The audience expresses its thanks to the children for their strong and moving piece - a chance to hear from our MP and from 'strangers' how the play had affected them.
Since the performance, audience members have been sending in their feedback:
It was an absolutely fantastic production. It was authentic and did not shy away from the issue of racism. The children were absolute superstars; they pulled out all the stops and had people in the audience very emotional with some openly tearful. Hats off too to the headteacher who was brave enough to say yes. I was pleased I was able to take a small part and give back to a school that is as exceptional today as it was when I attended 50 years ago. Another seminal moment in the history of the school.
This was simply the best school production I have seen for a long time. I was impressed with the way you used old and new technology to convey the history of West Park School, how its history fits into that of the wider community and its changing demography. I wondered how you would treat Enoch Powell’s 'Rivers of Blood' speech, and when it arrived it fitted seamlessly into the narrative. I was also pleased to see past pupils, parents and teachers sharing their personal experiences in an educational setting, emphasising the role of the school in a wider educational process. Loved it. Long may you continue to tackle difficult subjects with such sensitivity.
Vanley Burke, Photographer
It was a joy to attend. The fusion of artistry through music, song, dance, film, shadow puppetry, readings from the original school logbooks and tableaux was superb. The engagement of former pupils, local community, and parents was a wonderful addition. The history of the school was well researched and the children's performance and conclusions was an emotional and inspirational journey for the audience.
Colleen Molloy, National Development Officer City of Sanctuary
This was a powerful play that taught us so much about immigration, racism, Enoch Powell and children's lives at West Park primary. To understand the present we must learn from our past, and this play did just that - bringing to life our history, and celebrating our diversity within it. It was a play that confronted the racism that has blighted our society, and rather than just hoping that if we ignore this dark history it will disappear, the performers directly addressed this past. I was blown away by the event and all the performers. Those behind the scenes should be congratulated - get this play touring the country! Dr Shirin Hirsch, History, University of Wolverhampton.
Thank you all at West Park Primary School for a truly wonderful production of West Park Welcomes the World. It was epic!
You perfectly captured the integrity of the teaching staff and the pupils of 1968 and the political climate of the day. 50 years later West Park Primary pupils and staff are still leading the way - choosing emphatically inclusion and love over ignorance and hate. We are so very proud that West Park Primary became the first School of Sanctuary in Wolverhampton. Long may you continue to be such a shining example to others. With heartfelt thanks for all you do and all the best wishes in the world.
Kate Penman, Secretary Wolverhampton City of Sanctuary
I am of an age that I can remember Powell's speech and vaguely footage of the school. I remember the first black children arriving at my primary school in London, and how some of the children tried to bully them and name calling. A few of us did not want to do this and made friends despite playground pressures. This has stuck with me all of my life and is the reason I have been an anti racist ever since. I found the play inspirational and was so proud and touched that the children today, have learned from the school's history that friendship bridges race. The play highlighted so many issues about how we should appreciate diversity, and grow as a community. It is a tribute to West Park and I feel should somehow be shared in schools all around the country. I went to the event at the Heritage Centre later, and everyone there was buzzing about how good the play had been. Congratulations to the pupils and staff for an amazing play, which knocks Powell's prophecy of doom clear out of Wolverhampton.
Dave Wyatt, retired social worker
I want to thank all the children, staff and parents from West Park School for your stunning performance ‘West Park Welcomes the World’. Your message of welcome rang out loud and clear against the backdrop of a world that is hostile to many. A fantastic achievement.
Ursula Walker, a member of Black Country Stand Up to Racism
I think the combination of the shadow puppetry, the lived experience statements including the log book extracts along with the original and spoofy newsreels was an inspirational way of communicating the message of the play. As many said it helped to rub out the toxic legacy of Powell's speech and replace it with a flowing and creative 'River of Hope' for future Wolverhampton citizens.
Well done again. A superbly researched and produced contribution to the debate.
Best wishes to all the staff and pupils involved b from across the decades, their parents, the governors and indeed the whole school community.
Dave Traxson, Educational Psychologist and proud Wolverhampton resident.
The commitment of the children was thrilling enough to make the show a success. But it was also so much more than this! - the beauty of the shadow puppets... the participation of adults alongside the children... the bravery of the production in not ducking anything (eg using video extracts from Enoch Powell's speech)... and the co-ordination of all these different elements. I came as a visitor to this community and I felt I'd been welcomed with a complete immersion! When I described it to friends later that day, I choked with emotion. It was a wonderful experience.
Robert Petty, retired drama teacher, Shropshire
My view on the performance is that it was beautifully directed and performed, authentic with its message and unapologetically honest. I love the fact that for once, the truth was not sugar-coated but equally, the children were not exposed to traumatising views of a racist history. It was so warming to see the Head Teacher of 1968, talk about her school pupils with pride and happiness. As a British born woman of Jamaican heritage, I grew up to believe that most white people in power in the 60s and 70s were racist (as much as I should have known better, I thought it was true). I had that paradigm shifted after watching the performance. That left me feeling a lot more hopeful for the future in this hostile environment for foreigners. Thank you so very much. As someone who has spent her adult life working with children in the area of cultural diversity, I finally feel a school (West Park Primary) has hit the solution right on the nose.
Rebecca Hemmings, Director of Strawberry Words Ltd
It was a brilliant and extraordinary afternoon. It had so many powerful interlocking components. The move from the children speaking to historical testimony and back, with the shadow puppets, passages from the headteacher's log and the historic video clips produced an emotional journey that had me both smiling and, at times, in tears. Thank you so much for putting it on and inviting us as a wider audience to see it. Such a fitting antidote to the hate and division that Powell promoted with his infamous 'rivers of blood' speech. Martin Lynch, convenor Black Country Stand up to Racism
I've stopped crying now, so I can write!
I found the performance very informative and extremely moving. Even though I don't know any children at the school, I felt proud of them, proud of the staff, and proud to live in Whitmore Reans! The production itself was very well done and seemed to give every child an important role, if not a starring one! What moved me most, I think was the values of the school that were conveyed - and which I share - that we are all equal, can live in harmony, and everyone should be valued for their individuality. It was a wonderful rebuttal of the "rivers of blood" mentality, and a powerful teaching tool. Thank you!
Chris Stewart, social worker, local resident
The performance was brilliant. The developments from the previous performance were absolutely spot on, the final shadow puppet scene with the trees was beautiful. Great mix of humour, history and straight speaking about racism. It was refreshing to hear adults reflecting on their learning from the children. I thought the performance set the tone for the whole day's reflections on the legacy of Powell and made it a celebration of diversity and humanity and pushed the speech to the corner of history where it belongs. Well done to all.
Amanda Bevan, Women of Wolverhampton
Everything was fantastic on Saturday, the children were happy, extremely focussed and knowledgeable about the subject. They provided the emotional element to the performance without it feeling over the top. It was really good that such a topical and important political issue was dealt with in a way that didn't come across as a polemic or sentimentality but as real feeling genuinely performed and stringently researched. Well done.
Richard Ashwell, ex chair of Governors at West Park Primary
For a school production this was a very powerful and moving performance, a timely and poignant piece considering the times we live in. Huge credit should be given to the school and all involved for being brave enough to put on such a challenging production!
National Stand Up to Racism representative and barrister Brian Richardson, speaking about the performance at the Heritage Centre
Thank you so much to the whole team at West Park Primary school. The play you all helped create and the idea you made real, was such a privilege to share in. I wish all children (and adults) in Wolverhampton could see it. Wolverhampton is such a special place and you showed us why. I can't wait to see what you do next! Thanks again.
Andrea from Wolverhampton Green Party
I was absolutely blown away by the West Park Welcomes the World performance at West Park. Congratulations! What a fantastic project.
Moya Lloyd, freelance community arts project manager
Thank you pupils, staff, parents and friends of West Park school for an absolutely phenomenal afternoon. We were blown away by the show you put on for us – we laughed and we cried as you told the story of your school so brilliantly.
Thank you all for the wonderful welcome and warmth you gave us. We came to support our friend Mike who was in the class of ’68 but left feeling we had made so many new friends too. Be proud – you’re amazing. We only wish the whole world could see your story – and learn from it. Thank you!
Pam & Andrew Rudge, Telford, Shropshire & Telford Trades Council members