Linlithgow teacher's hopes for debut play
A high school teacher from Linlithgow is hoping his published play will spark debate about race in Scotland, particularly among the younger generation.
Steve Athwal (62) has recently had his play ‘Tribe’ published by Brown, Son & Ferguson, about the racism an ethnic minority teenager faces in a Scottish school. The play is semi-autobiographical given that although Steve was born in Dundee, his family are from the Punjab in India.
Speaking about Tribe, he said: “The play questions what people do to feel they belong to one group over another - in other words, which tribe they most identify with.
"The message of the play is that in a culturally rich and politically diverse world, new tribal loyalties need to be formed, to make sense of place and value in the world.
"The play delivers the message that tolerance and acceptance is the only way to break the cycle of bigotry and division.
"I touch on sectarianism as well. I went to a protestant school, but I didn’t even know what a ‘proddy’ was. In the play the characters go along to chant outside a catholic school and the main character, a Scot of Asian descent, doesn’t know what’s going on at all but just wants to fit in with his schoolmates.
"That’s what it is all about, finding and identifying with your tribe.
"Scotland is a very diverse place and I think that’s brilliant. But the worrying thing just now across the world is people like Trump, Bolsanaro and Johnson, populist politicians, dividing people and placing them against each other.
"As I have grown up in Scotland I think racism has been decreasing but there is now a flicker of it coming back.”
The former music journalist currently teaches English at Bathgate Academy.
He added: "I just didn’t think there is anything like this in the curriculum for English, so I want to get it into as many schools as possible.
"Teaching high school kids, there was nothing about people like me, first generational Scots.
"Where do you draw the line to say that your tribe is Scottish, how far do you have to go? I’m Scottish but my parents are not.
"I think it’s important to be heard. That first generational Scots voice hasn’t been in literature in our country.”
Steve raised the main recent local issue regarding racism.
He said: "I want to raise debate on race through this play and for it to be part of the curriculum.
"I would just love to see it performed. I want people to have conversations about it and have a debate about race in Scotland.
"It’s like the row over the Black Bitch pub, I couldn’t believe all the fuss, as it’s not a racist name, and it stops us talking about the real race issues in our country.”
Tribe is available now at www.scottishplays.co.uk.