Reading My Way Around the World

Thursday 30 April 2020

Letters With WIngs

Taken from the Letters With Wings Page 
And so, her name at the top left-hand side of the envelope; under it, the address of her prison” - Joseph Andras
For Poetry Day Ireland, in a difficult moment where people all over the world are locked up at home because of the pandemic, we want to bond with artists and activists who are kept in prisons for their art or for practicing freedom of speech, or because they are fighting for human rights.
Nûdem Durak
I'm not a poet so my best effort at supporting this is by sharing information,  and reading down the list of artists on the Letters With Wings Facebook Page, this young woman stood out to me.   

Nûdem Durak is a Kurdish folk singer who is in prison in Turkey for singing in her own language.   Originally she was imprisoned for one year and then the sentence was extended by another 19 years!  She was charged under "the vague notion of propagandising for singing in her own language" which was banned until the early 90s.  
I have a particular resonance with her.   Back in the 90s Tom and I were doing a gig onboard a ferry between Larne and Stranraer.   It was mid summer and the lounge was packed.   Some tourists travelling from England asked for an Irish song (which I was studiously avoiding beccaues there were a lot of football supporters in the bar).   So I opted to sing The Mountains of Mourne, written by the wonderful Percy French, thinking at least it's a Northern Irish based topic.   
At the end of the gig, waiting for disembarkation in Larne, while Tom was off the boat getting our car to load up, the aforementioned football supporters cornered me and called me a string of names and really frightened the life out of me telling me I was an IRA blah blah blah and that my father should rot in prison.   I was so shaken that I reported the incident to the bar staff.  To my shock they said I was singing songs to incite violence! And we lost the gig - I wouldn't have gone back anyway.  

Reading Nudem's story last night this incident has been really fresh in my mind - However, in spite of the nastiness and partisanship here, I wasn't locked up.   Can you imagine what that must be like.   

If you are into poetry please check out the Facebook page - my friend Csilla is one of the people behind this project - and leave a message for an artist who isn't allowed to speak out.  

Saturday 25 April 2020

Book Review: The PIanist of Yarmouk

I've been getting through lots of books on my round the world reading challenge since the new year and the lockdown has been helping me get through the pile lying by my bedside.   I've updated the list on the dedicated page to include the new countries I"ve been to and thought I'd do a bit of a deeper review of some of them over the next while.

A while back I joined a charity book club called ShelterBox.   They send a book every 6 weeks or so from a new writer and there have been some very interesting titles in their selections including this one.  The donations to the charity help with their work with refugees around the world, particularly now with the coronavirus epidemic hitting so many places that are already in crisis. 

So my top book for this year so far has to be The Pianist of Yarmouk

Syria/Palestinian Refugee Camp 

 The Pianist of Yarmouk by Aeham Ahmad *****

You may remember seeing a picture in the news a few years back of a pianist playing in the middle of the rubble of one of the refugee camps in Damascus.   Well that was Aeham Ahmad and this book is his memoir - a truly inspiring story of hope in the most awful of places.

He grew up in a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria, on the outskirts of Damascus, where Aeham's father, himself a musician, does everything in his power to give his very talented son a musical education.  It gives a very intimate account of the actualities of life in these conditions and gives a bitter sweet insight into the life of one of the people we saw walking in those terrible queues of people tyring to get into Europe a few years ago..   Thankfully Aeham survived to tell his story and is playing now in much more salubrious conditions with his family by his side.   I would love to meet him and shake his hand.

Tuesday 7 April 2020

Live Online Tomorrow

How are you all coping in this crazy time?   I'm finding myself vacillating between being really stressed trying to keep up with work which seems to take 3 times as long as normal and just longing for some rest to sit and listen to the bird songs that are magnificent at the moment. 

The technology challenges have been immense over the past few weeks but finally I've got the choir up and running - more as a singalong weekly get together rather than a choir working in harmonies, but it's still a lovely gathering   And my first one to one classes have also worked out much better than expected via Zoom.

And now our biggest challenge!  
We were due to be heading to Scotland and the north of England to play at some folk clubs the week after Easter which of course was cancelled so we've accepted a challenge from a friend who runs a lovely gift shop here and we're doing our first online concert tomorrow.   Yikes!   Terryifying or what!

So if you're around and have nothing better to do and are on Facebook, or can access it, we'll be live at 12noon tomorrow.   The timing is to suit Belinda who runs the shop, as she comes from Canberra and her family were due to be with her here to celeabrate the 4th annivesary of her shop - Good Craic Gifts.  We'll be playing for about 40-45 minutes, mostly our own songs and it'd be great to see you there if you can - it will be available as a replay afterwards and on YouTube.

So Wednesday 8th April 2020
12noon GMT
9pm Canberra/Sydney time
13h in Europe
7am USA East Coast (sorry guys - very early for you but hopefully if this works, we'll do another one as this confinement goes on and time it to suit you on the other side of the Pond).

If you do pop in, send us a comment so I can see where you're coming from....