A three and a half metre tall puppet representing a Syrian girl reached Erdington High Street - after walking thousands of miles on a journey across Europe.
On Erdington High Street a massive crowd representing the diversity of the suburb cheered as the puppet turned a corner and walked into view. She was warmly welcomed with smiles and astonishment, particularly from young children.
The concept of Amal was developed from The Jungle an acclaimed play telling the stories of young refugees in a camp near Calais. The production opened at London’s Young Vic Theatre in 2017 to acclaim. Producers of the play, the Good Chance Theatre Company together with Stephen Daldry, Lan and Tracey Seaward, came up with the idea of taking a puppet across the continent to represent the plight of refugees internationally.
The name Amal means hope in Arabic. She was built by Handspring, the acclaimed company behind the puppets seen in smash hit War Horse. Eight puppeteers bring the 3.5 metre creation alive. They work in shifts to control her facial features, legs and arms.
The Cultural Development Service at Birmingham City Council joined with the Birmingham 2022 Cultural Festival (Commonwealth Games) to secure a pot of funds to deliver cultural activity in Erdington in order to welcome Little Amal to the suburb. Active Arts Castle Vale was then contracted to coordinate the socially engaging project.
Throughout the day participants were able to take part in events focussed on children’s games and play – activities included old street games, dance, music and art installations. All led by professional artists and supported by volunteers from local public, third and voluntary sector organisations.
Little Amal will now continue her travels before completing her 8,000-mile journey in Manchester on November 3.
So what did the people of Erdington think about Little Amal?
Claire Marshall, Birmingham Event Organiser. Active Arts Castle Vale:
“For me when I was asked to produce this I wanted to create something that Erdington would be proud to be part of and really special to be involved in.”
“Sometimes living in a place like this everybody expects everybody to not appreciate having a wonderful moment to think actually, will they come out for it. Everyone was like, I cant believe this beautiful international project is coming to Erdington and here we were, enjoying it. It was amazing.”
Noranne Flynn from Sutton Coldfield:
“I just think it’s a really good message to share, that we should be more accepting of refugees and more tolerant and try and support and help them wherever we can.”
Karen Baker, Artist from Erdington
“We already know that Erdington is diverse but to have something as massive as Little Amal coming here, showing people we welcome refugees, it’s amazing.”
Jack Dromey MP, Erdington Constituency:
“We are a diverse community in a diverse city and I’m proud of that. I’m proud also of our history in offering a home to people fleeing fear and oppression in their own countries. So my message to Little Amal today is welcome.”
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