The Bureau Local is taking one of our investigations on the road, with a one-woman show!
Refuge Woman, a semi-autobiographical show about life in a refuge, will give audiences up and down the country a searingly honest and darkly funny insight into life in a domestic violence refuge.
The Bureau Local is supporting the show, which was written by author and performer Cash Carraway, as it tours to eight locations across the UK: the cities and towns where local journalists worked with us on a collaborative investigation into the state of domestic violence funding.
Each performance will be followed by a talk with local journalists and those working in the domestic violence sector, as we explore the real-life situation in each location.
We’re heading to Norwich, Lancaster, Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Byline Festival, Carlisle and London.
Getting this show on the road
I first met Cash on the steps of Kensington and Chelsea Town Hall. The roof of the refuge she was staying in had just collapsed and she and her young daughter found themselves, yet again, looking for a safe place to stay.
I was there because I was working on a long-term investigation into funding cuts for domestic violence refuges across the country. I was coordinating a group of 20 local journalists and volunteers and was zig-zagging the country myself, talking to refuge managers, survivors and other experts. We would later reveal that funding had been cut by more than 24% since 2010 and that over a thousand women had been turned away from a refuge in six months alone.
For months I followed Cash’s journey, from that refuge where the roof collapsed, to a Travelodge alongside victim of the Grenfell Tower fire, to a faeces-smeared council flat until finally she found her own rented accommodation.
As we got to know one another I saw more and more of her talent. Cash is an incredible writer and a great storyteller. After reading her blogs, I knew we had to ask her to write a first person piece to accompany our investigation, which she did. The piece was poignantly titled, “Will we ever be safe?” You can read it here.
Weeks after we published, Cash and I were still in touch. I’d heard about her performing stand-up comedy so when I saw she was putting on a short, scratch performance of a piece based on her time in the refuge I didn’t think twice. And it was everything I thought it would be: acerbic, funny, poignant.
That’s when the idea hit me.
Why not tour this show to the areas where our local reporters dug tirelessly into the issue and have a post-show discussion about the real life issues facing people in that city or town?
That way we can take these vital important stories to new audiences across the country, sparking debate in the communities affected.
So that is what we are doing!
It is like nothing the Bureau has ever done before, and there are a lot of lessons to learn along the way, but we’re hoping you join us and shape this very exciting journalist/theatrical collaboration.
Here’s the tour schedule. Grab your tickets below.
July Sat 14, Norwich: Puppet Theatre with Tom Bristow from the Norwich Evening News. Ticket here.
July Wed 18, Lancaster: The Gregson Arts and Community Centre with Emma Pearson from the Lancashire Post. Tickets here.
July Sat 28, Birmingham: Stan’s Cafe with Wan Ulfa Nur Zuhra from Birmingham Eastside. Tickets here.
August Fri 3, Bristol: The Alma Tavern & Theatre with Lorna Stephenson from the Bristol Cable. Contact Alma Tavern for tickets.
August Thurs 9, Leeds: Seven Arts Bar and Cafe with Chris Burn from the Yorkshire Post. Tickets here.
August Fri 24, East Sussex: Byline Festival with Jasmine Andersson formerly with TBIJ. Contact Byline Festival for tickets.
September Sun 2, Carlisle: Carlisle Fringe Festival with Caroline Barber from The Mail. Contact Carlisle Fringe for tickets.
November Thurs 8, London: Camden People’s Theatre with Emma Youle from Ham & High. Contact CPT for tickets.
About the show:
Sixteen years. 13 women’s refuges. And one suitcase. Now she’s starting all over again. Again.
Cash is a self-confessed “refuge connoisseur”. She knows the refuges with the best counsellors, clothing donations and the ones closest to the heartiest ‘all you can eat’ buffets. Over the past 16 years she has escaped to refuges from Aldershot to Southend-on-Sea. And now she’s just set foot in what she has decided is her final refuge. It’s crumbling round the edges and she shares her room with rats. It isn’t exactly how she imagined escaping from abuse, but now she has a young daughter to consider. She’s out of options.
Inspired by real life events, this darkly humorous, spoken-word performance provides snapshots of life in a women’s refuge, as Cash attempts to rebuild her life from scratch in a world where an Argos suitcase contains everything she needs to start again.
The Refuge Woman Tour is funded and produced by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and Finding Common Ground - a grant programme with the aim to “engender trust between media organizations and communities.”
The show is being developed with support from Battersea Arts Centre and Camden People’s Theatre and is directed by acclaimed director Conrad Murray.
Header image of Cash Carraway by Juliet Nagillah/TBIJ