Gwyn Emberton: Why we are building this Raft?

September 5, 2017 by

Raft is our new dance theatre production touring throughout October 2017.

Set against a backdrop of our shifting politics and opinions of migration, five of the company’s extraordinary dancers explore a world that could be far away from home. Joined by a local cast, they question how it would be if we were the ones who had little chance of going back home, and less again of moving on to somewhere new.


Mae’n cynhyrchiad newydd, Raft, yn teithio ledled Cymru fis Hydref 2017.

Yn wyneb meddwl a barn anwadal ynghylch mudo, mae pum dawnsiwr penigamp y cwmni yn mynd i fforio byd sydd efallai ymhell o gartref. Ac ar y cyd gyda chast lleol, holant sut fyddai arnom ni petai gennym fawr o obaith dychwelyd yno a llai eto fyth o’i throi hi tuag at dir newydd.


On 2 July 2017, the Daily Mail published a news article about refugees in Calais.

The title of the piece was

“Revealed: Tragic existence of desperate migrants who hide in the Calais woods as they try to avoid police who destroy their refuge and pepper-spray teenage girls in their sleep.”

This seemed an OK title for a Daily Mail piece about refugees.

But, (there is always a ‘but’) within the first few paragraphs, the article described the refugees as ‘wild animals in a forest’ and who ‘at night this human pack sleeps in stinking squalor’.

To my surprise, it didn’t continue in this vein. It gave a ‘fairly’ open and balanced account of the situation including the refugees, the people of Calais and the drivers of lorries travelling to Britain.

Yet, the damage had already been done. The incendiary words used to describe these human beings had removed them of their humanity, had taken away their dignity and made them the Other to the reader.

Whilst I am not surprised by this kind of writing in the Daily Mail, I do, however, question if the journalist would describe his own family, friends, loved ones, neighbours in this way if the shoe was on the other foot?

It was back in 2015 that I started to question if I could make a work about the refugee crisis knowing that I felt I should. There was already incredibly powerful, beautiful and challenging work being made and from the autobiographical point of view or that looks at the reasons for and the impact of migration on refugees.

But what did I have to say about it that would be any different? Could I offer another perspective?

I can’t talk from my own experience, I have never been in this situation so how could I voice anything about the experience of being a refugee?

At what was a peak in the refugee crisis, I met two young photojournalists who had been to the ‘Jungle’ refugee camp in Calais. They wrote an article in the Independent that was very moving, honest and heartfelt and their images powerful. They had clearly been moved by what they had experienced, the things they saw and by whom they met.

Following their article is a long comments section; mostly it is full of vitriolic, spiteful and shameful language both at them as authors and about the refugees who they were writing about. These comments were written by people have hidden behind their computers purely aimed at dehumanising other people who were/are seeking and needing refuge from war and poverty; away from lives we can barely comprehend.

To me it just felt that we on this island have forgotten our sense humanity. Why? How?

David Cameron infamously described refugees and migrants as a ‘swarm’ and ‘bunch of immigrants’. Donald Trump is worse. Need I say anything about Nigel Farage?

Their language and their intentions for using it encourages us to separate ourselves from refugees and migrants. This language makes us fear them, make them even more them and less like us, less human, less, just less.

What if, we were to take stock at what we are saying and reframe it towards ourselves and the people around us? Would it be so easy to separate ourselves from them? Would we be so fearful of children or young men who need our help and refuge?


To explore the notion that our fear of others can be challenged five of our dancers will be joined by a local cast in each town in the production, Raft. By looking at ourselves through the context of otherness we attempt to understand, challenge and question both sides of the who we and they are.



Choreography/Coreograffi: Gwyn Emberton

Sound design/Dyluniad sain: Sion Orgon

Lighting design/Dyluniad golau: Aideen Malone

Stage design/Dyluniad llwyfan: Becky Davies

Dramaturge/Dramatwrg:  Lou Cope




3 / 10 / 2017 Canolfan Y Celfyddydau Aberystwyth Arts Centre

5 / 10 / 2017 Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon/Aberhonddu

7 / 10 / 2017 The Stiwt, Rhosllanerchrugog

10 / 10 / 2017 Ffwrnes, Llanelli

19 / 10 / 2017 The Riverfront/Glan yr Afon, Newport/Casnewydd

24 / 10 / 2017 The Hafren, Newtown/Drenewydd

27 / 10 / 2017 Galeri, Caernarfon

Raft is generously supported by Arts Council Wales, University of South Wales, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, UCAN productions and Creu Cymru.



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