Archive for February, 2012

Author: James Shilton - Photographer & Film Maker
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February 22nd 2012
Anya17 Rehearsals with an orchestra

At the rehearsals I attended on Friday 17th February an orchestra was there to help the singers along and bring everybody up to speed on the Opera.

Heres a video produced from the evening. Thanks to Jonnie Khan for helping with the sound side of things, Im pretty happy with the results.

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Author: James Shilton - Photographer & Film Maker
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February 21st 2012
The Anya17 cast meets local Manchester MP Tony Lloyd at recent rehearsals

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Author: Ben Kaye - Librettist, Co-founder
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February 21st 2012
Lights, Camera… Action! Tony Lloyd MP speaks about the Sex Trafficking awareness Opera Anya17

As Anya17’s Librettist I was naturally very excited at the prospect of attending an Ensemble rehearsal at the RNCM in Manchester, where I would hear much of the music for the very first time.

It’s an odd sensation too; no matter how many times I start out to write the words for a piece, for some strange reason I can never believe that it’s really happening until I walk through the door to find myself seemingly surprised to hear the Cast and Musicians in full flood.

Friday March 7th will be a very special evening therefore, and not even a five hour drive Northwards through hundreds of miles of roadworks on the M5 and M6 could possibly dull my anticipation for the Liverpool premiere.

As I entered the rehearsal room a few days ago in Manchester I thought that I must have been dreaming. The music was magnificent and the Cast’s performances ranged from the chilling to the sublime. It was everything I could have hoped.

Perfect then that the rehearsal was attended not only by representatives from Anti-Slavery International and ACT Leeds (Stop The Traffik), but also by Tony Lloyd MP, who supporting the project from its inception dropped in to talk to the Cast. Tony also chatted to me during an interview describing his feelings on attending the rehearsal and also spoke about the importance of Anya17 in raising awareness of Sex Trafficking.

To share my incredible evening then, check out Tony’s interview filmed by James Shilton. Further photos and video of the rehearsal itself will be posted soon by James. Until then!

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Author: James Shilton - Photographer & Film Maker
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February 20th 2012
Anya17 early rehearsals without an orchestra

Here is a small selection of photos taken at an early rehearsal without the orchestra.

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Author: Caroline Clegg - Director
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February 15th 2012
Anya17: Director Caroline Clegg’s invitation to listen to the survivors

I would firstly like to express my gratitude to the extraordinary young women that we met at the recent Charity visit and to the volunteers and all good men and women who continue to give not only their time and resources, but “a part of their hearts” to people who have suffered at the hands of traffickers, slave gang masters and, often times, their own family members.

I have been involved in creating theatre work on the issue of slavery – and that is what trafficking is – for five years now. Firstly in creating Slave – A Question of Freedom; secondly a new piece of drama on grooming, Takeaway Teenager (June 2012) and presently Anya17 and I can say that the reality still continues to shock me intensely. I am saddened daily at the slowness of change which results in more people like the women we met suffering.

Sometimes the sadness translates into feeling impotent, despondent and ineffective as an artist. I wonder if we really contribute to making a difference. We are simply translators. We make choices of how to present someone’s story and throughout the creative process we develop a narrative that we hope will provoke, relate and reveal, in this case the underground world of buying and selling girls as sex slaves.

Once we have a show we hope that the audience will bear witness, become reactive and perhaps demand that more be done to stop this trade in humans. But will they?

For some, the opera or play may stay in mind for as long as it takes to drink a gin and tonic at the bar. For others it will it be like reading the newspaper; a repulsive story for a few moments but once read it will be discarded because it is not an issue that affects them and there is the mortgage to be paid, the kids need new shoes and yes whilst it’s very sad, there is nothing we can do is there…. Is there?

But perhaps it could help people to listen and listen with hearing and understanding ears to their stories until we, governments and security forces can’t pretend to be deaf anymore?

I don’t believe that not listening because it is too upsetting is an option, because only in hearing will those who have been trafficked gain freedom and justice.

Imagine listening to a girl; someone’s daughter, someone’s mother, someone’s sister, telling you that they had met a man, fallen head over heels in love and followed her boyfriend or by now fiancé to a new place to make a life for themselves.

When they arrive at that place she is beaten into submission, half starved, drugged and locked in a room where up to thirty men have sex with her every day. There could be a girl like that living on your street.

There are thousands of girls (and boys) in the UK now in this situation and they need help. During the recent Charity visit I had the privilege to meet three incredible women who had escaped and survived similar terror. The effect of meeting them was not only deeply humbling but emotionally challenging and thank God, because it stoked and renewed my anger and determination to give voice to their testimony and celebrate not only their dignity and courage but their indomitable will to survive and to rebuild their lives. After five years of work in this area you would think that you would be immune, that you had heard every possible horror. But every girl or boy is an individual human being with equal rights as you and I and part of his or her life has been stolen and they deserve to be heard.

Thank you again to the Charity and especially thank you to the remarkable young women for allowing me to sit and bear witness to your stories, to share a cup of tea and cake with you and see you smile especially as you told us of being reunited with your children and families. But mostly, thank you for distressing and disturbing me and for giving me a chance to listen and react.

As I re-read the opera that night, tears streamed down my face as the girl’s stories became embedded in the notes on the page. The screams within the melody were their screams loud and clear and the silent bars of violence, rape, murder and degradation were the silenced voices of those still enslaved.

I am realistic enough to know that an opera will not stop the sex trade and it will not stop men wanting to go to a brothel. But I do know that if you watch Anya17 you will be changed and with change comes action, and with action those at this Charity and others around the world will have a voice.

As I said above, as artists we are simply translators of stories which we then present on stage to give their voice a platform on which to be heard.

Please come and listen and ensure that those who have escaped, the survivors, are not victims but victors. It is our duty to keep this issue on the front pages and in the forefront of the minds of politicians who have the power to make real change.

Thank you for reading.
Caroline Clegg

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Author: Hayley Chappell - Online Marketer
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February 10th 2012
Anya17: Meeting trafficking victims – a cast member’s reflections

The cast of Anya17 recently visited a UK charity to meet women rescued from the throes of trafficking who are now trying to claim back their lives. After the visit, Amy Webber (who plays Elena in Anya17) shared her thoughts on the day.

“Following our recent Cast visit to meet survivors of Human Trafficking, I just wanted to relate my experiences and express my thanks to both the Charity involved and to the amazing survivors in their care for this extraordinary privilege in the research for my role.

After seeing the film “Sex Traffic”, visiting the exhibition at the London museum about slavery and reading books that the Director Caroline had given me, I felt that I had gained a little insight into this topic. Absorbing this somewhat remote information, and seeing the results of it for myself on real lives first-hand however, was very, very different. My eyes were about to be well and truly opened.

When we first walked into the room I had to hold back tears just on seeing the faces of the women. Feeling that tears would be unhelpful in such an emotionally-charged atmosphere, I managed to compose myself enough to talk with them about the effects of their experiences, and how the remarkable Charity is helping them to start rebuilding their lives in the UK or to provide them with the support and opportunity to get home to their loved ones.

One of the survivors was excited to be returning to her home country soon because she had been forced to leave behind children. When she told us (with signs and basic English) the ages and the names of her children, the smile on her face made me well up again, but this time from happiness. How wonderful it was that the thoughts of her children, her love and her longing gave her the hope to keep going through what must have been hell on earth. It demonstrated to me a glimpse of the extremes of humanity; how family and love can be the best things in the world, how strong love really is, but how some wilfully destroy other people’s lives purely in the pursuit of cold cash. Is it hate, or disrespect, or just greed? I don’t know how I could possibly describe these people with just one word.

The Charity is absolutely fantastic. Their volunteers love all these women like their own children or sisters, and in return the victims love them back just as much. The love the volunteers give helps to bring the survivors out of their unfathomably dark, nightmarish existence and starts to engender some trust for humankind. If it wasn’t for these volunteers it is so clear that so many more women would just end their lives. The torturous effect of Trafficking on the souls of these women is all too apparent. After rescue some cannot even bring themselves to speak for weeks or even months. Reminiscent of Holocaust survivors hoarding food for decades after their deliverance, some can never let go of their passports again for fear that once more they will be taken from them, dooming them to be stranded in the UK forever, at the ‘mercy’ of their former Traffickers. A fate with a sure and certain end.

So many trafficking victims have suicidal thoughts that sadly, but inevitably, without the support of wonderful Charities such as this, many do attempt to take their own lives. I find it so wretched that the rest of their lives are ruined (or at the very least, made almost unbearably tortured) by what others have inflicted upon them. The Charity, though, helps them to find a safe place in which to live, takes them to the shops, enables them to live on their own and eventually to just smile, which must surely be the greatest gift of all. They are the bravest women in the world.

Writing each and every paragraph of this has made me cry. I feel so saddened by everything I have witnessed. Having become more knowledgeable and therefore inevitably passionate about this subject, I find it awful that so little is known about it by the public, and as a result so little of this vile ‘Trade’ is reported. It really is the lowest point of humanity. Whilst the Arab Spring has rightly elicited so much world-wide media attention, the fact that England can still have slaves would shock so many of the population who do not know anything about this secret world. I have learned that not only is the UK a ‘final destination’ for many of these victims without a voice, but also that our own children and young women are being trafficked within the country itself – a fact which must surely shock even the most UK-centric members of the public.

I am so happy and feel proud to be involved in this production. It is not just ‘Art for Art’s sake’; I really feel like this could help to facilitate change by raising awareness of the issues and bringing real stories into the public eye. My own character, Elena (again based on a true story) is that of a young woman my own age who, once trafficked, is abused and beaten so badly that she is blinded, but is still forced to continue having sex with clients for so many years in perpetual darkness that she believes death can be the only true escape. Let’s not condemn the public, and therefore the victims to this same darkness. Shining a light on this ‘Trade’ and raising awareness is the only way that things can begin to change.

Anya17 is not just an opera. It’s a campaign.

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