The Hidden Injuries of Social Mobility

From Wednesday 8 to Sunday 26 June join us for the World Premiere of The Paper Birds new show Mobile. Step inside an ordinary looking caravan and see a treasure trove of magic and digital wizardry. Where the kettle talks, cupboards open to reveal pop up worlds and the whole caravan is transformed into our solar system.

The Hidden injuries of Social Mobility
By Sociologist Sam Friedman of the London School of Economics

Social Mobility is seen as a key marker of a fair and just society; a society where no individual is prevented from fulfilling their potential.

But while politicians tend to present mobility as a positive force, how does this chime with those who actually experience mobility? This was the question that drove a sociological research project i conducted in 2014 with 52 people who had experienced profound upward social mobility. the results were striking. While these people were clearly proud of their achievements – they were the first in their families to go to university and now enjoyed economic security – success had come at a considerable emotional price. most had experiences mobility as a distinctly bumpy ride – a lonely, uneasy journey that left them at once dislocated from their working-class roots and at the same time not entirely comfortable in their new, middle-class, cultural habitat. Mobility in short brought with it a slew of hidden injuries.

It struck me that these stories, which seemed to paint a very different picture of mobility to the one presented by politicians, needed to be shared beyond academia. So I approached The Paper Birds, a company who’s powerful and unashamedly political approach to theatre I had admired for a long time.  Mobile, which combines real testimony from my participants with the imaginative theatremaking of The Paper Birds, is the exciting collaborative result. I should emphasise that we do not intend the play to somehow imply that social mobility is ‘bad’ or makes people unhappy. Instead we simply want to illustrate that people make sense of their life journeys not just in terms of money and success, but also emotionally in term of their relationships – with family, friends, places, even particular tastes and objects. And here we need to be sensitive to the fact that our past will always have a lasting impact on who we are and how we feel in the present.


Mobile is an intimate 40 minute show for nine people at a time. It’s the first show commissioned for Live Garden our new garden and outdoor performance space recently completed as part of our Live Works development. Presented by The Paper Birds, Mobile has its World Premiere at Live Theatre from Wednesday 8 to Sunday 26 June (not Friday 17 or Thursday 23 June) before going on a national tour. Find out more.

Tickets cost £10 & £8 full price and £8 & £6 concessions. To book tickets and to find out more visit www.live.org.uk or contact Live Theatre’s Box Office on (0191) 232 1232.