At the end of 2015 we were approached by BBC Media Action to help set up a radio drama project that would depict the authentic reality for normal people living through the war in Syria. Along with the Lebanese producers, Batoota Films, we set about finding and training a team of Syrians who could work on the project, to be made in Beirut.
The funding came from the EU, who were interested in using radio drama to reach audiences inside Syria in order to promote a narrative that was realistic, non partisan, and which addressed issues of importance for Syrians including radicalisation, displacement and sexual violence, as well as the economic and social realities of living through such horrendous times. But this is about normal life, so in the midst of all that there is also romance, even comedy. Our intention was to ‘humanise the other’ within Syria and also to help bolster a sense of positive national identity during intensely traumatic times.
The writing team was led by Hozan Akko, and included other writers based both in Lebanon and also inside Syria.
By the summer of 2016 we were in production, making 3 episodes per week from Guerrilla Studios in Hamra, Beirut – with a cast that were drawn from all sections of Syrian life and again, artists that were Beirut-based and also from inside Syria.
In 2017 we worked with the same team to make an English version for Radio 4. Just 5 episodes at first, telling the story of one of the character groups from the Arabic version. Again, written by Hozan, and adapted by British dramatist Jonathan Myerson, who had also been involved as a consultant to the Arabic production from the outset.
This is about using the power of storytelling to make a truly positive contribution where it truly needed.
The project continues, with new English language productions scheduled for 2018 and, we hope, a new season of Arabic episodes contingent on funding.
Short film about the English language project
Programme page from the English production