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The Calais Project

Liam Hourican is an Irish actor and comedian, best known for his work in TV sketch comedy. Writing a play about a refugees journey to safety is a new creative departure for Hourican, who was inspired by a series of events that took place after he visited the Jungle Refugee Camp in Calais in 2016.

Liam Hourican in Calais

While in Calais, Hourican met a child from Afghanistan named Muhammed who made nightly attempts to stowaway on a lorry that might take him to the UK. Hourican was dumbstruck to see the child pore over a map of the local ports, and couldn't help but reflect on his own experiences at a similar age. "When I was 15, living not so far away, in Brussles, I was drinking in bars, listening to The Doors and living a life that was completely free of anxiety and threat."

Calais was an eye opener for Hourican, who did not expect to find such brutal treatment of (mostly) young men in the heart of Europe. The journeys the young men made captured his imagination, and he thought that "if Dickens were alive today his Oliver Twist would be someone like this kid who had travelled so far and braved so many horrors to reach safety."

Muhammed eventually made it to London, where he stayed with Hourican until he was processed by Hackney Social Services. Hourican witnessed at first hand a new set of challenges that beset an asylum seeker when they finally arrive at their destination, and was inspired to pen a story based on Muhammed and other refugees journeys.

Hourican believes that "fiction and theatre can be a better way of engaging people than news reports." His aim in writing 'The Calais Project' is to "create a gripping and powerful narrative that will draw audiences into a world too often obscured or misrepresented."

Earlier this year, Hourican devised a series of workshops with young asylum seekers in Dublin, held at The Complex. The participants had all undertaken similar journeys to Muhammed. "Some were eager to talk, others found it too painful perhaps. Almost all of them were saddened that most people in Dublin did not seem to understand what they had gone through to get here."

Hourican is currently in Islamabad, and will travel back to Europe via Iran, Turkey and the Mediterranean, following as closely he can the refugee trail, and gathering other stories along the way.

In 2022, The Complex was awarded an increased Revenue Grant from Dublin City Council, which allowed them to fund The Calais Project new play commission and workshops with migrant groups.



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