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Ashley Pekri and Lizi Hatch lead a rehearsal for Holocaust Memorial Day with Leeds Actors in Training.

Holocaust Memorial Day 2024

On Sun 28 January 2024, City Varieties Music Hall will host its annual civic remembrance event, with the theme this year being ‘Fragility of Freedom’. Take a look at the cause, and the ways we and the people of Leeds will be honouring the occasion.

Written by Aaron Cawood


What is Holocaust Memorial Day?

Since 2001, the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust has carried out an annual remembrance event featuring over 10,000 local activities nationwide. As explained in their mission statement, the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust aims to ‘commemorate the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, alongside the millions of other people killed under Nazi persecution of other groups and in genocides that followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur; to encourage people to learn lessons from the past and take steps to challenge hatred and persecution.’

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Holocaust Memorial Day 2023

Three people sat in chairs reading scripts.

The cast of From The Top at the first read-through for Holocaust Memorial Day 2023.

Last year’s theme was ‘Ordinary People’, so our Leeds Actors in Training (LAIT) put together a piece inspired by the graphic novel Irmina by Barbara Yelin. Learning and Engagement Officer Ashley Pekri, who also wrote this year’s piece, said he wrote the script “to challenge young people on some of the thoughts and behaviours which led to the holocaust and other genocides.” Beginning the piece in a rehearsal room, From The Top told the story of a community theatre group tasked with putting together a show to soften the social impact of a recent event; a family from the neighbourhood being removed from their home, and their belongings then being auctioned off in the street. The group is tasked then with pushing back against a director who wants the piece to operate as propaganda.

The script worked to highlight, in the end, the importance of the voice of ordinary people. As Ashley went on to say: “The theme suggests that genocide is facilitated by ordinary people by ignoring the persecuted, oppressed and murdered. Ordinary people joined the murderous regimes, through adopting the harmful propaganda used to make other ordinary people their victims. Ordinary people were also rescuers, going to extreme lengths to stand up against the oppressors. Ordinary people make their own choices.”

Holocaust Memorial Day 2024

For Holocaust Memorial Day this year, members of LAIT will once again be performing a short piece of theatre exploring this year’s theme, ‘the fragility of freedom’.

As an ensemble, the cast will tell the fictional story of Jean, a recent university graduate ready to embark on the rest of their lives. However, Jean soon realises that while some can go on to achieve their goals, others, like Jean, can’t. Based on Gregory H Stanton’s 10 stages of genocide, through Jean’s eyes, we see the world around them unravel as each stage manifests in a modern-day society not too dissimilar from our own.

Ashley Pekri and Lizi Hatch lead a rehearsal for Holocaust Memorial Day with Leeds Actors in Training.

Ashley Pekri and Lizi Hatch lead a rehearsal for Holocaust Memorial Day 2024.

The story will be explored through spoken word and movement, and serve as a reminder of just how fragile freedom is for us all and how much of that freedom we take for granted.

As well as this performance, and an opening speech from the Lord Mayor, the keynote speaker will be Dr Martin Stern MBE. Born in 1938, Martin’s story is one of survival and the difficult path to finding a place to call home in the aftermath of tragedy. In the video below, learn more about Dr Martin Stern MBE.

Read more.

Gregory H Stanton's 10 stages of genocide. For full information on the content, visit hmd.org.uk

Gregory H Stanton's 10 stages of genocide

Leeds Heritage Theatres Engagement Fund

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