When I read Refugee Tales III I had a strong reaction: I cried a lot, and then I got angry and then I decided to do something. What I decided to do was to raise £400 to support GDWG in their work challenging the policy that allows detention and supporting detainees. I also decided to take part in the weekend events in early July in support of Refugee Tales.
Back in June I blogged about Refugee Tales III. This is the third volume of stories told by refugees and asylum seekers about their experiences in the UK. This volume focuses on those who have been held in indefinite detention. Since 2015 the Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group (GDWG) have been making an annual walk and as they walk they tell their stories in the manner of the Canterbury Tales. These are collected and published, some refugees tell their own stories, some are retold by accomplished writers.
My 25 bridges challenge
Over four weeks I crossed 25 different bridges in Devon. I was supported by other walkers, including my dog. Often I wore the distinctive and rather lovely blue T Shirt. I exceeded my target, thanks to the generosity of donors, raising £500 (+£75 Gift Aid) from 21 supporters.
During a weekend of on-line activities I heard first-hand accounts of the experience of detention, some stories retold by writers, and you can find some of these on the Refugee Tales You Tube channel. I was especially moved by Ali Smith’s short piece Azure. (I think it was by her, but the programme is no longer on the website). I cried again, got angry again and then I decided to do more.
Words into action
So what now?
It may have been Aristotle or Gunter Grass, but I like to repeat this phrase:
It’s the duty of the citizen to keep his [sic] mouth open.
It guides my further actions.
I have two books that I want to follow up with: No Friend but the Mountains: writing from Manus Prison by Behrouz Boochani, translated from the Farsi by Omid Tofighani. Behrouz Boochani is a Kurdish-Iranian journalist, who was detained from 2013 – 2017 on Manus Island by the Australian government when he claimed asylum. This book describes what happened to the detainees on the island. The translator recommended the combination of poetry and prose used by Boochani. I am interested in his ideas about literature and all arts as tools for political resistance which he mentioned in the on-line event..
The other book also looks interesting, recommended by a friend: No Borders: the politics of immigration control and resistance by Natasha King. A discussion of the possibilities and challenges of a world without borders appeals to me greatly.
- Donate more to Refugee Tales and GDWG
- Speak about this topic to my friends
- Write to my MP (again) on the subject
- Imagine immigration without indefinite detention as encouraged by Refugee Tales
- Join in further action: the Refugee Tales walk in 2021 is scheduled for 2-7th July. Perhaps I can walk alongside supporters rather than just sharing an on-line experience.
- Share the stories.
Ali Smith is the patron of Refugee Tales, and on the web-site (link below) she reports the wisdom of John Berger. He was responding to a question about what we can do about the movement of peoples and the reactions of countries to this.
The telling of stories is an act of profound hospitality. It always has been; story is an ancient form of generosity, an ancient form that will tell us everything we need to know about the contemporary world. Story has always been a welcoming-in, is always one way or another a hospitable meeting of the needs of others, and a porous artform where sympathy and empathy are only the beginning of things. The individual selves we all are meet and transform in the telling into something open and communal.
I like the idea of story-telling as hospitality and that we meet to become more open and communal.
And what can you do?
You can still donate to the Just Giving page here:
Anything from £1 to £100 will be welcome towards my target of £400
Other connected pages to read:
Refugee Tales III, Eds: David Herd & Anna Pincus (2019), published by Comma Press. 201pp. This is the post from June 2020
Refugee Tales, Eds: David Herd & Anna Pincus: a post in February 2017 on Bookword about the first collection of tales. I was raising money for Freedom from Torture at the time.
Refugee Tales 2, Eds: David Herd & Anna Pincus: a post in April 2018 on Bookword about the second collection.
Any suggestions for further reading?