October 2017 saw the inaugural Ripon Poetry Festival, part of the long-standing annual Ripon International Festival. The poetry event took place over a long weekend in and involved a wide range of styles from many local and invited poets, including Michael Rosen.
Ripon City of Sanctuary worked with the festival organisers to contribute a session entitled ‘Poetry and Sanctuary’:
“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 She writes beautiful poetry but is as yet unpublished.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, as a result of everything they’d learned about refugees and asylum-seekers, to create a small poetry anthology which was then made available to all of the visitors to the whole poetry festival. Read more about the children’s refugee poetry.