Little Amal’s transcontinental odyssey will begin its final leg this week when a nine-year-old Syrian girl’s giant puppet reaches the shores of the UK after traveling thousands of miles across Europe.

The bells will ring and the choirs will sing as Little Amal appears on the beach on Tuesday in Folkestone, Kent, after making the same cross-Channel trip that has been made so far this year by more than 17,000 people seeking refuge from the conflicts, hunger and persecution. .

On the final leg of her journey, Little Amal will visit Canterbury, London, Oxford, Coventry, Birmingham, Sheffield and Barnsley before the extraordinary and complex 14-week traveling street theater in Manchester comes to an end on November 3.

“It has been difficult, sometimes difficult, but also unbelievable and incredible,” said David Lan, one of the producers of The Walk, who has “been on this journey since the start three years ago, and at every step of the way. path ”since Little Amal left Gaziantep near the Turkish-Syrian border at the end of July.

The idea for Little Amal’s journey to find her missing mother arose from The Jungle, a much-acclaimed play about young refugees in a camp near Calais that opened at Young Vic in London in 2017. The Producers of the play, the theater company Good Chance and Lan, Stephen Daldry and Tracey Seaward came up with the idea to carry its message of displacement, loss, dignity and hope to villages, towns and cities across Europe.

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Little Amal, whose name means hope in Arabic, was created by Handspring, the company that made War Horse’s equine puppets. She is 3.5 meters (11 feet 5 inches) tall and is led by a team of eight puppeteers working shifts to control her legs, arms, and facial features. “They create the emotional life of the puppet,” Lan said.

Since leaving Gaziantep, Little Amal and her entourage of around 25 have crossed the Covid border requirements to cross from Turkey to Greece, then through Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and France to the United Kingdom.

Along the way, they participated in concerts, parties and workshops. In Rome, little Amal was blessed by Pope Francis. In many places, thousands of local people walked with her in their town or village.

But the most powerful ties had been with the refugees, Lan said. “Marginalized people, pushed aside, see a representative of themselves or their children take center stage and celebrated. It is very moving.

In one place, the reception was less than warm. In Kalambaka, a village in northern Greece, home to ancient Greek Orthodox monasteries built into the rock, the village council decided not to receive a “Muslim doll from Syria”, as Mayor Amal described it. . “It’s heartbreaking, but this is the way the world is,” Lan said.

In London, Little Amal will celebrate its 10th anniversary on Sunday October 24 at a party at the V&A. Children from all over the capital were invited to participate in musical performances and workshops. Yotam Ottolenghi coordinates a team of chefs to create a giant birthday cake made up of several hundred cupcakes in a rainbow of colors and flavors.

Little Amal in Antwerp, Belgium. Photograph: Romy Arroyo Fernandez / NurPhoto / Rex / Shutterstock

Ottolenghi said: “Telling the stories of refugees in general and this particular journey that Amal is taking is such a positive thing in a very dark situation. She will meet a lot of London children who are going to celebrate her birthday and get a glimpse of her journey. And what better way to do it than with a patchwork of cupcakes that have been baked by different chefs? “

Lan, who described Little Amal’s trip as a theatrical spectacle on a 5,000 mile stage, said there had been no major technical issues so far, but there had been many logistical challenges to travel, rehearse and perform in eight countries.

“It’s a traveling circus, a great traveling show. So many people wanted to be a part of it. There has been tremendous goodwill towards us.

“We are not politicians, we say to people: remember that refugees are people. We hope that the memory of this strange and beautiful child walking in a village or town or through the mountains will help change the weather a bit. “


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