TICKETS are selling fast for this evening’s 5.55pm screening of Hostile, Sonita Gale’s documentary focusing on the UK’s complicated relationship with its migrant communities. A question-and-answer session with the director will follow.
Told through the stories of four participants from Black and Asian backgrounds, the feature-length film reveals the impact of the evolving “hostile environment”.
“This is the term used by the British government in 2012 to illustrate the atmosphere they wanted to create for migrants, with the intention of provoking them to leave of their own accord,” says Sonita.
Hostile explores how the lives of international students, members of the Windrush generation and ‘Highly-Skilled Migrants’ have been affected.
The stakes are high. An NHS IT engineer has spent tens of thousands of pounds on visa applications and is still waiting for settled status. A member of the Windrush generation has not recovered from detainment due to a lack of paperwork, in what came to be known as the Windrush Scandal. International students, now destitute, face deportation, and community organisers are struggling to feed these vulnerable communities without government support.
Archival footage is used by Gale to depict the history of the British Empire as well as charting the UK’s immigration policies over recent years to illuminate how we arrived at the situation we are in today.
“After decades of hostile immigration policies, Britain has reached a crisis point,” says Sonita. “With Brexit, the Points Based Immigration System and the Nationality and Borders Bill taking effect, the film asks: once the ‘hostile environment’ has targeted all migrants, who will it extend to next?”
What is the Hostile Environment?
“The UK Home Office’s hostile environment policy is a set of administrative and legislative measures designed to make staying in the United Kingdom as difficult as possible for people without leave to remain, in the hope that they may ‘voluntarily leave’,” says Sonita. “The term was coined in 2012 by the then Home Secretary, Theresa May.
“Since 2010, the Government has launched a wave of attacks on the human rights of undocumented people – meaning people who can’t prove they have a right to live in the UK.
“The idea is to make life in the UK as unbearable as possible for migrants by blocking access to public services and pushing them into extreme poverty. Under the hostile environment, employers, landlords, NHS staff and other public servants have to check your immigration status before offering people a job, housing, healthcare or other support.”
Tickets for Hostile are on sale at: picturehouses.com/cinema/city-screen-picturehouse. CharlesHutchPress editor Charles Hutchinson will host the Q&A.
PRANKSTER Simon Brodkin and Have I Got News For You panellist-in-lockdown Maisie Adam form the second Your Place Comedy double bill on Sunday.
The 8pm show will be streamed live from their living rooms to yours, looking to build on the success of the April 19 launch, when more than 3,500 people tuned in to watch Mark Watson, Hull comedian Lucy Beaumont and compere Tim FitzHigham.
Chris Jones, Selby Town Council’s arts officer and manager of Selby Town Hall, is again co-ordinating this weekend’s online fundraising show, working in tandem with nine other small, independent arts centres and theatres from across Yorkshire and the Humber during the Covid-19 shutdown.
Brodkin and Adam’s show will be free to watch on YouTube and the Twitch video live streaming service, with an option for viewers to donate if they have enjoyed the broadcast. All money raised will be distributed equally among the supporting venues, each being faced with navigating their way through these challenging Coronavirus days.
Joining together in this rolling initiative to put the fun into fundraising are Selby Town Hall; The Ropewalk, Barton upon Humber; Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds; East Riding Theatre, Beverley; Junction, Goole; Helmsley Arts Centre; Shire Hall, Howden; Otley Courthouse; Pocklington Arts Centre and Rotherham Theatres.
“In a nutshell, at a time of huge uncertainty and upheaval in the Coronavirus lockdown, including for the live entertainment industry, I got these venues from around Yorkshire and the Humber to come together to provide our audiences with some much-needed laughter during these difficult times, each chipping in a small amount of money to put on each live stream,” says Chris, who was up until 4am on Tuesday morning putting everything in place for Sunday’s gig.
“Their contributions to Your Place Comedy go towards paying the artists a guaranteed fee at a time when all live income has been taken away, and, in exchange, venues get a show to sell to their own audiences as one of their own, helping maintain those vital relationships with audiences they have nurtured over the years.”
Watson and Beaumont’s April show raised £3,500 in donations for the venues. “We were overwhelmed by the response to our first ever broadcast,” says a delighted Chris, who was interviewed about Your Place Comedy on BBC 5 Live on Tuesday.
“The fantastic audiences, who are the absolute lifeblood of the ten venues involved in this project, watched and donated in their droves. Drawing more than 3,500 viewers was considerably more than the venues’ combined capacities, so the show went even better than we had imagined, to say the whole project was put together from scratch in the space of two weeks by three people with no live streaming experience.”
Come Sunday, compere Tim FitzHigham, writer and star of BBC Radio 4’s The Gambler and presenter of CBBC’s Super Human Challenge, will introduce Brodkin and Adams’s sets from their homes, from his.
Prankster and character comedian Brodkin, 42, is best known for his alter-ego Lee Nelson and, latterly, as the man who handed Prime Minister Theresa May a P45 during the 2017 Conservative Party Conference. North Yorkshire-born comedian, writer and actor Adam, 26, has made her mark on Have I Got News For You, Mock The Week and 8 Out Of 10 Cats and appears regularly at the Harrogate Comedy Festival.
“It’s a distinctly different style line-up to the first show,” says Chris. “Simon is a truly fascinating performer. A former doctor turned character comic, he’s reinvented himself as one of the best pranksters the UK has ever seen. Listening to him spill the beans on how those daring exploits are pulled off is remarkably compelling.
“Maisie is destined to be omnipresent on our TV screens. Originally from Pannal, just outside Harrogate, she played her first ever gig at Otley Labour Club in 2016. She’s since had a pretty meteoric rise, winning the best new act competition in the country, So You Think You’re Funny?, in 2017; being nominated as Best Newcomer in the Edinburgh Comedy Awards a year later, and now appearing regularly on prime-time panel shows.”
Maisie, a former head girl at St Aidan’s School in Harrogate, appeared from her home in Brighton on last Friday’s home-alone edition of BBC One’s long-running satirical quiz show, Have I Got News For You, partnering team captain Ian Hislop.
Reflecting on the comedic impact of the first show, Chris says: “Both Mark Watson and Lucy Beaumont were fantastic. Mark is relatively experienced when it comes to live streaming and was comfortable enough with the format to perform in his pyjamas.
“For Lucy, it was a first foray into ‘audience-free’ comedy, but her set was pitch perfect – even featuring a rather bizarre bedtime story! – and broadcast live from the pub that her husband, [comedian] Jon Richardson, has built in their house.”
How did the format work, Chris? “We were very aware that one of the limitations of live streamed comedy was a lack of audience interaction, so we devised a function that allowed viewers to send messages directly to the acts,” he says.
“This worked incredibly well and really gave the show that extra feeling of intimacy and warmth that you get from watching comedy in a small venue environment.”
Before the April 19 debut gig, Chris had said: “If the first one is a success and this looks like a sustainable model, I would hope to do several more through the lockdown period and possibly beyond.”
Now he is projecting an initial run of five shows. “We hope that, for as long as our doors have to remain closed, we can continue to connect with audiences and bring them big laughs from some of the UK’s best performers through the Your Place Comedy project,” he says.
“At a time when so many life-affirming social connections have been lost, and a great number of performers have had their livelihoods taken away overnight, it is brilliant to be able to support artists, audiences and independent venues in this way.”
For full details on Your Place Comedy, and to find out how to watch the show, visit yourplacecomedy.co.uk.