Peaceophobia is a new play performed in a car park that looks at Islamaphobia through the eyes of young British Pakistani men from a modified car club. Quays Life talks to writer Zia Ahmed to find out more.
What is the idea behind Peaceophobia?
“Peaceophobia started out as part of ‘radical acts’ by Common Wealth and Speakers Corner where they organised a car rally to protest against the rise of islamophobia worldwide and the racial profiling of drivers in Bradford.
“The play was born out of that radical act. The name was conceived by Speakers Corner Collective to point out that if Islam is searching for inner peace then how can you be afraid of that?”
How does car culture fit in?
“The play is co-written with Bradford modified club who Common Wealth and Speakers Corner worked with for the initial car rally in 2018.
“Bradford Modified Club hold regularly car meets in Bradford. The play is performed by co-writers Mo Ali Yunis, Sohail Hussain and Casper Ahmed. They’re part of Bradford Modified Club and are British Pakistani Muslims. The play aims to talk as much about their love for cars and faith as well as tackling Islamophobia and racial profiling.”
Why did you decide to tell the story through the eyes of young men?
“Many of Speakers Corner are British Pakistani Muslim women and wanted to do a show about the men in their community and specifically the men who are into car culture and part of the modified car scene. These young men are under surveillance and stopped constantly because of the cars they drive, their race and their faith. These young men are demonised and criminalised through local and global media, whether in newspapers or portrayal in film and TV. These young men deserve a chance to tell their own stories on their own terms and that’s what Speakers Corner and Common Wealth wanted to create – a space for these young men to talk unashamedly about their love for their faith and their cars and the impact that islamophobia and profiling has on them”.
How did the co-creation process work?
“So Speakers Corner and Common Wealth had already staged the car rally and decided to make a show off the back of that. Fuel Theatre came on board as co-producers. A casting was held for performers who were both into cars and British Muslim. I came on board as a co-writer after that and the devising process started from there.
“We spent time together with co-director Evie Manning doing drama exercises and telling stories and talking about our experiences, and from that we created a rough script which then we took into a rehearsal room with all the co-directors and designer, Rosie Elnile and sound from Wojtech Rusin and tried scenes and sounds and design out and put together a more settled script which was then the basis of the main rehearsal and tech period.
“Everyone in the room has a say on what they feel about a line, a section or an idea and we decide together where to go from there. It’s been a very open and collaborative space and even more impressive that we’ve managed to make a show during a pandemic!”
Why did you choose to perform in a car park?
“The show had to be in a car park because that’s where car meets are usually held and we have three cars as part of the show – a Supra, a Golf GTI edition 35 and a Vauxhall Nova. We’re hoping the show feels both like a theatre show and a car meet.
“Also Common Wealth Theatre make site-specific work, whether it’s in a boxing gym or house and they bring the show into the place and into the community the work has come from. They want to make theatre for everyone and believe that it belongs to everyone”.
What have been the challenges of that?
“It can get cold and windy! So, if you’re coming bring a coat. If anything, the main challenge has been the pandemic. Everything has been planned knowing the show is outside and it’s been exciting to see how everything works with the specific sounds and shape of the car park. In a sense you’re collaborating with the car park you’re in and it feels like it becomes its own character. With shows happening when the sun goes down you get a cool view of Bradford too. I’m looking forward to seeing what the view of Manchester will be!”
What would you like people to take from the show?
“I want people to think about the impact of islamophobia and racial profiling on individuals and communities. I want people to think about the things that bring them happiness like the cars and faith do for the guys. I want people to challenge any prejudices they or people they know may hold. I want people to have conversations – whether your way in is through the cars, through faith, through Bradford”.
Peaceophobia is at First Street Car Park from 29 September to 2 October 2021. Tickets available from Contact Theatre. Guidance age 12 + due to mild swearing.