Readings for Refugees

I finished my last post with a poem which, although about the Callander Poetry Weekend, was dedicated to my friend Iyad Hayatleh, who was at that time an asylum seeker. he got leave to stay (eventually) and last Saturday he and Tessa Ransford launched their book A Rug of a Thousand Colours at the Scottish Poetry Library.

Most asylum seekers aren’t so lucky. For many years the senior partner and I have joined Ayshire Friends of Refugees at Dungavel in protest at the injustice meted out to them, and on Monday I went to Irvine at the invitation of my good friend Margaret Donnelly to participate in an event called Readings for Refugees. I read the Dungavel poems, of course, but also poems about our own migrations stories, the Irish Famine and the Highland Clearances, and the importance of speaking up for yourself, in your own voice. It’s a great privilege to be able to use poetry in this way. It’s often said that poetry makes nothing happen, but I’m not sure I believe it.

It was a good evening, including many interesting readings and messages of support from some of the authors whose works were read.

It wasn’t well attended, however, not too surprisingly, as the Dungavel protests are attracting less and less attention too. I want to pay special tribute to the members of Ayshire Friends of Refugees and to the Eurydice choir, whose persistent speaking out for a cause which seems so unfashionable I find completely inspiring.

I’d also like to draw attention to an event run by Ayrshire Peace Group on the international Day of Peace (21st September). It will take place in the Grand Hall Complex, London Road Kilmarnock at 7:30 pm, and it’s FREE.

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