Stories about refugees and asylum seekers are never far from the headlines and can spark debate everywhere, from croft houses in Caithness to the Houses of Parliament.
But it’s the stories behind those headlines that matter and there’s no bigger, or more time-appropriate, story being told at the moment than that of the Glasgow Girls.
The musical is based on the true story of seven teenagers from Drumchapel in Glasgow, whose lives changed forever in 2005 when their school friend, Agnesa Mursela, and her asylum-seeking family were forcibly taken from their home to be deported.
The teenagers, who became known as the Glasgow Girls, took a stand to fight for her rights, and ultimately the rights of all children of asylum seekers.
They inspired a community to unite behind its residents and later gained cross-party support from the Scottish Government.
In 2010, the story inspired theatre maker and director Cora Bissett to turn their incredible story into a musical.
The award-winning show has played around the UK to sold-out theatres and picked up numerous awards.
“It’s incredible, as every time we bring the show back it seems to be very relevant,” said Cora.
“There’s been five or six incarnations of the show since then and every time it is shown, it feels like it relates to something that’s happening in the news either here or around the world.”
In 2005, as the girls’ story unfolded, Cora was aware of their plight, but it wasn’t until she watched Lindsay Hill’s documentary of the Glasgow Girls’ story Tales From the Edge that she got to know Lindsay and the girls themselves.
“After watching the footage, I came to the surprising but exciting conclusion that this story should be told as a musical.
“There were so many stories I could have told but the story of the Glasgow Girls leaped out at me.
“They were teenagers and didn’t know what (as an adult) it’s like to be worn down.
“They had absolute blind faith, hope and optimism that they could make a change.”
>> Keep up to date with the latest lifestyle features with The P&J Lifestyle newsletter
The girls’ energy and passion for their cause is transferred to the stage and the show is humbling and inspirational at the same time.
“Whether it’s about asylum situations or anything in your life, there’s always something you can do,” said Cora.
“A small stand can grow arms and legs, so it’s always worth trying to take that little stand.”
The show features more than a dozen musical numbers, all original.
Cora wrote some of the numbers, such as the mature ballads for the parents, and also worked with three different songwriters.
“I didn’t want it to sound like a ‘traditional’ musical as the girls were such a hybrid of musical influences themselves,” she explained.
“They listened as much to hip hop, pop and rock as they did traditional music in their homes, and I wanted the show to reflect that.”
It was important to Cora that the girls were involved in all the development stages of the show.
They read the script, gave feedback and have continued to come to every outing the production has. They have also become lifelong friends with many of the cast.
“The girls have become gorgeous young women who have gone to, and graduated from, university and have become formidable in their own right,” said Cora.
Roza Salih graduated from Strathclyde University after studying law and politics and is now working as office manager for an MP.
Amal Azzudin graduated with a Masters in human rights and international politics and works for the Mental Health Foundation.
She has worked voluntarily in refugee camps in Greece, was honoured at the Saltire Society’s Outstanding Women of Scotland 2016 and won the University of Glasgow’s World Changing Alumni Award 2018.
Emma Clifford Bell is now a BBC Scotland journalist while Jennifer McCarron works as a child development officer.
“Nesa (Agnesa) whose story was at the core of the event is not a political beast by nature and is happy living her life in Glasgow,” said Cora.
Presented by Raw Material, in association with Regular Music, the life-affirming musical, Glasgow Girls is at Eden Court Theatre, Inverness, from today, Thursday February 7, until Saturday February 9. Contact: 01463 234234 and www.eden-court.co.uk