Review: Labels, Pulse Festival, New Wolsey Studio, Ipswich, Pulse Festival continues until June 4.

Labels, Pulse Festival, New Wolsey 2016

Labels, Pulse Festival, New Wolsey 2016 - Credit: Archant

How do we decide who’s a good migrant and who’s a bad immigrant?

That was the question that was left ringing in my head after watching Joe Sellman-Leava’s performance of Labels at the Wolsey Studio last night as Ipswich’s anticipated Pulse Festival gets underway.

Joe used his own story about growing up in the UK as a multiracial man and the prejudices he has faced to make the audience reflect on the current refugee crisis in Europe.

Friend, enemy, boy, girl – Joe handed out white labels to spectators and asked them to wear them during the show as he explored some of the more dangerous tags we brandish people with.

As Joe started reading out quotes from the likes of Katie Hopkins, Jeremy Clarkson, David Starkey and Nigel Farage,, it soon became obvious why we are a nation divided on migration.


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“It’s become the fashion to be politically incorrect, sticking two fingers up to the thought police,” Joe reflected, a statement that provoked nods and sounds of agreement from the crowd.

Sellman-Leava isn’t the last name Joe was born with, it was Patel. But when Joe was four years old his father, a man of Indian heritage, was told that their surname might stop him from getting a job. They changed it, and it worked.

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Joe asked for a volunteer from the audience to help him reenact a conversation he had with a woman on the mobile dating app, Tinder. A conversation that started with “You look foreign” and ended with “I’m after someone who is not Indian”.

It was shocking to hear that this level of xenophobia and racism is still present in Britain today.

On occasions throughout the show the lighting would dim and a spotlight would come down on Joe while he gave short spoken word performances about important experiences in his life, like when he was attacked by a group of men in the street because of his skin colour.

Despite the serious subject matter, Joe still managed to make the audience laugh which made this poignant and relevant production engaging and interactive.

Gemma Mitchell

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