Ep. 7 | Jamila Gavin

I feel so depressed when I hear: ‘We have to go back to being English.’ What’s that, for heaven’s sake? Those are just words, they don’t give any meaning … Whatever our political agenda, there is still a huge amount of people coming to Europe, because there is so much conflict, drought, global warming … we can’t just be a little fortress. We got to change our mindset and not feel threatened by new cultures coming in … I don’t believe in suppressive cultures.

Do you want to come with us to the Hymalayan mountains?

Jamila Gavin is a writer who was born to an Indian father and an English mother, but she has lived most of her life in the UK. Jamila was one of the first authors to start writing multicultural literature, and she decided to focus on children. Her most recent publications include the Surya Trilogy and Coram Boy. In this interview, we discuss the importance of offering children stories and books in which they can see themselves, no matter where they come from or what their culture is. We also talk about the UK as a multicultural place, the importance of travelling as an inspiration, nationalism and those cases when you feel you belong to more than one culture. I think that this is something that happens a lot, but it’s not talked about enough. So I am very grateful I could chat with someone like Jamila, who has such an established career in writing. I think her experiences and her advice are incredibly valuable and I can’t thank her enough for sharing them with us.

Connect with Jamila Gavin:

Website

Ep. 6 | Jenn Ashworth and Richard V. Hirst

I think this idea of cultural appropriation makes white writers like me be very nervous about representing anyone in their fiction that doesn’t look like them or doesn’t come from the place they live in … but taking that too far can result in everyone only writing about these versions of themselves and you lose your literary freedom and your curiosity, and confidence.

Jenn Ashworth

The things I write about tend to have their origins in holidays I’ve been on … I like writing about stories set on holidays, because you have characters set in unfamiliar surroundings, so they are quite isolated and their personalities can be brought out: they can have conflicts and interact quickly. It kind of creates the perfect conditions for a story.

Richard V. Hirst

 

Come with us and visit mysterious, liminal places where strange things may happen, such as Preston train station in the northwest of England…

In this interview, I bring you not just one guest but two: writers Jenn Ashworth and Richard V. Hirst. Jenn has published several novels, A Kind of Intimacy, Cold Light, The Friday Gospels and  Fell; she’s also a senior lecturer in Creative Writing at Lancaster University. Richard has won the 2009 Manchester Fiction Prize and, with Jenn and other artists, co-founded the publishing collective Curious Tales. Now, the most interesting thing about these two writers is that they love working together. Their most recent project is the novella The Night Visitors that I read and totally recommend. It’s written in the form of emails and contains horror, cannibalism and very spooky train stations. Richard and Jenn are both from Preston, in the north of England, and have been friends from a very young age, which I think you can tell by listening to them. We discuss many things, such as why Jenn always sets her fiction in Lancashire, eventhough she has travelled around the world and lived in different places. We also talk about why holidays are important for Richard (he actually gets much of his inspiration from travelling outside of the UK). We also discuss the importance of diverse literature and we get a bit serious when reflecting on the role of artists after Brexit and how this has changed the way we create. We tried to be hopeful, but I must confess, we ended up talking about the zombie apocalypse …

Connect with Jenn:

Website / Twitter / Instagram

Connect with Richard:

Website / Twitter

Ep. 5 | Jessica Elleray

Travelling has given me such a respect for how places and contexts shape communities and vice versa … I think it has given me understanding and it is an influence on my work.

 

Let’s go to Yuanming Yuan, the Old  Summer Palace, in China … a tragic place looted by the English and French armies, that inspired one of Jessica’s latest pieces.

In this episode I talk to multidisciplinary artist and writer Jessica Elleray and we go deep into some sensitive topics such as  cultural appropriation. On the fun side, we discovered that we are very similar: Jessica’s obession with Italy – a place that feels like home to her but that, weirdly enough, she has no connection with – is very similar to my own obession with Ireland. And now I have to ask, are we both alone in this or is there anyone else who has found his or her spiritual home in some faraway land?

Yuanming Yuan 1
Yuanming Yuan collection of sculptures by Jessica Elleray. (Source: Jessica Elleray).
Yuanming Yuan 2_ Horse
Yuanming Yuan collection (horse) by Jessica Elleray. (Source: Jessica Elleray).
Yuanming Yuan 3_rat
Yuanming Yuan collection (rat) by Jessical Elleray. (Source: Jessica Elleray).

Connect with Jessica:

Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Pinterest

Ep. 4 | Geoff Rushton

I like the idea of leaving work in the landscape … creating something where it has fallen, where the environment has nurtured it, and leaving it there for people to randomly stumble accross.

Want to take a hike through the beautifully desolate landscape of North Yorkshire?

That’s where artist and sculptor Geoff Rushton took me one stormy day in October 2017. But, first of all, let me tell you the story of how I met him. One day someone told me about this artist who lived in a yurt in the middle of the woods. And as soon as I heard this, I knew I had to interview this person. So I got in touch with Geoff, and he was really kind, and he invited me to see his yurt. I took a train and went all the way to North Yorkshire. I got to see the yurt – which is really beautiful and majestic and as dreamlike as you are imagining right now – and also his studio. I love seeing where other artists work, I feel it’s a privilege. In this interview, we focus on the idea of places and landscape and how important these can be for an artist, since they shape not only the creative process but also the artwork itself.

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Geoff’s yurt (Source: Inés G. Labarta).
Geoff pic 2
Geoff’s studio (Source: Inés G. Labarta).
Geoff pic 3
Geoff’s studio (Source: Inés G. Labarta).

Connect with Geoff

Website  / Facebook

Ep. 3 | Marja Lingsma

Being born on the other side of the world doesn’t mean you can’t talk to each other or understand each other … You have to stay curious about other people, and artists are curious by nature.

Come and join us on a trip to two beautiful cities: Barcelona and Utrecht. And, if you dare, we can finish by going down to the mysterious and emblematic Cairo …

In this interview I talk to Marja Lingsma, photographer of impossible things. The first time I saw Marja’s artwork I was fascinated; the images contained so many details, symbols and surprises. Far from being static, they showed several layers of meaning and action. They were telling stories. I really admire Marja, not only because of her talent, but because she doesn’t shy away from dark and complex subjects such as birth, death and the many mysteries of life itself. We also discuss Marja’s adventures in Egypt, the influence of one’s culture on the creative process and the importance of getting inspired by different artists, no matter what part of the world they come from.

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Play with Imagination by Marja Lingsma (Source: Marja Lingsma).
Marja_pic1
Rebirth by Marja Lingsma (Source: Marja Lingsma).

Connect with Marja:

Website / Portfolio

Special thanks to Marja for designing the header for this website and our profile pics!

Ep.2 | Graham Mort

The effects of travelling and connecting with other kinds of cultures aren’t just reflected in the work … travelling to Kampala was a profound moment for me.

Let’s follow the birds and migrate from the Yorkshire moors in the north of England to Uganda…

Graham Mort is a poet and short story writer who has published many books including Terroir and Black Shiver Moss. He is also a  Creative Writing and Multicultural Literature professor from Lancaster University. He was actually one of my teachers when I did my Creative Writing MA in Lancaster, so it was very nice to go back to his office and chat about travelling, Africa, teaching and how he created and developed the Centre of Transcultural Writing and Research, a unique institution in the UK which has done projects such as Many Women, Many Words and Crossing Borders and Radiophonics.

Connect with Graham:

Website  / Twitter

Ep. 1 | Sarah Gavron

Writers and artists have the right to tell the stories that aren’t their own … and to write about things they are not familiar with.

Fancy a quick trip to India? And how about one of the smallest villages in Greenland, surrounded by icy mountains, that can only be accessed by boat or plane?

Our guest today is Sarah Gavron, the film director behind works such as Brick Lane, Suffragette and the documentary Village at the End of the World. In this interview we talk about how important it is for artists to travel and encounter other cultures. We discuss how we can access these different cultures to tell stories about them (even if we are outsiders) while still avoiding cliché and cultural appropriation. The truth is, audiences seem to connect with characters and realities that are very different from their own, which is why I absolutely loved (and could relate to) the dreams and struggles of a community in the tiniest village in Greenland …

Connect with Sarah:

Twitter