Hackney Empire presents the European premiere of We Shall Not Be Moved.

A powerfully poetic and interdisciplinary new work from the creative team of Haitian-American composer, Daniel Bernard Roumain, librettist Marc Bamuthi Joseph and distinguished director/choreographer/dramaturg, Bill T. Jones.

A Hackney Empire co-commission and co-production with Opera Philadelphia and Harlem’s Apollo Theater, We Shall Not Be Moved combines spoken word, contemporary dance and video projection with a brooding, often joyful score with post hip-hop flourishes, filled with place, purpose and possibility. We Shall Not Be Moved is a timely exploration of past and present struggles while suggesting an alternate, more hopeful future through the eyes of its young protagonists.

The story depicts five North Philadelphia teenagers on the run. Comprising a 15-year-old African-American girl and her self-selected “family” of four brothers – a black identifying white boy and three African-Americans, one of whom is transgender, the group take refuge in a condemned house on the site of Philadelphia’s former MOVE compound. Their confrontation with a local police officer, herself a woman of colour, raises timely questions of national identity, gender identity, the insidious nature of racism, police presence in minority neighbourhoods and the violence that sometimes ensues, and the failure for some of the education system. Ultimately the work hinges on the notion of personal responsibility.

The five young runaways, who style themselves the “Family Stand”, are inspired by the ghosts who haunt their new home, and come to consider their squatting as a matter of destiny and resistance rather than self-preservation. Their confrontation with Glenda, the Hispanic police officer, rises from the ashes of one of the darkest hours in Philadelphia’s history. On 13 May, 1985, Philadelphia became “The City That Bombed Itself” when local police concluded a standoff with the radical MOVE group by dropping explosives on the organisation’s terraced house headquarters, starting a fire that city officials then allowed to burn. This unconscionable attack killed eleven African-American MOVE members, five of whom were children, and wiped out an entire residential neighbourhood, leaving more than 250 people homeless.

Librettist, arts activist and spoken word artist, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, said:

“This opera is not about the MOVE organization, but it is set in the same city some 30-odd years later. And the parents of the young people we’re focused on most likely lived in Philadelphia during that time. So, in the same way that we all inherit the legacy of systemic pathologies in our country, the main characters – including the police officer who serves as both antagonist and protagonist – are also part of that legacy, and they mine the specific history of the MOVE organisation and the MOVE bombing as a foundational point. We focus on how the legacy of the MOVE ideologies and of this extrajudicial violence shows up today all over the country – and acutely in the city of Philadelphia.”

The OGs – original ghosts of the dead MOVE children, express themselves primarily by means of kasé, the movement associated with spirit possession in Afro-Haitian Vodou rites. In collaboration with hip-hop and breakdance specialist Raphael Xavier, Bill T. Jones has choreographed the contemporary movement and dance that, together with video projection and spoken word, lead him to describe We Shall Not Be Moved as “ambitiously interdisciplinary”.

Spoken word artist Lauren Whitehead plays Un/Sung, the self-appointed leader of the “Family Stand”, and Kirstin Chávez sings the role of Glenda, the Philadelphia police officer. Impressive young countertenor, John Holiday, creates the transgender role of John Blue, with bass-baritone Aubrey Allicock as John Henry, baritone Adam Richardson as John Mack, and tenor Daniel Shirley as John Little. Dancers, Michael Bishop, Duane Lee Holland Jr., Tendayi Kuumba and Caci Cole Pritchett play the OGs.


For your chance to win one pair of tickets to the European premiere of We Shall Not Be Moved at Hackney Empire, please answer the following: 

What have the five runaways featured in this production called themselves?

  • A. The Family Walk
  • B. The Family Sit
  • C. The Family Stand

Email your answer along with your full name, postal address and contact number to: info@thebritishblacklist.com

***Please put ‘We Shall Not Be Moved’ in the subject line***

Also please note the dates the tickets are available and let us know in order of preference which date you’d like to attend:

  • Sun 15 Oct @ 5pm
  • Fri 20 Oct  @ 7.30pm
  • Sat 21 Oct  @ 7:30pm

Find out more about the production here.


Terms and conditions

  1. This competition is only open to residents of the United Kingdom
  2. Closing date for entry will be Sunday 27th August 2017. After this date the no further entries to the competition will be permitted.
  3. No responsibility can be accepted for entries not received for whatever reason.
  4. The British Blacklist reserves the right to cancel or amend the competition and these terms and conditions without notice in the event of a catastrophe, war, civil or military disturbance, act of God or any actual or anticipated breach of any applicable law or regulation or any other event outside of the promoter’s control. Any changes to the competition will be notified to entrants as soon as possible by the promoter.
  5. The promoter is not responsible for inaccurate prize details supplied to any entrant by any third party connected with this competition.
  6. No cash alternative to the prizes will be offered. The prizes are not transferable. Prizes are subject to availability and we reserve the right to substitute any prize with another of equivalent value without giving notice.
  7. Winner(s) will be chosen and notified no later than 31st August 2017.
  8. The winner will be notified by email. If the winner cannot be contacted or does not claim the prize within 14 days of notification, The British Blacklist reserves the right to withdraw the prize from the winner and pick a replacement winner.
  9. The British Blacklist’s decision in respect of all matters to do with the competition will be final and no correspondence will be entered into.
  10. By entering this competition, an entrant is indicating his/her agreement to be bound by these terms and conditions.