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Latest News 23 May 2018

This Is Not For You

A group of injured veterans are preparing to take part in a series of epic outdoor performances this Summer to mark the centenary of the end of WWI.

The piece, entitled This Is Not For You is a Graeae Theatre Production, co-commissioned by military charity Blesma, The Limbless Veterans and 14-18 NOW, supported by Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK Branch), The Drive Project, National Centre for Circus Arts and Arts Council England.

Where to see the show?

Greenwich+Docklands International Festival || Saturday 30 June & Sunday 1 July

3pm & 7.30pm (both days). Artillery Square, Royal Arsenal Riverside, Woolwich, London SE18 4DX. Kindly supported by Berkeley Home

Stockton International Riverside Festival || Thursday 2 August 8.30pm & Friday 3 August 2.30pm & 7.30pm
Stockton High Street, Stockton-on-Tees

All performances are free to attend and are fully accessible, with creative British Sign Language and audio description. Running time 1 hour (approx.) Suitable for all ages.

This Is Not For You, part of 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary, is an epic outdoor performance paying moving tribute to Britain’s wounded war veterans, men and women whose contributions to history often go unnoticed. It chronicles veterans’ fight for respect and remembrance, told with heft, beauty and wry humour, both on the ground and off it, with audio description and sign language as integral parts of the production. Through snapshots of three Armistice Days, audiences will be taken on a journey that spans 100 years of history; this is a story of past and present sacrifices and a continual fight for respect, rights and remembrance. Through song, movement and physical theatre, the production explores the reality of returning from war that often juxtaposes with the vibrant celebrations of peace.

‘This powerful work by Graeae and Blesma puts the experiences and performance of disabled veterans centre stage. At the end of the First World War, almost one million British combatants had died, but a further two million returned home with some level of permanent disability. We are proud to commission This is Not For You as a highlight of our final 14-18 NOW season, in which we continue to engage people in the centenary of the First World War through the lens of art.’

Jenny Waldman, Director of 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary

‘To be back in a troop of like-minded people, to grow and see where we started and to where we will end we will give me back the confidence that I have lacked over that last 2 years. I can’t sit back anymore and what a way to say, “hey I’m back and raring to go.”

Performer and Blesma Member Carole King, who had her leg amputated in 2006

The production, directed by Jenny Sealey, written by Mike Kenny and performed by Members of Blesma, The Limbless Veterans, will be premiering in Woolwich as part of the Greenwich+Docklands International Festival on Armed Forces Day (June 30th) and Sunday 1st July, alongside performances in Woolwich and Stockton on Thursday 2nd August and Friday 3rd August.

Among the Blesma cast performing are amputees, wheelchair users, and those who have visual impairments and brain injuries. Some have lost limbs to IED blasts, while others have been devastated by accidents. The injured veterans have been especially trained for the piece by Graeae, (pronounced grey eye), the UK’s flagship theatre company for D/deaf and disabled artists and the National Centre for Circus Arts.

Jenny Sealey, Graeae's Artistic Director, who co-directed the London Paralympic Games opening ceremony says: ‘I look for performers who have a strength, a maverick sense, and the willingness to take a risk. These skills can help in a very interesting way in terms of their long-term rehabilitation. Blesma’s performers have a drive, resilience, and a beautiful vulnerability. The guys I’ve talked to wear their hearts on their sleeves and are very emotionally literate.’

Graeae’s vision is to fight the inequality and the lack of visibility of D/deaf and disabled people in theatre. We want to push the boundaries into the arts in general. It’s about putting D/deaf and disabled people centre stage. After injury, there are many barriers to break through to feel like a person again, and that’s why organisations like Blesma are so important.’

Blesma’s Operations Director, Ian Waller says: “In the immediate aftermath of World War I, returning soldiers who had suffered life changing injuries banded together to help each other. Wounded soldiers drew upon the spirit of camaraderie which had helped them survive the appalling conditions, extreme danger and trauma of four years of trench warfare. 100 years on it is Blesma’s duty to honour the lives lost as well as the survivors, and to carry the message forward for future generations.”

Jenny hopes that audiences will come away with a new perspective on what it means to be a soldier: ‘The show will demonstrate the extraordinariness of the human spirit, and it ends with quite a euphoric moment, with our actors saying; “Look at us."

"The more artistic side of Blesma is very successful now, and that’s because anyone can have a go”
"Some of us who would never have dreamed of doing this kind of thing when we were in the military have now got the confidence to perform and act"
"I’ d like people to remember what wounded veterans have been through a little more"

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