In Conversation with Juliet Stevenson

 

Juliet Stevenson has tackled some of the most complex and interesting characters on the stage and screen.

She joined us in February 2016 to talk about the work she does with Refugee Action, an independent charity that supports refugees and asylum seekers to resettle and build new lives in the UK.

Mishcon Academy
In Conversation with Juliet Stevenson

Anthony Julius
Deputy Chairman, Mishcon de Reya

We’ve got Juliet Stevenson who is a celebrated actress and an important social activist.  Why have we got her?  Because we are interested in what she has to say but also because we are interested in the kind of person who can do not just one thing with distinction but two.

Juliet Stevenson
Actress & Activist

I am currently absolutely raging about judge’s ruling in Calais.  I am obsessed with the situation in Calais and Dunkirk at the moment, I am very interested in the refugee situation and have got myself involved in that.

Anthony Julius
Deputy Chairman, Mishcon de Reya

I want to hear what she has to say about the refugee crisis.  I am interested in her perspective, her experiences, she has been to the camp in Calais.  I think she has got a lot to share with us to help us broaden our understanding of one of the pressing social crises of our time.

Juliet Stevenson
Actress & Activist

Well, there’s the sort of the, there’s the macro and the micro isn’t there.

The bigger conversation is about our relationship to this issue as a country and why we no longer see ourselves as a place of sanctuary.  And therefore, I think the big picture it’s about identity really and why, who we see ourselves as being in the 21st Century.  Why we no longer feel able to recognise extreme forms of human need and adversity when it’s staring us in the face?  Or how we are persuaded not to perhaps?  Or why we are persuaded not to?  I don’t have answers for those questions obviously but I am very struck by them.

There are five thousand five hundred people living there in unspeakable circumstances. Six hundred and fifty of whom are children, and four hundred and twenty three of those children are unaccompanied.  So, there are amazing individuals doing things but, as you know, the big charities are not there because they can’t be, it’s not declared a humanitarian crisis, it’s an “immigration” problem.  So the charitable work is all done by very tiny NGOs, a couple of local ones and then some remarkable British, tiny initiatives, who are trying to fundraise and cope with what is an, really an out of control problem.  So, we are fundraising for a project and my eldest son has been out there filming for some weeks now.  He’s sort of offering an listening post, there are people who want to come in and tell their individual stories – where they come from, why they made the journey, you know what they feel about where they are and so on.  And we had some amazing interviews, he just films their hands because they need to be anonymous of course, but also, it’s, so what started as an expedient thing has turned into a very, very beautiful way of shooting.  So, we’re fundraising for translation of those into the various languages and then we’re going to put them on a website and hopefully keep them coming in so that people, when they want to hear who these refugees are can just go on this website and listen to any number of stories.

Anthony Julius
Deputy Chairman, Mishcon de Reya

And how can Mishcon de Reya support the initiatives that you are engaged in in Calais?

Juliet Stevenson
Actress & Activist

Of course a donation to the translation of the interviews and the creation of the website would be fantastic because I think when people can hear individual stories they really are changed.

Anthony Julius
Deputy Chairman, Mishcon de Reya

Thank you so much for coming really.