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Like many other designers, I have been grappling with how to adapt my practice, how I can support others whilst cherishing each quiet moment of this stillness. Between every zoom meeting and every daily government briefing, I bounce between hopeful-excitement and bottomless-despair. I often stop and force myself to look at the work achieved, the journey it took to get there and how best to push forward. The theatres that have been my home have been closed for almost 3 months, and I have missed my extended theatre family.

The lockdown came after the first week of starting rehearsals on Two Palestinians Go Dogging at the Royal Court. I was looking forward to finally working with a group of like minded Middle Eastern artists to tackle an old narrative being told from a new perspective. In this story, there is no Them and Us, no blame, just an insightful look at the brutality and humanity of people. Then lockdown.

Press Night came and went and now the show has closed, but there is still a lingering of what could have been. The Royal Court have been great with their support and the promise that this story will be told. That promise keeps me hoping that we will somehow, eventually, get to sit in a room together again, masked, gloved and with distance. The created piece will be one that's had to mutate as a result of this virus. How we mutate with it will be part of our narrative too.

Aside from my personal moments with this industry, my grave concerns are not just with how this pandemic has affected my creative practice, but with how this will affect the seeds and small shoots of diversity that have been sown in recent times. After almost 20 years of working as a Designer and Maker of Theatre, I am finally able to collaborate and create with those fellow comrades. They are the ones who look beyond the tick boxes, who look at the work and the stories we are telling through the eyes of the Other. It brings tears to my eyes to think that this progress might be taken away and we have to start the struggle again.

With the political and social circumstances we are facing, I fear that this industry will not have a place for All and those with the right skin, the right words and the loudest voice will silence the Others. The issues of diversity and inclusion are even more critical now. Drastic actions need to be implemented in how Theatre Craft is taught, nurtured and valued. Failing this, the damage would affect generations to come.

This is not a call to arms, but a call to those in positions of power and influence to look at the wider picture. Our actions today will shape the landscape of our future.

Rajha Shakiry

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