Bradford based Common Wealth are a political theatre company who specialise in creating pieces in unusual spaces and this time they are using open sided multi story car parks to stage a new work challenging Islamophobia.
Their artistic director Evie Manning co-directs Peaceophobia along with members of Speakers Corner, who are a political collective run by women and teenage girls in Bradford.
It’s focused on the experiences of young British Pakistani men growing up in the shadow of the Bradford Riots, 9/11 and police harassment, and how their cars and faith become a sanctuary for them.
Joining the production are petrol heads from Bradford Modified Club who create bespoke high-performance cars. Instead of trained actors club members Sohail Hussian, Mohammad Ali Yunis and Casper Ahmed take to the car park to tell their own stories.
It’s written by Zia Ahmed who told our Yorkshire Editor Paul Clarke how this ambitious co-production came about.
This show was developed off the back of a particularly unpleasant racist incident so can you explain more about that?
It all came about after a couple of years ago there were leaflets put through doors and on it was ‘Punish a Muslim’ day. It was pretty horrific stuff, so off the back of that Speakers Corners wanted to do the opposite of that to have a day where it was about having pride about your faith.
So, what happened next?
The thing they ended up doing was a day outdoors as a car meet with Bradford Modified Club. They chat about cars, show off their cars and a lot of the young men wanted to do something about being into their cars. That day called Peacephobia became the show.
How did that come about?
They tied that into a show they wanted to do about young men in their community in fast cars they felt were getting stereotyped in a negative light. They wanted to combine this thing about their faith and the young men to make a show based on that.
Common Wealth tend to go for non-traditional venues for their work so where is Peaceophobia set?
It’s an outdoor show in a car park and trying to have that feeling of a car meet. If you’re into cars there’s a couple that will be there, you’ll be into. I don’t know anything about cars, I don’t drive, but there is a very weird car that is part of the show. Three British Pakistani Muslim are going to talk faith, cars and Islamophobia.
What are the three performers from Bradford and Dewsbury going to talk about?
Speakers Corner wanted to create a space for them to talk about their own experiences. As well as prejudice they talk being young Pakistani Muslim men, but also the prejudice they get from being into fast cars. They want to talk about themselves without any filters.
And presumably they will talk about their modified Supra, a Golf and a classic Nova?
There are moments where they talk about very specific cars, one might have a personal family connection to the car through elders. These cars can be associated with the loud sound of the engine, or the heavy bass of the music. On the flipside of that is their sort of geekiness in creating these cars, one of the guys can wire a sound system that’s like a Rubik Cube, so for them there’s a skill and geekiness about detail in the cars. In a way similar to a stamp collector or trainspotter in the way there is specific creativity and detail that unless you talk to them you wouldn’t understand.
What do their cars mean to them?
It’s like a canvas to them, it’s a way they find peace and the amount of time they spend on the car is an extension of their personalities, which is not shown in the media. The cars are like an extension of self.
What do you hope people will take away from Peaceophbia?
I think the boys are hoping that people will stay about for a bit and chat about the cars. It’s about people who are whole rounded characters, and the boys want to confront stereotypes about people who look like them, or drive cars like them. It’s a fun show too, and we want people to enjoy the show that is based on real experiences. This is a show that could have been done by actors, but these boys want to talk for themselves.
Peaceophobia is at Oastler Car Park until 19th September followed by six performances in Manchester from 29th September at First Street Car Park presented by Contact. To book go to https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/peaceophobia-tickets-155940362823 or https://contactmcr.com/shows/peaceophobia/