Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Fable Becomes a Fairytale for Refugee Children; Play Leads to North East Trip

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Fable Becomes a Fairytale for Refugee Children; Play Leads to North East Trip

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony Henderson

FOR two months North East writer Peter Mortimer worked with pupils in a Palestinian refugee camp to perform a play based on a fable he had penned.

Now the venture is to have a fairytale ending with 10 girls and their teachers from the school in Shatila camp in Beirut due to arrive in the North East next month to stage the play at a series of venues.

It will be the first time that the girls, aged 12 and 13, will have seen the world outside the camp.

The children were born and grew up in Shatila camp, scene of a massacre in 1982, where up to 3,000 people were killed.

The camp, with its ramshackle buildings, is home to around 17,000 people in an area no bigger than a cricket field.

More than pounds 22,000 has been raised in the North East to bring the youngsters to the region for an eight-day stay.

A seven-mile sponsored walk along the North Tyneside coast, organised by Cullercoats-based Peter, raised pounds 7,000, while Newcastle College Fine Art Department donated pounds 1,500 from a charity auction, and pounds 500 came from a Words & Music night run by writer Jeff Price at The Cumberland Arms in Byker, Newcastle.

North Tyneside Council gave pounds 6,000, Arts Council England North-East, pounds 4,600, the Co-operative membership pounds 1,900, and pounds 500 came from the Arab-British Centre.

One of the performances at the Sage in Gateshead has already been fully booked. The Shatila youngsters will also experience the greenery and wide open spaces of rural Northumberland while being put up for free by the Riverdale Hall Hotel in Bellingham, with a performance at Bellingham Town Hall.

They will also enjoy a taste of the North East with a meal of fish and chips at the seafront Queen's Head Hotel in Cullercoats, not far from their base at the Northumbria Hotel and Language School in Whitley Bay.

It's a far cry from Shatila, where the school's steel gates are topped by barbed wire. Peter went to Shatila after hearing about the camp from friend Pat Riddell, a teacher from Whickham in Gateshead who had made a working visit. …

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