Thursday, 14 May 2009

Press release: UK charity Sandblast launches "Running the Sahara 2010" in support of the Saharawi refugees

On June 12th, Sandblast holds a multimedia launch at London-based Caravanserai Acting Studios to begin recruiting over 100 people for the 10th Saharamarathon in February 2010. Not to be confused with the Marathon de Sables, this cultural evening will inform about the sporting event in the Algerian desert in support of the Saharawi refugees. The Saharawi situation will be introduced by a short documentary, “Deserted” (2007), and the UK premiere of selected preview scenes from the first British-Saharawi play, “The Other Side of the Wall”, directed by Caravanserai founder, Giles Foreman.

The international sporting event takes place in the Saharawi refugee camps in the Algerian Sahara near Tindouf. A full 42-km marathon as well as shorter races of 5km, 10km and a half marathon are organized. Participants live with individual refugee families during their weeklong stay in the camps. The camp-based Saharawi government-in-exile and international volunteers have organized and hosted the event since 2000, to show solidarity with the Saharawi people and raise money for projects to improve the lives of the long-term refugees.

The Saharamarathon, in February 2009, had over 400 participants from Europe and the US. 24 came from the UK and helped raise over £10,000 for the Saharawi Artist Fund, set up by Sandblast to run regular art workshops in the camps and provide vital training and resources for cultural and economic empowerment. The UK contingent included fourteen young professional actors from Caravanserai. They gave introductory acting workshops and developed further “The Other Side of the Wall” that will be premiered in London in July and tour in 2010. During their visit, the Saharawi Culture Ministry requested their help to build a national theatre and set up a film production company in the camps.

Sandblast works to give the Saharawis a voice through the arts and is the official UK facilitator for the Saharamarathon in 2010, with the support of the Polisario Front office in London, the diplomatic representation of the Saharawis in the UK. For the 2010 race, the charity Sandblast aims to fill an entire Air Algerie plane for UK participants. With the funds raised through their participation and other donations, Sandblast aims to set up a professional mobile recording studio and train Saharawis to run it in the camps.

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