Run The World is a collaborative project between the Birmingham Repertory Theatre (The Birmingham REP) and Ashiana Community Project Group. It’s a powerfully insightful piece of work that captures stories from local women collated through their participation in a locally organised running group. The project evolved from a perspective of physical movement delving deeper into the mind, soul and spiritual translucency of femininity, connectivity and personal growth.

Background information

The women congregate every Monday morning at the local park after dropping off their children, with the purpose of getting fit and losing weight.

All live in Sparkbrook and are of South Asian origin. Patriarchy and male dominance is heavily embedded in the community infrastructure, shaping the women’s choices, values, families and the lifestyles they lead. Sparkbrook is an area of high poverty, low educational attainment and unemployment is high. Women are faced within complex circumstance, living at the very edges of society and often in isolation where their voices are hidden, with little or no representation on the wider  context of female equality and empowerment in the modern world.

The project explores hardship and personal journeys through a collection of shared stories told by women reflecting on the harshness of their lives, but also aspiring to greater hopes and dreams and a desire for a better future for themselves and their children. It tells their everyday experiences male prejudice, misogyny and domestic abuse from a perspective of women living within a community where these conceptions are not challenged but accepted.

Gender Inequality is hugely prevalent for women in all fields of workplace, income, education, health or political engagement supported by research, statistics and national media coverage. However, there is a need to feature women that do not have a platform to engage and represent their views on how inequality is reinforced in the home, culture and perpetuated by their local community and further expanded beyond these cultural boundaries into employment and opportunity. Run The World highlights these issues sensitively to create awareness of challenges faced by those who are greatly disadvantaged, having very little social status, education or opportunity to make any positive difference and no choice but to accept their role as subordinate.

Run the World is a parallel portrayal of physical and emotional strife. The physical hardship through their involvement in running and their movement transitioned through conversation and dialogue; unearthing the inner feelings of women through the creation of their own protective space. The desire for physical self improvement which transcends to the female ‘inner me’ sharing experiences beyond the physical into a realm of vulnerability, fragility to hope and solidarity.

The stories are shared anonymously through the creation of a powerful audio theatre captured by writer and actor Manjit Mann. The piece included a tour of their local park, where these silent conversations are spoken every day.