Rabbits Road Institute Library in Liverpool
In March 2022, the Library travelled to the Strand shopping centre in Bootle, Liverpool to be installed at Moon in Venus, a space for local women to come together to collectively heal from the burden of debt, learn how we got here, and start to imagine a future beyond their current financial situation. Conceived by Jeanne van Heeswijk in 2019, Moon in Venus is co-organised by Venus Charity and Rule of Threes, in response to the cost of living crisis and the growing need for access to services and support with money and debt management in the area. A selection of books were chosen to help visitors delve into subjects relating to women, economics, power, working together and activism. We were also able to purchase some new books for the Library nominated by participants and those involved that relate to the themes of the project: updates to the collection to follow soon! As part of the programme, we ran a workshop about the energy crisis and understanding how the energy market works - it was a really great conversation: thanks to everyone who came a long and took part, to Phoebe Bachman for inviting us and the Library, to Jeanne van Heeswijk and everyone at Rule of Threes and Venus Charity.
What are our values?
We have been thinking about the values that define Rabbits Road Institute Library. The ‘we’ here is Ruth Beale and Amy Feneck, but the ideas are informed by conversations with people involved in RRIL in the last 18 months. Below we have expanded on what these values mean, and illustrated the aims, ambitions and actions we want to take here. These are all a work-in-progress - evolving live documents which will be the source of constant research, discussion, conversation, action and change to the Library and its future. We also have a visual document of the values, along with the aims and ambitions around taking them forward, along with resources and links - which you can view on miro <here>. The values are: Made by Many Self-Education & Joy of Reading Accessibility Creativity Localness Diverse Economies Care Anti-oppression Slowness -- Made by Many – RRIL is a common resource; its collection is made from nominations by users, participants and friends of the Library. It continues to grow in this way, shaped by the people involved. We are aware of power dynamics, and committed to collaboration and decentralising our governance model through transparent and open processes, over time, as we build our network. This is about flexibility to evolve and change. The Future category of the Library is full of books with ideas of different ways to do things. Self-Education & Joy of Reading - We embrace learning as we go along. Books can change our understanding of the world and our position within it. They can also be useful and practical. The Making it Happen section, and the Library as a whole, creates space for self-education, intellectual and creative growth, literacy, and political consciousness building, creating potential for moving knowledge into action. Accessibility – Knowledge should be accessible. We are thoughtful and creative about how to make the books in the Library available to people with different access needs, as a creative and active component of what the RRIL does. Creativity – We welcome different kinds of creative, generative engagement with the Library - from reading and research, to articulating personal experiences, to sharing through artworks, writing, workings, discussion, or passing books along, to making new knowledge that goes back into the Library. We are keen to collaborate people with different skills and experiences, including artists, writers and makers, and to support the creation and publishing of new art and writing. Localness – We value the local; the specialism of local knowledge, and how a local library can support the self-education of a community. We value how the local is made from many people, many communities, reflecting the globalised world and its issues, and allows us to understand and explore these issues on an accessible scale. The ‘People and Place’ category allows for a growing collection of books specialising in ideas of the local. Diverse Economies – RRIL is situated in the art economy, the knowledge economy, and in a ecologies of the local. It exists both materially and through relationships. In a more-than-capitalist world, we welcome what these different value systems demand and offer. Care – Care is integral to how we engage with the books, with each other, and with collaborators, participants, readers and audiences. We want RRIL to be a comfortable, welcoming and approachable space (online and in person). We care for the objects we have (books), and recognise ongoing maintenance work as care, whilst being mindful of the extractive, colonial aspects of collecting. Anti-oppression - RRIL is opposed to any discrimination based on class, gender, nationality, race or colour, age, sexuality, disability or beliefs. Books in the collection explicitly address these non-discriminatory values. RRIL positions itself within a larger ecosystem of creative, grassroots educational and activist initiatives that reject and seek to challenge systems of oppression in everyday life. Slowness – RRIL has gone through active times and fallow times. We recognise the value of time to read and rest, and for things to grow and develop, to resist the pressure for productivity, and to balance caring for RRIL alongside other life and work responsibilities.
New books 2021
Fifteen new books have been added to the Library collection, nominated and donated by collaborators and participants of the Library’s public programme during it’s virtual stay in Barking and Dagenham over the last 18 months. With subject matter ranging from futuristic sci-fi utopia with Do You Dream of Terra Two? by Temi Oh to Dagenham social history fact and fiction - with Dagenham Girl Pipers and The Banjo novels by Elaine Spires, to some fantastic poetry from Hollie Mcnish’s new book Slug and other things I’ve been told to hate, Kayo Chingonyi’s first collection Kumukanda, and our very own 2021 writer in residence Gboyega Odubanjo’s Two stops short of Barking. We're also pleased to have The Arrivants, a book by the Race Today Collective, back in the Library. We want to say a big thank you to those who nominated the books: Tavinder New, Kelly Jones, Joelle Mae David, Gboyega Odubanjo, Lena Smith, Lisa Roullier, Sam Whetton, Sophie Hope - it’s the nominations that make the Library so eclectic and specialist, and makes Rabbits Road institute Library so unique. New Books: A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving Slug and other things i've been told to hate, by Hollie Mcnish Do You Dream of Terra Two, by Temi Oh Ban en Banlieue, by Bhanu Kapil Two stops short of barking, by Gboyega Odubanjo Kumukanda, by Kayo Chingonyi The Good Immigrant, edited by Nikesh Shukla The Banjo - Book one, by Elaine Spires The Banjo - Book two, by Elaine Spires Radical Essex, edited by Hayley Dixon and Joe Hill Dagenham Girl Pipers, by Linda Rhodes Goori Reader No.1: History, Memory and the Role of Cultural Organisations in Entrenching Colonisation in Australia and Beyond, by Dr. Gary Foley Regeneration Songs: Sounds of Investment and Loss from East London, by Alberto Duman, Anna Minton, Dan Hancox, Malcolm James Barking and Dagenham Through Time, by Micheal Foley The Arrivants - a Pictorial Essay on Blacks in Britain, by The Race Collective
Inspiring Conversations - What could be the future of Rabbits Road Institute Library?
We think a lot about the future of Rabbits Road Institute Library, how it can continue to grow and be a Library that is useful to and responds to others, to a community. Over the last few months we have been having exciting and inspiring conversations with people who have really interesting and insightful projects and methodologies of practice that resonate with our thinking and Rabbits Road Institute Library: Rebecca Davies and Anna Francis (Portland Inn Project), Jeanne van Heeswijk, Jo Marsh (Ty Pawb), Adele Patrick (Glasgow Women’s Library) and Aqui Thami (Sister Library). Themes that came out of these conversations and that we developed questions around were: commitment, collaboration, care, commons, collecting, change, decentralising power, joy, localness, slowness, and self-education. We have also been thinking about decentralisation in relation to the organisation and usership of the Library, and how to make this work. We became interested in this idea of decentralisation through our research into feminist organising and interdependent economies which came from another project, True Currency: About Feminist Economics. For us, it is also useful and important to think about how this way of working can manifest within an art practice. We are incredibly grateful to everyone who took the time to have these conversations with us, as they have helped us think through the next steps and our approach to the future of the Library. Below is some information and links about each person, and quotes from our conversation with them. The amazing drawings are by Markus Vater and were made during a live drawing performance he did in response to the talks, interviews and screenings we organised to launch the Library in Old Manor Park Library in Newham in 2016. For us they speak to the possibilities of libraries and their futures, and we're really excited to show some of them here! Amy & Ruth Rebecca Davies and Anna Francis Portland Inn Project, Stoke on Trent https://www.theportlandinnproject.com/ Rebecca Davies and Anna Francis are artists who collaborate on The Portland Inn Project. The project is based in the Hanley neighbourhood in Stoke-on-Trent, where derelict properties were sold for £1 with the view of changing the fortunes of the area, and the council offered a disused pub to the community, if the they could prove its sustainability as a community centre. As a CIC (community interest company), The Portland Inn Project aims to create economic, social and cultural change by involving local people in the development of a community space, cultural hub and social enterprise. It celebrates its Stoke heritage while creating a space that encourages people-led improvement and change to the area, through arts and cultural activity, aims to create a counter narrative for the neighbourhood. Key themes include self-representation (using methods such as film, animation, design and printing) and developing skills in the community (such as social organising, cooking and gardening). On Commitment: “As artists largely running the project, when we’re deep in it it’s important for us to have times when we can step away and step back from it. It was 2017 when a community member [first] ran an event. We’d been working there quite a long time and it felt so important when that happened. Always it’s been about how do we make sure this is for everyone - you know, it’s not just up to us. That although we’re leading on it now, we won’t lead on it forever and there will be a time and a space when this gets handed over fully to the community. But it’s quite tricky because there’s quite a lot that we're now responsible for. So initially we were working on a community project, to raise energy in the community - that was the initial premise. Then this snowballed into getting and re-designing a building, and then becoming an organisation, because we had to set up as a CIC. So now there’s all these different things. It gets bigger and bigger.” On Decision-making: “It’s really important to talk about the fact that it isn’t just us and our whims - we have a community decision-making panel now, which is really key. We always had community meetings but now we have a formal community decision making panel which meets every month or so, and we discuss what funding we’re going for, what the money is being spent on, what projects we going to work on, what our priorities are. There isn’t a recruitment process, anyone who wants to be on the panel is welcome, so it changes all the time. There’s always about 8 community members who come to every meeting, and then different ones fluctuate. It isn’t an exclusive club, it’s much more flexible than that. People come and go, kids can join in. We always try to make sure there is a nice dinner and that it’s not dry and boring.” On Community: “It’s called the Portland Inn Project and it’s been about getting this building to happen but it’s become much more than that. It’s actually about how do you create a space for a community to come together against all odds, where people can actually make positive change for ourselves and for our neighbourhood. People who perhaps had given up really on this notion of community – how do you bring those people back on board? To start caring again about their place and believing that they can make their place better for themselves.” Jeanne van Heeswijk, Artist https://www.jeanneworks.net/ Jeanne van Heeswijk is an artist who facilitates the creation of dynamic and diversified public spaces in order to “radicalize the local”. Her long-scale community-embedded projects question art’s autonomy by combining performative actions, discussions, and other forms of organizing and pedagogy in order to assist communities to take control of their own futures. For 2up2down in Liverpool, she listened to the people of Anfield and Everton during the 'Housing Market Renewal' Scheme about their hopes for the future of the area, discussing how they could work towards taking matters in community hands. She negotiated with the Mitchell family to use their bakery building and out of this Homebaked community bakery and a CLT (community land trust) was born. For Philadelphia Assembled, van Heeswijk spoke to over 350 people and collected their ideas about what makes Philadelphia the city it is, before co-creating an expansive project that combines art, performance, and civic engagement. On Time: “Duration is an important element, but I don’t see it as the amount of time you can stick it out. I don’t see it as a homogenous continuum. When I think about duration, I think about something called repetitive insertion. [..] One of the things with time, even if it’s time spent together, is that we still often think of an idea of progressive time, that time moves somewhere. So to also understand that there is unproductive time. […] That’s what I mean with repetitive insertions, that there is time that is productively worked, but there is also time for non-movement. And to not see that as not moving. But as needed space for things to evolve.” On Local-ness “I think slightly different about the local than a lot of people think. For me the local is not about a postcode. It’s not about being a resident or not. I think local is much more a complexity. I think for me, the local is an emotional condition that holds global conflict with local specificities.” Jo Marsh Ty Pawb, Wrexham, Wales https://www.typawb.wales/ Tŷ Pawb, Welsh for Everybody's House, is a cultural community resource, bringing together arts and markets within the same footprint. This coexistence celebrates the significance of markets within Wrexham’s cultural heritage and identity. Ty Pawb offers a space for dialogue around subjects including social and civic issues, the environment, health, cultural identity, sustainability and education. It presents a contemporary programme of welcoming and inclusive exhibitions, socially engaged projects and live performance. The programme emphasises skills and craft, working with emerging and established artists from all backgrounds. Jo Marsh has been director of Ty Pawb since 2017. On Decentralisation: “The useful art space will be for developing projects and programming things together. Rather than the gallery having to always be the end point, it can also be the catalyst place. Where we initiate things and ‘take them to market’. We want to work with specific groups in that space, and part of the point, the essence of that work is about responding to urgencies together and designing programme together. But it’s very new for us, so it’s only when we are doing these projects together, and putting them in the building in different ways, that I think it will start to make sense, and this will take time. For example, I know that the Portuguese group want to make products for sale, and the space can be used to make things that go in the market, but it won’t be quick and you can’t contrive that also. Rather than being led by a curatorial vision and everything else follows from that, it’s actually being led by relationships and that sense of being plugged into locally. That’s really about letting go of autonomy.” Adele Patrick Glasgow Women’s Library https://womenslibrary.org.uk/ Glasgow Women’s Library is the only Accredited Museum in the UK dedicated to women’s lives, histories and achievements, with a lending library, archive collections and innovative programmes of public. The Women’s Library was established in 1991 in shop front in Garnethill, and is now housed in a refurbished historic library in Bridgeton. Aiming to empower women whatever their background, the library offers a range of events and learning opportunities from one-to-one literacy tutoring and creative workshops to film screenings and guided walks exploring the hidden histories of women in Glasgow. Involved in the Library from its inception, Adele Patrick is now is co-Director with Sue John, and also Director of Creative Development, Delivery and Engagement. On Reading & Accessibility: “Right at the outset there were very many women who didn’t have a lot of cultural capital, weren’t readers, weren’t university educated or anything like that. And we’ve continued.. Our library has women coming who are learning English as a second or third language, who are not confident readers at all, coming in 4 days a week. The journey to be reading the stuff in the library is one I’m really excited that people go on. Probably for 15 years or longer we’ve had ESOL and adult literacy and numeracy workers embedded in the library. For me, as somebody.. we’re passionate aren’t we, about reading? and about texts, and what they do to your head, and how the world opens up through literacy and reading. [..] Our thinking is, What will you do with this reading? One person I know used it to read a lesbian horror novel and was coming out in the process, as a young woman who was criminalised through the process of homophobic bullying. For me it’s in instrument for staking your place and understanding your environment, and being connected, and what we talk about when we talk about citizenship. On Art: “On occasions I have actually thought about our Women’s library as a longitudinally-running artwork. I have thought that’s what we’ve done. That’s what it is. With my training as an artist, and the other director, we are both GSA trained artists.” On White Supremacy: [Shannon Mattern’s book Fugitive Libraries] was looking at intersections of racist and white supremacist thinking in libraries. Because there’s a set of thinking that libraries are the ultimate democratic civic space. That really opened my eyes to how appalling racist libraries have been in the past. And the work to be done in terms of the sector. Thinking about the idea of local libraries, and how we think about them – we think about them under threat. This is the time to revolutionise them. If we are going to save them, we don’t want to save them to be the same as they have been.” Aqui Thami Sister Library https://www.instagram.com/sister.library/?hl=en Aqui Thami is a Mumbai-based artist, activist and academic. Her multidisciplinary practice is inspired by the culture of DIY, which has brought her to collaborate with young girls, women and children. She is a member of Dharavi Art Room and Bombay Underground, and founded Sister Library initially with her personal collection of books authored by women. Sister Library is now permanent space in the Bandra neighbourhood of Mumbai housing 600 works of literature by women including zines, graphic novels, fiction, nonfiction and poetry. The library acts both as a political and activist space with the intention of becoming a space for women to share where they can break the ‘boundaries of caste and class’. The library hosts talks, meals, a community risograph press, and Sister Radio. On Starting a Collection: “I decided to read women exclusively. If I want to read about something I will find the books and articles written by women. [..] It was lifechanging for me, because it helped me shift perspectives on so many things. I would just get so excited about certain books, and give them to my friends. And slowly my house because like a borrowing library. I thought maybe I could find a space where everyone could borrow these books, not just my friends. [..] Most of the books are books that have nurtured me and helped me grow. [..] I wanted a space that people could step in and just be surrounded by works of women.” On Need: “So many people would visit the library. Every time we travelled to a city people were really enthusiastic about the Sister Library coming to their city. Because we do not have anything like that [..] After having travelled to these five cities, I got a lot of emails from people asking ‘is there a way I can come and finish this book? I’d like to bring my mother..’ these emails became more and more frequent. And having been in London and coming to the Feminist Library I just wanted a space like that in India, where women could bring their kids, or their mother.” On Class & Privilege “People who were coming to the library were mostly people who were working in other people’s homes. They would come between shifts, look at books, use the bathroom, have a snack. That allowed them to have a pause from being a servant. They could be human beings. It also allowed the rich, upper and middle class people to have a space to communicate with someone very different from them. […] The space has become one where people find themselves very emotionally attached and entangled with. Especially for women who do not have spaces like this to go to. I feel a responsibility to have a space like this going on. In the future, I would like women with economic power and access to take responsibility. Everyone wants to call themselves a feminist, but not everyone wants to organize and do the dirty work!” On Collaboration: “Everyone is involved. It’s run by everyone, It’s everybody’s space.
Review of Two stops short of Barking in Tentacular magazine
Gboyega Odubanjo's book Two stops short of Barking has been reviewed in Issue 8 of Tentacular, an online poetry, responses and arts magazine. Speaking about the pamphlets' combination of poetry and interviews, SK Grout writes: "These interviews provide an interesting contrast and parallel to the poems; readers cannot know whether the poems or the conversations came first, but both speak to the power and inspiration of home on creative practice." Read the full review here! Two stops short of Barking is published by The Alternative School of Economics, having been made during a residency with Rabbits Road Institute Library. It is available to buy in ASE's online shop here. It can also be purchased at the following bookshops: Newham Bookshop, London Review Bookshop, Pages of Hackney, Peckham Books, South London Gallery bookshop, and Goodpress Gallery Glasgow. Copies are available to borrow in London borough of Barking and Dagenham Libraries. The pamphlet is also in collections of Stuart Hall Library INIVA, and the Black Cultural Archives, Brixton.
Two stops short of Barking: An Audio Piece by Gboyega Odubanjo
We are delighted to announce Two stops short of Barking: An Audio Piece by Gboyega Odubanjo. Made in collaboration with Lucia Scazzocchio from Social Broadcasts, Gboyega delivers an audio-essay-as-journey through Dagenham, specifically around the Becontree Estate where he lives. The piece features three poems from Gboyega’s pamphlet 'Two stops short of Barking’, plus music, documentary footage, popular cultural references, field recordings and more. Gboyega has been writer in residence with Rabbits Road Institute Library since 2020, working on a new set of poems and interviews which came together in his pamphlet Two stops short of Barking, published in May this year and available to buy here. Gboyega Odubanjo is a British-Nigerian poet born and raised in East London. His first poetry pamphlet, While I Yet Live, was published by Bad Betty Press in 2019 and was named as one of the Poetry School’s Books of the Year. He is a recipient of the Poetry Business’ 2020 New Poets’ Prize, and 2021 Eric Gregory award winner for his recent pamphlet Aunty Uncle Poems. Two stops short of Barking: An Audio Piece has been supported by The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Library Service - Pen to Print Creative Writing Programme. Pen to Print is funded by Arts Council England as a National Portfolio Organisation. firstname.lastname@example.org www.pentoprint.org Photographs by Amy Feneck
Gail Egbeson - Mobile Library Creative Response
I’m so grateful to have been a part of this project because its given me the opportunity to read more (new year’s resolution) and also engage with my playful side where I make ALL THE RULES! My initial idea for the 15 books I received was to write three words that best described each one. Inspired by “All the Stories” by Dora Garcia, I moved on to creating 5 imaginary blurbs from the words I came up with . The next stage is to bring one of these to life as an actual play. So before you carry on, I must warn you that reading the content below automatically inducts you as the 2nd player of this game! But fear not, the steps are easy. All you need to do is: 1- Read the imaginary blurbs below 2- Pick your favourite one 3- Tweet the number to me via @gailegbeson or my website https://gailegbeson.com/contact-me and 4- I’ll challenge myself to bring the most voted one to life! Are you ready? On your marks.... Get set..... GO! GROUP 1 A General Theory of Love by T. Lewis, F. Amini & R. Lannon- (Passions, Feelings, Emotions) The Hollywood Meme by Iain Robert Smith - (Comprehensive study, Adaptation, Worldwide) Did I hear you write by Michael Rosen - (Education, Children, Creative) “One day, the children in a rural London Town express their concerns regarding the new system of eduction that seems to be inventing a rather dull adaptation to their creative passions worldwide. With their voices ignored, they decide to take matters into their own hands by embarking on a comprehensive study to find out exactly how deep this change will go in the hopes to make the adults take their feelings seriously. Will they succeed or just seen as kids filled with silly emotions?” GROUP 2 Keywords by Raymond Williams- (Glossary, Examinations, Deep dive) Perspectives on Society by R. Meighan, I. Shelton & T. Marks- (Sociology, Education, Students) The Grey Gentlemen by Michael Ende- (Fantasy, Childhood, Time) “ A group of sociology students find themselves trapped in a time based fantasy from their childhood. In order to get back, one true hero must successfully pass the hardest examinations in the history of education. Little did he know that taking this deep dive will lead him to glossary full of unwanted answers.” GROUP 3 One Way Street by Walter Benjamin - (Critical thinking, Mythology, Life) An African Princess by Lyra Edmonds- (Lessons, Home , Innocence) Social Class in the 21st Century by Mike Savage - (Politics, Data collection, Reviewing) “In a home where critical thinking and mythology are forbidden, two sisters anticipate starting their majors in Politics next summer. However, upon reviewing their lives, the data they’ve collected reveals the unfortunate limitations of their innocence as stumbling block for the life awaiting them. The real question is; what lessons must they learn before embarking on their journeys or should they just stay home?” GROUP 4 All the Stories by Dora García - (Collection, Imagination, Variety) The Rebellious Life of Rosa Parks by Jeanne Theoharis - (Activism, Strategies, Survival) Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe - (Tragedy, Ambition, Masculinity) “Three friends with the ultimate ambition of never growing up decide to create a collection of strategies to stop their parents from forcing them into adulthood. With their activism failing at every attempt, the young boys are faced with the tragedy of having to fend for themselves and establishing their new goals for survival. Will they accept their current fate along with the variety of their masculinity or rather let their imagination see them through?” GROUP 5 The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell - (Rage, Humour, Class wars) Animal Farm by George Orwell - (Political , Rebellion, Society) Swing Time by Zadie Smith - (Identity, Power, Dreams) “In the heart of a liberal society, where rage and power proceeds. A young man named Trevor protests his belief for reinventing ones true identity. Such rebellion begins to spark hatred towards him from town locals which enacts a fresh rise in political humour and class wars. Will this newly birthed chaos bring Trevor's dreams to an end?” ***** Gail Egbeson is a playwright currently living in Barking. Her writing promotes diversity and aims to reach communities who are eager to witness more identifiable characters that represent them through cultural inclusion, in inventive and positive ways. Her recent play ‘Jollof Court’ was awarded the Billy Cashmore residency at Lyric Hammersmith and was later commissioned by a youth theatre company for a Black History Month Tour last year, with performances in venues including Theatre Peckham and Schools within East London. It then went on to a sold-out run at Vault Festival 2020 with recommendations from Lyn Gardner and Time Out London as festival top picks. The play was shortlisted for the #UntappedAward2020 (A partnership between Underbelly, New Diorama Theatre and Oberon Books). It has also headlined two theatre festivals in Lagos Nigeria. Gail has been selected for Mercury Theatre's Playwright Program, and she is also working with Rikki Beadle-Blair on a book of audition speeches/monologues for BAME and working class performers.
Farzana Hakim - Mobile Library Creative Response
From A Woman’s Perspective By Farzana Hakim When I was approached by Rabbits Road Institute Library for an opportunity to read and respond to some books, I was delighted. With my local libraries closed due to the pandemic, this was definitely a breath of fresh air. I quickly agreed; and Ruth and Amy came over to drop a box of fifteen books, plus one shelf, to me at my home. Of course, it was a socially distanced, sweet but short visit. I found the ideal spot on the upstairs landing beneath a long mirror to place the bookshelf; a heavy traffic area of my home; whereby I’d be reminded of the task every time I went upstairs or came down, no doubt… And what a perfect spot it proved to be because it kept the books on my mind and in sight. Over the next two months, out of the fifteen books on my list, I read all fifteen! What more could be expected from a reading addict, huh? I started my task by making notes on each book as I went along the list. I admit I had my favourite authors selected from the bunch and did read them with more zest. And although some of the other authors were new to me, I managed to find some joy in their voices too. So, as my creative response, I’ll be sharing with you the best bits from my readings and my critique also. And I promise to be fair and respectful to the author. Being an author myself, I know how hard a writer works before and after a book or novel is published. We open up our hearts and souls by sharing our stories with you with only the hope of impacting you in some way as a result. Be it positive or negative, we aim to stir your emotions and make you think. ***** Before I introduce my first set of books, I’d like to make it known that I’m an advocate for women’s voices, believing that all women have stories which need to be told and heard. After all, we are the mother of all storytelling. Every aspect of our lives is a story. Our bodies carry stories, and our genetics pass on these stories from one generation to the next. Having recently hosted a series of creative writing workshops for women called ‘Hear My Voice,’ I am amazed at how many women actually seek a way to talk and share stories close to their hearts to the world. Therefore, the following books were thought-provoking and relevant for me to read alongside hosting these workshops, as they are by women and about women, their voices and their stories: Finding a Voice. Asian Women in Britain, by Amrit Wilson. I really enjoyed this book. Although it was first published in 1978, a lot of the themes and issues the author describes are still very relevant to the women in Britain today belonging to the Asian diaspora. For the most part the book is structured like an interview, in a question-answer format between the author and a diverse range of women, of different ages from across the Asian spectrum, which made it authentic and relatable to me. I picked out many issues which are still rife in the British Asian community today, like racism, forced marriage, honour-related crimes and restrictions, and the clash between culture and country. Newham Women, Lives, Memories, Opinions, by A Stratford City Challenge Community History Publication. This is an anthology which I thoroughly enjoyed. I grew up in Newham and reading each of the short stories in this compilation, gave me goosebumps because I could relate to each woman in every story. What an authentic and diverse collection of stories and voices! It reminded me of my childhood. My Grandma came to Newham from Pakistan in the late Sixties to join my Grandad who already worked in a bread factory in Forest Gate. My Mum would come later in 1976, with my new born brother, to join Dad who grew up in Manor Park. And this reminded me of some of the struggles and joys both Mum and Grandma would often tell me about as I was growing up. Many memories were reflected in the stories in this superb collection. In fact, this anthology has inspired me to do something like this myself. I know many women in both Newham and Barking and Dagenham who have so many interesting stories about their pasts and now, which would make a great new anthology. Because real stories are the best stories in my opinion. Asians in Britain, 400 years of History, by Rozina Visram Another amazingly factual book about a history all too familiar to people like myself. The author has undergone an extensive study using primary sources. It dates back to times when English superiority and colonialism was all the rage and rife. For anybody studying colonialism and migration, this is an important text. Her references to British female attitudes in India, the use of Ayahs, and the sheer hypocrisy and unfairness are so vivid, at the same time thought provoking. The Power to Choose, by Naila Kabeer This book I had to skim through rather than read wholly because although it’s an important study of Bangladeshi women and their contributions to the textile industry in Bangladesh, at times I found the book was repetitive and made me loose interest. But of course, for anyone studying globalisation and females in the workplace, this is probably an important course book. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou I feel terribly guilty for not having read any of Maya Angelou’s works before this. I cannot believe how I could’ve missed such an important and impactful woman’s voice all this time. Maya Angelou is regarded as one of the most influential female writers of all time, and after reading this book, I now completely understand why. Her voice is both poignant and poetic. She is truthful and unashamed of her story and history. She tells it as it is. And this is what makes this book a powerful account of a Black American woman’s struggles in the 1930’s onwards. Her depictions of poverty, segregation and bigotry of the Deep South made this memoir authentic and relatable to women growing up in the Deep South today. In my workshop, I actually discussed this book, and a participant from Mississippi told me she faces some of the same dilemmas. So, isn’t this history by Maya Angelou a history of all Black women striving to balance society and culture in many parts of American society? And Still I Rise, by Maya Angelou This book is a collection of Maya’s poetry. I thoroughly enjoyed these and because I read both Maya’s books on my list together, I could make connections between the two. The poems are written like songs. Some are playful, some are witty, a few are thought provoking and some are light hearted. I enjoyed them very much. Maya is able to use her language skills beautifully to evoke emotions through these verses. Alongside her usual themes, this collection also reflects on nature. Kindred, by Octavia E. Butler Unlike all the above, this novel is fiction. A historical novel about slavery. The female protagonist is able to jump from modern times into the past which isn’t a new concept or theme to be honest. Nevertheless, I found it an easy read. ***** The next selection of books are authored by males and are very different from the above. They are all fiction novels and were interesting in their own unique ways: A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Husseini Brilliant. I had already read this year’s back, however I thoroughly enjoyed reading it for the second time. It’s a superbly written story in a dramatically moving backdrop. Mariam and Laila, the protagonists, go through hell in this story, yet it’s is the bond between the two which keeps the plot moving. My only question, or critique rather, is why the author thought it was okay to make Laila give birth via a C Section without any anaesthesia or sedation? Why? Does she not have enough suffering already? How could Khaled Husseini even know how it feels to give birth like that? Only a woman can write about child birth or how it feels to have a C-Section, because this is about her body, her emotions and her sentiments. And sorry Khaled, but your childbirth chapter ought to have come with a trigger warning because my wound where I’d recently had my baby via C-Section, almost ruptured when I read that part! Selected Short Stories, by Rabindranath Tagore The stories are short and often sad. The backdrop is Calcutta, Bengal and mainly include the riverbank. The themes of monsoon and rain are vivid in setting a scene. Yet my qualm here, is that the women in all these stories are described as second-class citizens. I know Rabindranath Tagore is a world-famous poet and writer from the Sub continent, and I have seen some great depictions of his stories on Netflix, but I think maybe some of his authenticity has been lost via poor translations in this book. And I would’ve enjoyed it more if some of the females in the stories were braver. However, this could simply be a reflection of the times Rabindranath is writing in. The Buddha of Suburbia, by Hanif Kureishi Brilliant. I loved this. Set in the 70’s, it also reflects on society today. I liked the fact that the author includes some of the struggles of women in the novel too. Themes of honour and forced marriage are explored, as well as racism and discrimination from the ‘Whites.’ The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra, by Vaseem Khan Funny and witty. I don’t often do crime fiction, but this book was so rich in colour and culture that I am looking forward to reading the sequels. ***** So, my final set of books are all non-fiction works and because I am an ardent fan of history, (having studied Modern History and Politics for my degree many moons ago), I did enjoy revisiting some of this history. And because my latest novel is about the Partition of India and Pakistan, the following books were superb factual reads and really gave me much insight and refreshed some of my knowledge and research for my novel. This list included the following: Indian Summer, The Secret History of the End of An Empire, by Alex Von Tunzelmann Orientalism, by Edward W. Said The Crusades through Arab Eyes, by Amin Maalouf A South Asian History of Britain, by Michael H. Fischer, Shompa Lahiri, Shinder Thandi ***** Wow, what a range of books I had the pleasure of reading and talking about. My list was a mixture of fiction and non-fiction, memoir and anthology. And all were important and interesting as tools of knowledge and enlightenment in their own right. One thing I learnt from this whole experience is that books are gold, no matter how old or contemporary. Books record our past and books are our tomorrow. And it is our life experiences, our histories and our voices which make stories worth reading, sharing, telling and re-telling. Thank you, Rabbits Road Institute Library, for thinking me worthy of housing and reading these fantastic books. I look forward to connecting with the Library again real soon. In the mean time you can stay connected to me through: Twitter @farzanahakim Facebook @farzanahakimauthor Farzana Hakim fast captured the hearts of her readers with her debut, ‘Sweethearts of Ilford Lane.’ Branded an authentic writer with an exciting new voice, Farzana set out to write a contemporary romance her readers could relate to. She bravely tackled themes such as forced marriage, betrayal and honour. Farzana was mentored by award winning author Barbara Nadel. Barbara also mentored Farzana for her second novel as part of a prize she was awarded by the Arts Council funded, Pen to Print Project. Her second novel, ‘The silence of a Deep River,’ based on the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, won firstprize in the Pen to Print Book Challenge 2017. Farzana is currently a stay at home mum. Her youngest is twelve and her twins are at University. Farzana holds a BA Honours degree in Modern History and International Relations. Her passion to explore international settings as well as her locality stem from her interests in current and foreign affairs. Since March 2020 Farzana has been a page editor for Write On! Extra magazine. Her Thursday Connectors is a hugely popular page where each week, Farzana has been connecting to writers and people from around to world bringing you their lockdown and Coronavirus stories. Farzana is also an associate editor at Write On! magazine.
Kelly Jones - Mobile Library Creative Response
How To Start A Fire by Kelly Jones Read the script Listen to Kelly reading from How To Start A Fire, with photographs from books borrowed from the Library: Image one - from Houses and Homes By Penny Marshall Image two - from Epping Forest with Maps by Edward North Buxton Image three- from Micro Adventures By Alastair Humphreys Kelly Jones is a playwright from Dagenham. She was the winner of the BBC Drama Award in 2014. She has recently completed the Emerging Playwrights Program at The Bush Theatre. Kelly is currently on Hightide's Playwrights cohort and Mercury Theatre's Essex Voices and BBC DRAMA ROOM 20/21. Kelly writes about queerness, class and her relationship to home. https://www.kellyjonestheatre.com
Joelle David - Mobile Library Creative Response
Weep, Cry or Scream? A feature film treatment written by Joelle Mae David Genre: Dark Comedy / Thriller Aurora is a professional mourner, who is paid to attend funerals and mourn. Her fee depends on whether you want her to Weep, Cry or Scream? She meets with clients beforehand, so that she can get to know the deceased and create a backstory for her attendance at the funeral. She changes up her look, style and name to fit each funeral she is paid to attend. One day, she is approached by a CEO of a Fortune 500 company to attend a funeral - but it’s not what she thinks. Freddie, a rich, arrogant and conniving individual, wants Aurora to attend his own funeral. He explains to Aurora his elaborate plan to fake his own death to test the loyalty of his friends and family. But he needs someone on the inside to make sure everything goes to plan. Initially refusing his offer, because it is outside her remit of work, Freddie offers Aurora a life-changing sum of money to take the job - she is after all, the best of the best. Freddie begins setting tasks for Aurora, including helping him stage his death, hiding assets, and tailing family members. Her last job is to interrupt his funeral with a eulogy he has written, addressing all the lies, cover ups and schemes Aurora has uncovered on his behalf. But will Aurora make it to this final hurdle? Freddie’s business associates, friends and family cannot be trusted, and are more dangerous than either of them could have ever imagined. After growing closer to Freddie and his world, and forming an intimate relationship with him, Aurora becomes obsessed with what her life could be like with all this access to wealth and power. Perhaps she is the one that can’t be trusted? So when Freddie is found dead (for real this time) his death can be pinned on a number of people. However, Aurora is the one who rides off into the sunset with his wealth. Was Freddie’s real death an accident? Or planned? Full of double crossing, games and misdirection, Weep, Cry or Scream? Is a thriller reminiscent of Fatal Attraction and The Game - but with a little more humour sprinkled on top. Inspired by books from Rabbits Road Institute Library: Parecon, Life After Capitalism by Michael Albert The Rise of the Robots by Martin Ford Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty We Are Many by Kate Khatib, Margaret Killjoy and Mike MmcGuire Joelle David is Creative Director of Bluebird Pictures. Born and raised in East London, Joelle has always had a passion for storytelling. This was mostly channelled through art until attending Southampton University to study English Literature and film. After attending university, Joelle went on to work as a production assistant for several different production companies, before moving on as an assistant director in film and television and a sub-editor for several national newspapers. It was whilst she was working as a production assistant that she began creating short documentaries that shone a light on undiscovered talent from marginalised backgrounds, which featured on BBC3 followed by a short poetic documentary for the channel in 2019. After making several short documentaries and films, Joelle used her experience as an assistant director to start Bluebird Pictures and focus on more narrative storytelling. Joelle often writes and directs stories that subvert negative stereotypes of marginalised groups in society, by delving into genres such as comedy, sci-fi and thriller. Joelle believes that the film industry should be accessible to everyone, despite their economic background, and champions inclusion at all levels.