Little Amal is a young 9-year-old refugee girl – a character from the multi-award-winning play The Jungle presented by Good Chance in the form of a 12-foot tall giant puppet – representing all displaced children, many separated from their families.
In Spring 2021, Little Amal (the name means ‘hopes’ in Arabic) embarked on a remarkable journey – an epic voyage from the Syria/Turkey border, across Europe, to Manchester as part of The Walk. Little Amal is travelling over 8,000km across Europe along one of the routes taken by refugees as, with urgency and courage, they seek shelter from conflict.
Led by Artistic Director Amir Nizar Zuabi, Little Amal’s epic journey is presented by Good Chance, in collaboration with the Handspring Puppet Company (the world-famous creators of War Horse), as a travelling festival of art and hope in support of refugees.
The puppet is intensely expressive, pacing above crowds, observing everything while interacting with children, registering happiness, anger, and occasional pain – all the emotions that a nine-year-old child might experience.
Little Amal has embarked on a remarkable journey – an epic voyage that is taking her across Turkey, across Europe. To find her mother. To get back to school. To start a new life. Will the world let her? Can she achieve what now seems more impossible than ever?
Little Amal has reached the shores of the UK. British actor Jude Law was on hand to greet the giant puppet in Folkestone, Kent where she had arrived from Calais. The Bafta award winner is one of a host of high-profile ambassadors of The Walk, which he has previously called an “inspired idea” that he hopes will bring “much needed attention to the lives of so many people young and old that seek refuge.”
On Tuesday, 26 October, Little Amal will be travelling through Oxford, where she will be greeted by Alice in Wonderland, in the form of The Story Museum’s own giant puppet – in an outdoor procession through the city centre.
The Story Museum is the lead producer for The Walk in Oxford and is working with over 24 different creative, cultural and community partners to create the free outdoor event called ‘Amal Meets Alice’ on 26 October.
The Story Museum has even commissioned Nadine Kaadan – an award-winning children’s book author and illustrator from Syria – to create a predominantly non-verbal narrative for Little Amal’s journey through Oxford.
Taking inspiration from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, the story of Amal meets Alice begins in the Garden of Live Flowers, at the Oxford Botanic Gardens, where Little Amal arrives with a bag of memories of her home in Syria – memories that have kept her going on her long and arduous journey – some are happy, and some are sad.
As Alice and Amal navigate fantastical flowers and the demands of the Red Queen, Little Amal’s memories are spilt out into the city of Oxford…..can Alice help her find them? Through their quest, the girls form a bond and learn about each other’s worlds.
Members of the public are then invited to join the procession at Broad Street at 1.45pm as Amal and Alice travel across the city encountering a series of Amal’s memories from Syria before celebrating their new friendship in Christ Church Meadow at 2.30pm in a mass participation dance.
The story was developed from a workshop with a group of local Arab women and children and is being brought to life along the procession’s route by many different creative and community partners, including Mandala Theatre, Smoking Apples Theatre Company and choreographer Joelle Pappas, under the direction of Jeremy James and with a co-curated soundtrack from Story Museum artist-in-residence Holly Khan.
Musician and Story Museum Artist-in-Residence Holly Khan is composing a Song of Welcome with pupils from St Gregory the Great School and St Barnabas School. Individuals and community groups are invited to learn the song and then sing it at the end of the event in Christ Church Meadow. You can hear the song and download the lyrics, and there will be open rehearsals on Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 October at 2.00pm. You’ll need to book your place for the rehearsals on the Story Museum’s website.
Taking inspiration from the Garden of Live Flowers from Alice Through the Looking-Glass, members of the public are invited to make their very own Damascus Rose flower headdress or badge to wear to the event with materials they will have at home. Watch the video below for full instructions on how to make the flowers by artist Sarah Turner.
Whilst Little Amal’s journey continues beyond Oxford, the impact of her visit will continue thanks to a project called ‘Beyond Amal’ between The Story Museum and local charity Asylum Welcome. The ‘Beyond Amal’ programme offers training in oral storytelling, developing communication skills, confidence, resilience and other transferable workplace skills.
‘Alice and Amal’ is supported by Oxford City Council via the We Are Oxford Fund, the Oxford University Community Fund, Oxford Festival of the Arts, Dancin’ Oxford, the Oxford Botanic Gardens and Christ Church.
Download an event guide and map (pdf) or visit storymuseum.org.uk/amal for full details of the day, including the procession route.
Little Amal seems to do is take the experience of people who are quite brutally marginalised and put it in the centre —David Lan, producer and artistic director
At this time of extraordinary global change, The Walk is an extraordinary artistic response: a cultural odyssey transcending borders, politics, and language, to tell a new story of hope and shared humanity – and to ensure the world doesn’t forget about the millions of displaced children who are more vulnerable than ever in the wake of a global pandemic.