Supported by Europe for Citizens, Strand 1 European Remembrance
Smashing Times are delighted to announce the launch of Comet Lines – The Freedom Trails of Europe, a yearlong, transnational project with four European partners from Ireland, Spain, Poland and Belgium, using creative processes of theatre workshops, performances, film and new digital technologies to promote a remembrance of European history with a focus on ‘Escape Lines’ during WWII.
‘Escape Lines’ were secret World War II networks set up to assist Allied soldiers and citizens leave Nazi occupied territory during WWII. Today, they are remembered in Europe and beyond as ‘Freedom Trails’. This project gathers twenty stories of people involved in the escape lines/freedom trails of Europe and takes the stories as inspiration to create a theatre workshop, performance and creative arts symposium, using the stories and activities as a catalyst to bring people together to raise awareness of the power of European solidarity, and also the role of the EU in promoting peace, democracy, and gender equality today.
The four partners are Smashing Times, Dublin, Ireland (lead partner); Theater & Reconciliation, Brussels, Belgium; University of Humanities and Economics (AHE), Lodz, Poland; and Iniciativas De Futuro Para Una Europa Social – IFESCOOP, Valencia, Spain.
The project remembers the stories of men and women who set up and ran the escape lines, including Belgium woman Countess Andrée Eugénie Adrienne de Jongh, known as Dédée de Jongh, who set up the Comet line. The Comet Line or Comète is estimated to have taken in or repatriated some 800 Allied servicemen who themselves were aided by over 3,000 civilians, approximately 700 of whom were arrested and some 290 shot dead or died during deportation. Established in 1940 in Brussels, the Comet Line provided a means of escape for Allied soldiers and airmen on the run in Nazi occupied Europe. The escapees were given food, clothing and false identity papers by members of the Resistance in countries such as Belgium, France and Spain, and were then guided by a chain of ‘helpers’ taking them through France, over the Pyrenees into neutral Spain and finally to freedom through Gibraltar. The network was established by De Jongh, a courageous 24-year-old Belgian woman who took enormous risks actively setting up and running the network with people from different nationalities and who herself personally escorted many of her charges out of France at risk to her own life. Dédée’s own hero was Edith Cavell, a British nurse shot in 1915 in Schaerbeek for helping troops escape from occupied Belgium into neutral Netherlands during the first World War.
By focusing on stories of ‘helpers’ and escapees – those who either organised or used the escape lines of mainland Europe during WWII – the project explores what happens when intolerance and totalitarianism take over and democratic processes are denied and encourages debate on contemporary democratic achievements in Europe today.
Creative actions include two transnational partner exchanges, performances and post-show panel discussions, theatre workshops, a book with articles and 20 stories, and an international creative arts symposium bringing citizens together to remember the people who managed the escape lines during WWII, and the cooperation and solidarity that existed between citizens from countries including the UK, Poland, Belgium, Ireland, France and Spain.
If you would like further information about this project please contact
Smashing Times Theatre Company Ltd, Coleraine House, Coleraine Street, Dublin 7
Tel: +353 (0)1 865 6613