LITTLE Amal, the larger-than-life puppet of a 10-year-old Syrian refugee, visited the RSC in Stratford on Wednesday (June 22) as part of World Refugee Week.
Since her 8,000km journey started last year from the border of Syria and Turkey, Little Amal has come to represent millions of refugee children, sharing the message: “Don’t forget about us”.
The 3.5 metre tall creation, crafted from moulded cane and carbon fibre, is operated by three puppeteers – a stilt walker whose legs become Amal’s and who also animates her face, and two others who each operate one of her arms.
Little Amal was welcomed to Stratford outside the Royal Shakespeare Theatre with a short extract from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She was treated to music from RSC musicians and presented with homemade stars of solidarity from local children before leading youngsters, pied piper-style, along Waterside and the Bancroft Gardens, as crowds lining the streets greeted her with waves and cheers.
Erica Whyman, Acting Artistic Director, said: “We are delighted to welcome Little Amal at Midsummer. This is such an important journey in World Refugee Week, and our community, including many displaced families who have recently settled here, will welcome this precious opportunity to Walk with Amal.
“Shakespeare wrote passionately about the experience of making your home in a new land, and his words will be one of our gifts to Amal.”
Having started in Manchester on June 19, Little Amal’s journey will also take in Stonehenge, the Liverpool Docks, Bradford, Leeds, Bristol Harbour, Birmingham, Cheltenham, Canterbury and London. Her journey will end on June 27 in Folkestone, Kent, where she first arrived in the UK.
Roger Matthews, Chair of local refugee charity Welcome Here, told The Observer they were also delighted to see Little Amal come to the town.
He added: “Stratford is usually associated with Shakespeare and tourism, but the last few years have seen an increasing number of refugees living in the town.
“Welcome Here originally started to provide a community welcome to Syrian refugees coming to Stratford under the Government’s official resettlement scheme. But we are now helping refugees from Afghanistan who are living in a nearby hotel – and most recently we have been welcoming refugees from Ukraine who have come to the area through the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
“Local people continue to show great kindness towards those seeking refuge with us. Local businesses, too, have made generous offers to refugees. Little Amal was sure of a friendly welcome in Stratford.”