My benevolence, all towering and mighty and inspirational and that, is not only limited to my many acts of do-gooding on behalf of the poor, the disenfranchised and the dickheaded. I am also a great patron of the arts, a firm believer in the redemptive and transformational power of the legitimate theatre, the independent feature film, the Bananarama tribute act. Indeed, earlier this year I was one of several backers of a light operetta that played in our nation’s capital and required several thousand pounds to transfer to the Edinburgh stage. Naturally I reached for my cheque book and did what was required to let the piece be presented to the public, chipping in a fiver when I was tipsy.
On a recent trip to the theatre I happened upon a performance of Glasgow Girls, a musical that sheds no light whatsoever upon my otherwise uncompromised anonymity. It’s true this particular play on this particular occasion was called Glasgow Girls. And it’s true the venue at this time was actually in Glasgow itself. And it’s true a disproportionate number of my activities do seem to have taken place in and around the Glasgow area. But there was also that time I went to Nepal. Plus that time I blogged at an airport. I could be anywhere.
But I digress. The Glasgow Girls were a group of seven young women who went to Drumchapel High School, Drumchapel being to affluence and opportunity what Philip Schofield is to cool headed journalism. Naturally Drumchapel, being deprived and broken, was a dispersal point for asylum seekers, Drumchapel being to tolerance, sensitivity and race relations what Nigel Farage is to tolerance, sensitivity and race relations. I’m generalising, obviously, because the Glasgow Girls went to Drumchapel and they were awesome, but I’m scene setting here. So there were the Glasgow Girls, in Drumchapel in 2005, surrounded by need and deprivation and local politics to make your bumhole wince. They were awesome just hanging out, being as how three were from Scotland and four were asylum seekers from Kurdistan, Kosovo, Somalia and Poland and, more importantly, how some were from neighbouring Scotstoun where all kinds of Drumchapel/Scotstoun gang bollocks goes on. Their major awesomeness kicked in around the time trouble kicked off for Agnesa, a Roma gypsy from Kosovo. Agnesa, her two young brothers and her parents were subject to a dawn raid, 14 officials storming into their flat on a Sunday morning, restraining her mum and handcuffing her dad in a sensitive move felt to be entirely appropriate for a family with young children who had fled persecution and feared for their lives. They were taken to London, to Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre, surrounded by barbed wire and electric fences to keep us natives safe. Yarl’s Wood, you’ll recall, has had the odd scandal or two on account of its hunger strikes, allegations of staff racism and sexual harassment, and yer general imprisonment of innocent children and victims of torture.
The Glasgow Girls, being awesome enough and young enough to think if you want something to happen it will, roped in a teacher, got a petition going around the school and the neighbourhood, got a spot of community outrage started and off that got a stack of publicity in the Scottish press and on the telly. Under the scrutiny of the campaign it turned out the Home Office had gone against UN advice on not returning Roma Gypsies to Kosovo. Bit of a faux pas there. Agnesa and her family were released and returned to their home, their home being in Scotland. The Girls got to the Scottish parliament, took a shot at Scotland’s First Minister and he took a trip to Westminster to have a chat about this whole child detention/dawn raids thing. He died on his arse, obviously, but the Girls got high up quickly, winning Best Public Campaign at the Politician of the Year Awards as their campaign stormed along and saving a family from whatever horrors were waiting for them in Kosovo.
They had a cracking success but then they also saw another family taken and deported because the asylum process is still horrific and arbitrary and the kind of thing that, in the future, will make our descendents look back and think we were all a colossal bunch of arseholes.
Still, the Girls were awesome and they’re still campaigning. And while the play made a big deal of not having a happy ending because asylum law still honks up the place, it was an inspiring bit of stuff. In fact, so inspiring was it that Mrs Zero and meself turned activist at the intermission. Some drunk guy had been doing creepy panto laughing every time the cast sang about their trials and injustices. We went to the front desk, spoke to the authorities and had him forcibly removed which, now I think about it, is almost exactly the opposite of what the Glasgow Girls were all about. Shit. It’s dead tricky, this activism lark.