AS the daughter of a couple who left Sri Lanka to begin a new life in the UK, migration is a subject close to the heart of Edinburgh-based composer Niroshini Thambar.

It is why she is currently in Dublin with several other Scottish artists as part of a two-year Creative Europe funded project aimed at developing thinking, ideas and artforms within theatre and dance for children and young people.

Scotland is one of five countries, alongside Belgium, Norway, Denmark and Ireland, involved in the project which saw the first topic – gender – explored in Edinburgh last year.

The issue of overprotection was the theme for the second “laboratory” held in Belgium and migration is the topic for the current, and last, PUSH lab at The Ark in Dublin.

Before leaving for Ireland, Thambar, who creates work for theatre, told The National: “I have always been interested in issues around migration. My parents migrated to the UK so I grew up as a second-generation Sri Lankan and I am interested in the representation of diversity in society.

“Migration is very topical just now and is often seen in negative terms and as something new and contemporary, but it has been going on since the advent of human history.”

She added: “I’m at a stage in my career where I want to engage with issues of identity, and migration feels very pertinent. I am really interested to meet other artists and organisations that have interest in the topic and getting their input.”


GERALDINE Heaney is a Scottish theatre maker and film artist who has been involved in every single PUSH activity as project filmmaker.

She says it’s been stimulating to explore the three themes with artists from other countries.

“It’s been interesting and exciting to see the different cultural perspectives from the different countries,” she said. “The artists are all coming from central Europe but even in that framework there is still a range of cultural perspectives.

“All three are huge topics – there is so much depth you can go into, so many different directions you can go in and so many different ways they can be explored.

“We have not really been looking for answers. We’ve just been creating more questions, which I think is a positive thing.

“How do we explore these big issues with children and young people in a way that is respectful of them and their ideas while at the same time maybe challenging them? How do we communicate with them without pushing our opinions on them? How can we have open discussions and not be didactic in the way we talk about these topics?”


HEANEY says one of the big questions for her is how to create opportunities for young people to be able to think about these issues.

“We need to find ways of having conversations that are with young people rather than about them,” she said.

Heaney has already been exploring the three topics with the drama group for eight to 12-year-olds that she runs at Platform in Easterhouse.

“A lot of what we focused on was the identity of boys and girls and ideas such as blue for boys and pink for girls.

Some of them are really attuned to this and one of them said it’s just TV that tells you that, but we don’t think that. So they know they are being told what to think and also know how to undermine it.

“We also talked about when they felt safe and protected and how parents can be too protective. A lot of it was about the age they are allowed to do things such as when they could get a phone and when they are allowed on the internet.”


SO far Heaney has made a short film on each of the labs which can be seen on the PUSH website and she is going to make a documentary on the whole project.

“My intention is to try to broaden the conversation and involve people who have not been attending the labs but are interested in the topics. This will give them a place to start from.”

Heaney says she has already gained a lot from the project and hopes to continue collaborating with the artists she has met.

“It’s given me the opportunity to talk a lot deeper about these topics with a range of people from different countries. It’s been really exciting.”

The Dublin Lab is seeking to answer questions such as how artists can talk about migration, emigration and asylum with audiences, including minority voices, in a sector that is not yet diverse and a context that is highly political.

It will look at the role of artists in telling young people’s stories in a world where more than half of the world’s displaced people are children.

It will also look at what children in Europe understand of the current immigration crisis and how this can be explored in an age-appropriate and artistically interesting way.


QUESTIONS will be asked in the lab over the risks involved in exploring such an emotive issue as migration through theatre and dance for an audience of children and how artists can actively make their sector more diverse and inclusive to encourage artists who are telling their own stories.

“We’re really excited by this group of artists coming together from across Europe and are looking forward to seeing how their ideas, artforms and interests will inspire and challenge each other and ourselves,” said Fiona Ferguson, Creative Development Director of Imaginate, the Edinburgh-based organisation which instigated and has been leading the PUSH project.

Imaginate is the national organisation in Scotland which promotes, develops and celebrates theatre and dance for children and young people.

Ferguson added: “Dedicated time to think intensively about a topic with people from different cultures and points of view is extremely valuable and can result in really interesting new collaborations or projects.”