CONTAINED Project connects experience, research, and creative learning to provoke thoughts and contribute to dialogues and greater understanding about migration. The project began in 2016 as a collaboration between researcher Marieke van Houte and Anja Meinhardt of physical theatre company Justice in Motion, together with storyteller and teacher Remco Heijmans. They developed a trilogy of immersive, physical and participatory performances and creative learning tools.

In 2017, Justice in Motion will take one part of the trilogy – CONTAINED: Pecking Order – on tour. Marieke van Houte is further developing another part – The Extraordinary Queuing Experience – both as a performance and as an experimental research method. Marieke will also develop CONTAINED Project further and is keen to create more creative connections that trigger dialogues on migration.

CONTAINED Project does not have a moral message on what we should think or do about migration and it is not designed to simply evoke sympathy for migrants and refugees. We want instead to create a dialogue based on better understanding of migration and what it means to be a migrant.

CONTAINED refers to shipping containers, which provides a metaphor for what this project is about: The courage it takes of migrants and refugees to use risky means of transport on their journeys to Europe. The entrepreneurship and the global economy that lies behind the migration industry. And, more abstractly, the frames and boxes that define our views and lifestyles. CONTAINED Project is about opening up dialogue by challenging ourselves to look beyond the confines of our own container!

Key components of CONTAINED Project

CONTAINED Project challenges views through letting people experience migration in a way that they can relate to.

We use immersive, physical and participatory theatre to let audiences experience migration in a participatory, inclusive, playful and respectful way. Our performances let you experience what ‘home’ feels like, and how it feels when home is disrupted. We let you experience the dilemma of whether to move or stay; the dual feelings of risk and adventure; of exclusion and confusion and the complexities of what it means to migrate.

What would you do when confronted with the decision to stay or go? What risks or adventures would you face?

How does it feel to arrive somewhere unfamiliar, where the rules are unknown? Which skills do you need to succeed?

Why do different people in society respond to immigration in the way they do?

Are ‘we’ responsible for the causes of migration, such as global inequalities, conflict and climate change?

We will not tell you the answer to any of these questions. We will let you experience it!

CONTAINED Project reflects findings, patterns and stories from research on migration.

Although many people welcome migrants and refugees, there is also public anxiety and cynicism about migration, which seems to be fed by feelings of insecurity about our world as we know it. We believe that discussing this complexity based on evidence-based and nuanced information on migration and what it means to be a migrant will strengthen people’s capacity to develop their own voice and counterbalance simplified or skewed narratives we receive from politics and the media. We focus on three themes:

Decisions and Journeys
Why do people migrate? Why do most other people stay, even in conflict areas? 97 per cent of the world’s population lives in the country where they were born. Only three per cent of the world’s population is a migrant. For those who leave, migration journeys are never a straight line from origin to destination. With every step, decisions have to be made and boundaries have to be crossed. This is why most people on the move will stay close to their place of origin – only a fraction of migrants and refugees travel further afield and reach Europe.

Arrival and Reception
What are the challenges and strategies migrants face, and which actors have an influence on that? Migrants have different capacities, skills, and motivations to come to Europe. Their strategies in interplay with gatekeepers, observers and bystanders shape the outcomes of migration. Although asylum and migration policy seems like a machine, it is also a machine made up of humans.

Movement and Change
Human migration is interlinked with global processes of change, and lies at the heart of increasingly pressing questions about our complex and connected world. Rather than a ‘crisis’, moving is a natural reaction to adapt to changes and imbalances in society, including economic and political inequality, as well as conflict and environmental change. Therefore, attempts to stop migration seldom have the desired effect.

CONTAINED Project creates a learning experience about migration through the use of creative and interactive techniques, encouraging more understanding attitudes towards migrants and migration.

Not every experience or piece of information automatically leads to learning. We pay attention to four basic conditions for learning when creating a learning experience on migration:

Learning environment
Creating a learning environment in which participants feel safe and comfortable. This includes giving any activity a clear, logical and enabling order that gradually draws the participants into a conducive and creative environment.

Learning strategies
How do people learn? Giving some statistics and facts on migration can sometimes be a true eye-opener because they are different from the impression received via the media. On the other hand, physically and emotionally experiencing a social issue has more potential to challenge and transform attitudes than trying to cognitively ‘educate’ people. The strongest learning experience happens when these sensory and emotive activities are combined with discussion and reflection.

Learning goals
The skill of understanding and taking different perspectives to one’s own enhances the development of feelings of empathy and even compassion. Creative tools such as storytelling and drama can help us step into the shoes of others. Combined with reflection on the real world, we hope to let participants find their own voice on issues of migration, who can then become a new generation of opinion-makers and idea-generators who might have new and innovative responses to current migration challenges.

Learning process
Education is an ongoing, cyclical process that happens in different stages. Learning should be tailored to the level of participants through getting a basic sense of participants’ interests, knowledge and opinions about the topic as a necessary first step. Innovative evaluation tools also help us to assess the impact of the activity.


CONTAINED Project began in 2016 as a collaboration between researcher Marieke van Houte and Anja Meinhardt of physical theatre company Justice in Motion, together with storyteller and teacher Remco Heijmans.

In 2017, Marieke is developing CONTAINED Project further and is keen to work with others to create more connections that trigger dialogues on migration: If you are a researcher, performer, artist, funder or event organizer and you would like to work with us, get in touch!