility to pass on what they said.”

The play will be staged inside a tent-like shelter outside St. Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh. It is the first time the C of E has sponsored a performance at the festival.

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