by Jez Bond

Sarah Rutherford, our writer in residence, has been developing a play inspired by some of the stories of Finsbury Park residents. Under the project title ‘N4 Stories’, she has been working with a group of (predominantly) local actors, interviewing people from the N4 area over the past four months. The actors have then brought these real characters and stories to life inside the rehearsal room where they have been hot-seated by Sarah and put into groups in order to improvise scenes.

As Sarah herself explains, below, through her research she now finds herself in Turkey – from where she will blog over the next few days…

I have to say that when I offered sometime last year to write a Finsbury Park play for the theatre, I could never have envisaged that I’d end up here on the Aegean coast.  But, starting with the true story of a Turkish woman in Finsbury Park, brought to me by one of our actors … via the cries of ‘You have to go there!’ from the many Turkish residents of N4 that I interviewed … and a speculative email to the Turkish Culture and Tourism Office that was met with extraordinary enthusiasm and generosity … here I am.

I’ve been repeatedly staggered by the warm welcome that our project has been receiving in North London, but nothing could have prepared me for the reception I’d get here.  I was met by my guide, not in the arrivals hall at Izmir airport, but straight off the flight, in the transit coach from plane to terminal.  From there, he whisked me straight past the queues for passport control, through the VIP door and straight to our waiting driver.

Murat – a graduate from Marmaris who specialises in tourism and who recently completed his Turkish national service – will be my babysitter for the next 4 days, accompanying me around Izmir, to the village of Sirince, and all the way to Istanbul.  My aim is to get a real feel for the detail of Turkish life, in order to help me understand exactly where my characters come from.

But for tonight, it was the finer things in life for me: I was taken by two board members of the Convention and Visitors Bureau to an exclusive restaurant at the top of a five-star hotel, to drink raki and eat a feast of Turkish delicacies while watching a dramatic sunset across the bay.  Not quite the nitty gritty of my research, perhaps, but now at least I have experienced first-hand the aniseedy heat of Turkey’s national drink as it travels through the body.  I’m sure I can work that in somewhere.

[Written by Sarah Rutherford, Writer in Residence]

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