SUBJECTED to a racist rant from a random passer-by, 17-year-old Laiqa Umar at first attempted to shrug it off. It wasn’t the first time she had been racially abuse, but it came out of the blue in the middle of Edinburgh and made her realise she was still seen by some as an “outsider” even though she was born in Scotland.

“He was really abusive, calling me really horrible things and mocking the way I look,” said Umar, who is Muslim and wears a headscarf.

“The people I was with were really angry but I said, ‘leave it, it’s fine, I’m used to it’.

“That got me thinking that it was not something I should be used to. Why should I be used to something so horrible? Racism shouldn’t even be a thing any more.”

Umar’s experience is now part of a searing new production, A Bit of Bite, by award-winning company Junction 25 which began a run at Tramway in Glasgow on Tuesday and continues until tomorrow night.


A BIT of Bite is possibly the most topical performance ever staged by the group. It explores the role of young people in contemporary politics and the power and responsibility that comes with having a voice and using it.

“The last few years have been such an exciting and urgent time in Scottish politics and the voices and opinions of young people have really started to matter and be heard in a totally new way,” said co-artistic director Jess Thorpe. “A Bit of Bite is our attempt to respond to this moment in history and to delve deeper into how young people feel about their role in the world of politics and about having a voice and knowing how to use it.”

Eleven years old this summer, Junction 25 was founded by Thorpe and Tashi Gore, both Royal Conservatoire of Scotland graduates who wanted to work closely with young people and communities.

Then the company has won friends and audiences not only in Glasgow and across Scotland, but in London, Norway, and Brazil, where it presented workshops based on its show Anoesis, about exam anxiety.


ACCLAIMED by critics for productions such as From Where I Am Standing, about teenagers and their parents, and I Hope My Heart Goes First, about life, love and the body, Junction 2 won recognition from Critics’ Awards for Theatre in Scotland (CATS) for “outstanding achievement in pioneering and high-quality work by young people”.

The judges said: “Over the last decade, Junction 25 at the Tramway has won a richly deserved reputation as one of the finest youth theatre companies currently working in Europe.

“It creates theatre that is made to reflect the thoughts, ideas and preoccupations of the young people who form the company, yet is also shaped by directors Jess Thorpe and Tashi Gore into beautiful, world-class performance, often featuring superb light, sound and movement.

“Some of the young people involved in the company want to make careers in theatre, others do not; but all of them are passionately involved in creating theatre that gives audiences a chance to hear the voice of a generation – strong, passionate, funny, often unexpected, and always as inventive as it is challenging.”


JUNCTION 25 is currently made up of 20 young people aged from 12-18, who take part in weekly workshops at Tramway. As with previous shows, the young people chose the subject matter for A Bit of Bite then explored it further through workshops.

“It’s a collage of different opinions structured into performance pieces that the audience come and experience,” explained Gore. “It’s all about politics, protest and young people and using their voice. It asks how you use your voice and how you understand politics – not just party politics but everything from the biggest, broadest vision to personal politics. They talk a lot about how politics affects them personally; how your circumstances are political and how your actions can be political.

“We found they were really interested in the EU referendum and the American presidential race with everything that is happening with Donald Trump.

“We want every opinion to be heard and valued and we tried hard for that to be within the process so that we did not come down on any side. The piece as a whole does not back one particular party.”


THE themes that have come to the fore are education, testing and exam pressure, the health service and how people can make a difference in the world.

“There is the idea of hope in what feels like a very tricky time in terms of the future of the world and Scotland,” Gore said. “Then there is the ‘media-isation’ of politics – we use two screens and a live camera to highlight that. There is a lot of satire in it which is interspersed with very personal speeches about the world they experience.”

Umar says it is a “brilliant” show and particularly relevant on the eve of the EU vote and in the run-up to the American election.

“It does make you think and it gives an idea of how young people see things – it is a way to get people to listen to what matters to us,” she said.


THIS the third Junction 25 performance Umar has been involved with. She was encouraged to go along to the workshops after meeting Thorpe and Gore when she took part in the successful community-led Albert Drive project in Pollokshields.

“I got the shock of my life when I first went along as I didn’t realise it was a performance group, but it has turned out to be a great opportunity for me,” Umar said.

“It has helped my confidence greatly and given me a voice for my opinions. It’s not something I would have been involved in had I not been asked to join – I didn’t even realise it was part of Tramway which is so local to us.

“It’s a brilliant way to meet new people and if you don’t want to continue with drama it is still a good thing to do as it greatly helps your confidence and gets you out of the house as well.”

Junction 25’s A Bit of Bite is produced by Glas(s) Performance and is on at Tramway until tomorrow. There will be a post-show discussion tonight.