2017 was the inaugural year of the Ripon Poetry Festival, part of the long-standing annual Ripon International Festival. Organised by Smokestack Books, the event takes place over a long weekend and involves readings, workshops and book launches from local and invited poets, who have included Michael Rosen, Louis de Bernieres and Ian McMillan.
We are delighted that the festival sets aside one session each year for issues of asylum and exile, and that we are invited to colaborate on this event.
2018 – ‘A Blade of Grass’
The session featured poems in A Blade of Grass, an anthology showcasing the work of a new generation of Palestinian poets, edited by Naomi Foyle (who read in English) and contributor Mustafa Abu Sneineh (who read the same poems as Naomi, but in Arabic).
Naomi is a prize-winning poet, essayist, science-fiction novelist and academic. She co-founded British Writers in Support of Palestine, and is a non-Muslim Fellow of the Muslim Institute. Mustafa Abu Sneineh is London-based Palestinian poet and a journalist for Middle East Eye.
Read about our 2018 poetry reading.
2017 – ‘Poetry and Sanctuary’
A session entitled ‘Poetry and Sanctuary‘ asked, “In an age of exile, emigration and displacement, what happens to poets who must leave their native languages behind? And what happens to a language that loses its poets? An afternoon of poetry about identity and exile with Syrian poets Amir Darwish and Alaa Saloum.” Amir Darwish is from Aleppo, Syria and came to the UK during the first Iraq war, studying at the universities of Teesside and Durham. He has published several books of poetry and prose; his first full-length collection is Don’t Forget the Couscous. Alaa Saloum is from Damascus, Syria. She left Syria in 2016 to take up a place on a Comparative Literature MA programme at the University of Edinburgh, graduating a year later with a high distinction. She writes beautiful poetry but is as yet unpublished.
Through our Schools of Sanctuary engagement, we had been working with children at Greystone Community Primary School, Ripon. We asked children at the school to create a small poetry anthology, based on what they had learned about refugee issues, which was then made available to all of the visitors to the whole poetry festival and even went on to be read in the House of Commons and House of Lords. Read more about the children’s refugee poetry.