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Human Rights, Refugees, Social History and Environmental issues are regular subjects of Palewell Press books. As independent publishers, we're committed to publishing our authors' honestly held views about these subjects. The dividing line between an individual's personal views and the citizen's behaviour is a vital one. But, as Editors at Palewell Press, it is also important to acknowledge our own views. So this is our blog which also references our newsletter editorials and research articles about subjects in the news.

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London Schools and Climate Change - November 2021

Time is running out to tackle the climate crisis with its rising temperatures, chronic air pollution and risk of flooding. In London, every school is deemed to be in an area that exceeds World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines for air pollution. And new analysis from City Hall shows one in five of the capital's schools are at risk of flooding in the near future. Similar risks face nearly half its hospitals, 200,000 homes, and parts of the rail network. Like many great cities, London grew up in low-lying areas around a major river. Six London boroughs – Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham, Islington, Brent, Tower Hamlets and Newham – are at particularly high risk of suffering the worst effects of climate change, but comparable risks face all corners of the UK. And across the globe, Climate Change is causing widespread death, destruction and a rise in refugee numbers. In October, the Mayor of London launched a city-wide campaign to inspire all Londoners, including businesses, to take “bold action” on climate change. We urge all of you to contact your MPs in support of the November's COP26 climate summit producing strong climate-mitigation actions.

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Kurdish Family History Butterfly of the Night - October 2021

Butterfly of the Night by Kurdish author, Haydar Karatas, translated into English by Caroline Stockford from the original Turkish manuscript, Gece Kelebegi, is a true and utterly heartbreaking family history written through the eyes of Haydar's mother. Between the ages of 6 and 12 years she was swept up in a series of tragic events in the mountainous region of Dersim in Northeastern Anatolia. On 4 May 1937, Turkey's Council of Ministers secretly decided on a forceful attack against western-central Dersim. In the resulting campaign, thousands of civilians died. The loss of so many men from rural communities and the chaos caused by military incursions triggered a famine that led to further deaths. Taking refuge high up in the mountains and eating wild plants, Haydar’s grandmother struggled to keep herself and her little girl, Haydar’s mother, alive. As Editor at Palewell Press, I read many tragic stories but I was moved to tears by the events in this book and by the courage of the protagonists in resisting attempts to destroy them and their culture.

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Who You Gonna Call - Ghostbusters? September 2021

There are an estimated 9,000 people who have worked with British officials – and are therefore at serious risk of harm by the Taliban – trapped in Afghanistan now that evacuation flights have ended. It emerged this week that the official email accounts people were told to contact to flag cases of Afghans who were eligible to be evacuated had 5,000 unread emails. This figure could be much higher. A whistle-blower told The Observer that some emails appeared to have been unopened for days. Those unread included cases raised by ministers including Victoria Atkins, minister for Afghan resettlement, and Home Secretary, Priti Patel, as well as Labour Party leader, Keir Starmer, and Defence Select Committee chair, Tobias Ellwood. Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, has now promised that his civil servants will reply to emails about vulnerable Afghans who are trapped within the country “in days.” To set up an emergency helpline and fail to monitor it is yet another example of government negligence towards refugees and other foreign nationals in what is already a troubling episode. It reminds me of a letter I received from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in the spring of 2002. After I'd written to Blunkett about the treatment of Muslim prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, someone in his team wrote to assure me that “The US confirmed on 7 February that they have treated and will continue to treat all Taliban and Al-Qaeda detainees humanely and consistent with the principles of the Geneva Convention … Certain security and health measures were taken during the transfer of the detainees to Guantanamo, such as ear muffs, goggles and masks. These were removed on arrival.” Many of us remember how misleading that civil servant's letter turned out to be. If the people tasked with protecting us and our fellow world citizens are not always themselves reliable and trustworthy, maybe we’re all better off calling Ghostbusters.

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Ecosystem Restoration and Hope, August 2021

This summer’s extreme weather events around the world have been tragic for those immediately impacted. But they are just as distressing for everyone aware of and trying to mitigate climate catastrophe. It is too late to avoid all the impact of Global Warming, which are happening as I write. But there are still many ways to make it less disastrous for humans, other creatures and plants alive today. Part of the UN’s response to Climate Change is their Ecosystem Restoration programme, running from 2021-2030. It aims to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide. The programme’s organisers believe it can help to end poverty, combat climate change and prevent a mass extinction. It will only succeed if everyone plays a part. Of the many threads within the programme, one that appeals most strongly to Palewell Press is grounded in the belief that forests have inherent spiritual value – that the work of forest restoration and stewardship can become a profound spiritual practice. There are many inspiring examples of faith communities around the world taking the lead in forest restoration. From conversations with friends, and with those I know less well, I am convinced that people are inhibited in working to prevent climate breakdown by feelings of inadequacy to heal something as vast as our planet. We need to rebuild our hope and determination in order to succeed in this great challenge. The idea of planting and nurturing a single tree within a new forest – like the Northern Forest being created in the North of England, for which the Woodland Trust and its partners are planting 50 million trees – that’s a thought that can help me keep working for a greener, safer world.

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Choosing Love over Gold, July 2021

One of my favourite bands is Dire Straits and, especially, songs like "Love Over Gold" – celebrating our need to give to, communicate with and cherish those we love, whatever the cost. The line “When your footsteps are forbidden” might have been written for the authors of our publication this month of Secret Love Letters – Poland 1982. In 1981, Anna Maria Radominska (Mickiewicz) and Tomasz Mickiewicz were in love. They were both actively involved in the Polish workers and students’ resistance movements. After the imposition of Martial Law in Poland on the 13th December 1981, they had to communicate through secret letters carried by Piotr Rogoyski, a trusted friend from school days. The pamphlet tells their story with letters, poems and essays about that challenging time.

It takes love over gold
And mind over matter
To do what you do that you must
When the things that you hold
Can fall and be shattered
Or run through your fingers like dust

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See Difference Not Defect, June 2021

Palewell Press is committed to publishing books that foster justice, equality and environmental sustainability and to building a world where people share equally and are protected from abuse and injustice. A major cause of the abuse people suffer comes from them being seen as different and that difference being defined negatively. So our books also look at diversity and inclusion. On the 6th May we were delighted to launch Fur Beneath the Skin by best-selling historical novelist, Christie Dickason. Christie’s YA diversity-themed historical novel takes you to dark places but delivers you safely back. The young hero doesn’t know whether he is a werewolf or not. He knows only that he must get rid of his “wolf” - whatever it is - before it kills him and the girl he loves. On the run from superstitious fear and scientific curiosity, he joins other “different ones” who help him. But only he can decide whether or not he is a werewolf…or something else. Diversity has always been with us. All that changes are the words used to describe it. Fur Beneath the Skin is one of the few novels since Dostoevsky's The Idiot and The Possessed by a writer who knows from personal experience how a ‘fit’ of epilepsy can feel. And, as well as epilepsy, this remarkable story champions the inclusion of people who experience other differences including dwarfism, gender ambiguity, and autism. Society would be so much happier if all of us could learn, as the author’s note urges, to see difference not defect.

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Climate Targets and Human Rights, May 2021

This week, Germany’s supreme constitutional court ruled that their government’s climate protection measures are insufficient to protect future generations. The German government has until the end of 2022 to improve its Climate Protection Act, passed in 2019, and to ensure it meets 2030 greenhouse gas reduction goals more immediately. Judges ruled that current measures violate the freedoms of the complainants, some of whom are still very young, because the goals were focused on dates too far in the future. And it was only possible to reduce the rise in average global temperatures to between 1.5C and 2C – as set out in the 2015 Paris agreement – with “more urgent and shorter term measures.”
The case was brought by young environmental activists, backed by Fridays for Future along with Greenpeace, Germany’s Friends of the Earth (BUND) and other NGOs. Among them was Sophie Backsen, 22, an agricultural science student from the North Frisian island of Pellworm, on Germany’s North Sea coast, together with her younger brothers, Hannes, Paul and Jakob. they told the court they had all experienced first-hand the effects of the climate crisis, including flooding and heatwaves. The German finance minister, Olaf Scholz, said he would begin work immediately with the environment ministry to make the amendments, which would then be put to the government for approval.
In the UK, we face similar challenges. Extreme weather events are happening more frequently, our industry is still generating vast amounts of pollution, and many pension funds based in the City of London fund climate-wrecking projects around the world. Three UK students are now suing the government on the basis that their right to life has been breached because of an inadequate road-map to solve the climate emergency. Boris Johnson spoke out strongly at the recent Climate Summit but government policy gives contradictory signals including initial support for a new coal mine in Cumbria, new oil and gas licences in the North Sea and, despite UK aviation being the third-highest CO2-emitter in the world, every airport in the UK currently having plans to expand. We must make it clear to politicians that setting and keeping to effective climate targets is vital for our children's and grandchildren's future. As we emerge from the pandemic, Climate is the most important political issue of our time.

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In praise of our International Women, April 2021

Like many of you, I celebrated International Women's Day (IWD) on March 8th by reading articles about famous women who had stood up to tyrants, enriched their communities or dared to be different. IWD began as a global recognition of women's achievements and concerns. I also think of it as a celebration of international women. Palewell Press has published several books by women whom one would have to call "international." Some are refugees like members of Nottingham-based Pamoja, who wrote The World is for Everyone. Others, like Agnes Meadows, author of Back to Babylon, and Jennifer Langer, editor of Resistance, Voices of Exiled Writers, provide literary and ethical leadership that inspires people across the world. But in the days following IWD my mind turned to Irma Upex-Huggins - a Palewell Press author who died this February after a battle with cancer. Irma was truly international. Born in Antigua in the West Indies, she finished school in Nevis and came to live in England. In the middle of her career as a Mental Health Social Worker she did a VSO in Tanzania with a charity supporting women's groups in remote villages. Red Winds, her third collection, is about that experience. Its poems hum and swing with a Caribbean rhythm. They can be fiery but are always compassionate. Irma's volunteering in Tanzania was personally challenging. At first, she was seen as neither African nor Western but a black-skinned Mzungu (white person). By learning some Kiswahili and continuing to be her friendly, authentic self, however, she overcame people's initial distrust and made a great contribution to the lives of the women she worked with. I'm proud to be one of her publishers.

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Protect the Great Barrier Reef from coal, March 2021

Many of us have seen videos of Climate Change driving coral reef bleaching and threatening the livelihood of the communities and tourism workers who depend on a healthy Great Barrier Reef. This year the reef experienced its third mass bleaching event in just five years - the most widespread yet. Within Australia, the coal industry is the biggest driver of climate change. Experts say Australians can have either coral or coal, but not both. But Australia's government continues to promote the expansion of the coal industry. In six months time, the Adani Carmichael mine plans to export vast shiploads of coal right through the Great Barrier Reef. These shiploads depend on train-signalling technology that only Siemens, the German engineering company, is willing to provide. Last year, a massive global effort led by the Wangan and Jagalingou people - the Traditional Owners of the land on which Adani is building its mine, caused Siemens CEO to commit to securing the right to pull out of the contract "if our customer violates very stringent environmental obligations.” Since then, four environmental breaches against Adani have been upheld and more are under investigation. Will you join Palewell Press, SumOfUs and Greenpeace in asking Siemens to withdraw their equipment from this environmentally destructive project?

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Come Hell or High Water, February 2021

Few things scare me more than being overwhelmed by water – whether it arises from the sea or rushes down from the moors. The sufferings of those affected by the tsunami in 2004 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005 are etched not only onto the world’s databases but onto my personal image of hell – dark and cold; relatives dead or missing; home and other landmarks swept away. The cause of flooding is a large volume of water arriving too swiftly to be dispersed along existing water-courses. While Climate Change is increasing the number of extreme weather events, coping with high water has always been a challenge. How can we learn from history to prepare better for floods in our future? Part of today's problem comes from trying to dominate Nature - big hard-engineering projects like dams and flood barriers. Even when they work well, they shift floods elsewhere, along the coast or upstream of a dam. Plus they don’t always work as expected and are very expensive. But what if, alongside hard-engineered solutions, we used natural flood management? Since Katrina, experts have been evaluating the mangroves that used to fringe the USA’s southern coasts. Mangroves survive in both fresh and salt water and the drag of seawater through their roots and stems results in wave reduction. Similarly, in the UK, WWT (Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust) is working with landowners and local communities to reintroduce hedges, ponds, bogs and "leaky" dams to absorb flood water from upstream and release it slowly and more safely to areas downstream. To find out more and encourage similar projects in your area, go to WWT's page on Wetlands and Flooding.

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Private individuals and suppressed voices, January 2021

When Palewell Press relaunched in January 2016, it was to publish work that fostered Justice, Equality and Environmental Sustainability with a special focus on the refugee crisis. Five years and more than 40 book projects later we're still committed to producing books by or about refugees but also by authors from other minorities that feel excluded from society, and any writer on key environmental issues. We believe in building a sustainable world that can support itself and all its peoples, in which they share equally and are protected from abuse and injustice. And we want Palewell Press to offer a forum for suppressed voices. It's wonderful to discover how much our authors and their books embody these same dreams - supporting the right of individuals to speak their minds and make their needs known.
Looking back on 2020's Covid-disrupted plans and personal tragedies, it is the smaller organisations, local interest groups and private citizens whom I remember most clearly - people delivering shopping to their vulnerable neighbours, a librarian going the extra mile to find my elderly housebound friend her favourite author’s books, artists sharing design skills free online, a young footballer concerned about children going hungry, friends asking each other "How are you?" and really listening to the reply.
In Henry VIII, Shakespeare has Cardinal Wolsey say: "O, how wretched / Is that poor man that hangs on princes' favours!" And while being wary of princes, we might include presidents, captains of industry and others who have scrambled to the top of the heap where they can wield worldly power. As the year turns and we look ahead to, hopefully, brighter times, more than ever it is private individuals whose efforts and integrity keep the wheels of society turning. Back to Top

Sharing a Covid-friendly festive season, December 2020

The calendar tells me we're approaching Christmas but it's hard staying positive after the tragedies that mounted up during 2020. One path to happier and more festive feelings is to share with others. Covid restrictions mean we can't celebrate face-to-face with more than a very few people. But we can reach out to the wider world through aid agencies and other international charities. This is especially important in the light of the UK Chancellor's shocking decision to cut the international aid budget. This winter, one of the most vital ways to help our fellow humans, and all the aspects of the planet that depend on them, is to mitigate the Covid pandemic. Dr Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi social entrepreneur, banker, economist, and civil society leader, was awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for founding the Grameen Bank and pioneering the concepts of microcredit and microfinance. These kind of loans are given to entrepreneurs too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans. Dr Yunus has joined with other Nobel laureates to support the Avaaz campaign on Covid-19 vaccine - to ensure lifesaving Covid-19 vaccines, treatments and equipment are shared with everyone in the world. Patents should be lifted, technological knowledge exchanged freely and openly, and no profiteering allowed during this pandemic. Governments, scientists and pharmaceutical companies must cooperate and combine resources to ensure no one is left behind. The pandemic will not be over, until it’s over everywhere. I wish you all a peaceful festive season and hope you will consider joining Palewell Press in support of Dr Yunus and others in the Avaaz Covid-19 campaign. Back to Top

The Human Rights of Children, November 2020

Palewell Press values are grounded in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, especially those rights concerning reading, writing, other creative acts and freedom of belief. Not many people are aware there is also a UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that came into being in November 1989. Every country in the world has ratified it with the exception of one: the United States. One of its core statements is “Recognizing that the child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding…a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will, except when competent authorities subject to judicial review determine, in accordance with applicable law and procedures, that such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child”; meaning the best interests of a specific child, not a set of children defined by religion, race, income level or some other group characteristic or circumstance. Five years ago, ISIS fighters abducted Yazidi women from their homes in northern Iraq and raped them. Now these women must choose between returning home and keeping their young children born as a result of those rapes. While leaders of the conservative religion decreed early on that the roughly 3,500 kidnapped Yazidi women would be welcomed back, they have drawn the line at accepting children with ISIS fathers. We might tell ourselves the Yazidi are a highly traditional religious sect in a remote non-Western society. But what of children whose families were caught illegally crossing into the United States from Mexico? The Trump administration directed that any children caught by border officials should be taken from their parents and held in separate detention centres. His aim appears to have been to deter would-be immigrants from attempting the border crossing. Despite widespread condemnation from across the USA political spectrum, Trump’s policy led to thousands of children being forcibly separated from their parents. The consequences linger today: Lawyers working to reunite immigrant families have said they can't reach the deported parents of 545 children who were separated as early as July 2017. It may be too late to prevent the Yazidi and Mexican children, many too young to understand what happened let alone why, from being scarred emotionally. But let us champion the principles in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; and do all we can in future to prevent such dreadful policies being enforced in the countries where we live. Back to Top

Walking thoughtfully through the world, October 2020

Throughout 2020, Greenpeace has campaigned for governments to mitigate Climate Change by developing green economies, defined as healthy environments, renewable energy resources, better health care facilities and a strong economy that stimulate economic agents towards sustainable growth. As the first UK lockdown ended I hoped the pandemic had prepared society for undertaking such radical changes. It was disappointing when policy makers responded to the mounting public debt and unemployment with a more conventional set of economic measures. But, since then, something renewed my optimism. This summer, I visited the Wetland Centre in South West London several times. After a lovely walk in early September I was heading for the exit when my route was blocked by a flock of ducks. They were clustered on the ground, looking weary - perhaps from a recent migration - and I was reluctant to disturb their rest. As I approached them more and more cautiously, a winding path gradually appeared. No more than a foot wide, it led between the various groups of ducks. So I set myself to tiptoe through them peacefully, apparently looking at the gate but, out of the corner of my eye, also minding where I put my feet. The ducks watched me but none of them shifted. In a small way, I felt blessed at having managed to avoid startling them. Walking thoughtfully is something all of us can try, whether cabinet ministers struggling to balance the immediate needs of a post-Covid economy with the near-future challenge of climate change, or members of the public navigating their own lives' complexities. A little thought coupled with the wish to cause least harm may reveal viable routes through situations that confront us. As global warming worsens, if we as citizens and consumers show our support for the Greenpeace campaign, hopefully policy makers will find a route through the current economic crisis that also addresses climate change and the needs of refugees. Back to Top

No land is a island, September 2020

I puzzled for ages over this month's editorial. There were several environmental issues I wanted to write about, each with a human cost and a wider ecological one. Should it be the destruction of mangroves and marshes in coastal areas which exposes residential land to weather events like Katrina; or the way locust plagues are ravaging crops in Africa? Both deal a psychological blow to people living in the affected areas as well as robbing them of livelihood. And both have their strongest impact on the poorest and most vulnerable inhabitants. More resources seem to be spent on avoiding responsibility or, at best, mitigating symptoms, than on preventing future issues. Climate change deniers might argue the two issues are unconnected. Locust plagues tend to be triggered by extreme drought followed by heavy rain while the destruction of foreshore habitats is initiated by property developers. But drought and heavy rain in Africa are also likely to be the result of human action like clearing Amazon rain-forest to grow palm oil. Everything we do is connected at some level with everything else. John Donne once wrote “No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind.” In this troubled environmental age it might be equally valid to say that no land is an island, nor will its inhabitants be safe from harm done elsewhere on the planet. Back to Top

Our 2nd and 3rd online gigs, Mid-August 2020

Our second online event, on Thursday 30th July, was a poetry launch featuring two powerful nature writers: Rebecca Gethin with Vanishings, and Michael Tanner with Elemental. Both books are available from Palewell Press. A recording of the event is on YouTube.

Our third online event, on Thursday 20th August, featured two inspiring feminist writers. Rachel Sambrooks, host of Words Aloud in Sutton, read from Harpy, poetry and prose with mythical roots. Rocio Rodriguez-Inniss - Writer, Actress, Artist, and Lioness - shared a psychological short story from Useless Now but Beautiful Still. Both pamphlets are available to order from Palewell Press. You can see a video of the event on YouTube. Back to Top

Justice delayed becomes injustice, August 2020

During lockdown I spent a lot of time thinking about my late father. He was a barrister and Queen’s Counsel with a passion for justice, and also an official Amnesty observer at overseas trials of prisoners of conscience. He would have been horrified by the injustices perpetrated against Caribbean people whom UK government departments invited to come and work here between 1948 and 1970. These invitees filled much-needed roles in health, social care, transport and other industries, as well as being enthusiastic contributors to voluntary work and the arts. Their children grew up here. This is their home.
But the tides of politics changed and it became sickeningly advantageous for the government, having in the interim lost or destroyed paperwork that showed who was asked to come, to shed these “Windrush” families. The Home Secretary redefined them as illegal immigrants and gave private companies targets for getting rid of them. People struggled to prove they were entitled to stay. Some were dragged away from their homes in the middle of the night, shackled and forced onto “repatriation” flights. A recent film by Jean-Marc Aka-Kadjo, Is Britain Racist?, shows how this policy led to grief, anger, hardship and death among those targeted.
When court cases, media attention and street protests made it politically impossible to ignore what government was doing, official apologies were mouthed and promises made to do better for our fellow residents. On 16 April 2018, the Home Secretary established the Windrush Taskforce to make immediate arrangements to help those who needed it and to deal with applications from people wrongly categorised as illegal immigrants. But by April 2020, the Taskforce still had 3,720 outstanding cases. And officials were refusing to attempt to trace people wrongly deported to non-Caribbean Commonwealth countries. Justice, to which our fellow UK residents are entitled, is being delayed to the point where it becomes a new denial of their rights. Back to Top

Coronavirus Update, Mid-July 2020

Lockdown may be over but uncertainty continues to affect publishing with a number of excellent book shops and distributors closing down. We've experienced some supply chain problems where hard-working staff at our various printers are covering for each other from home or on the production floor. It's taking longer than usual for us to receive stock and a couple of quality issues have required rework. Thank you for your patience over any delays in orders reaching you.
We don't expect face-to-face book events to be safe for several months at least so it's great that Zoom software makes it possible for us to host online events. The audio recording of our first event is available on Soundcloud. And we hope you'll be with us for some more exceptional readings in the next few weeks. Back to Top

Light at the end of the tunnel? July 2020

Some of you may remember the old joke – I thought I saw a light at the end of the tunnel but it was just someone with a torch bringing more work. When scientists find effective tests and vaccines for coronavirus we’ll have plenty to celebrate. But urgent work will still be needed to make the world fairer and more sustainable. Whether it’s the documentary by Jean-Marc Aka-Kadjo, seeking justice for those impacted by Windrush; Rebecca Gethin's latest poetry collection, Vanishings, on endangered species; or another equally vital cause, the most important thing a torch-bearer can bring down the tunnel is a vision. When someone we trust gives us a clear picture of how things could and should change, as Martin Luther King did in his “I have a dream” speech, it can empower us to move mountains. Back to Top

Refugee Week, Mid-June 2020

Hope you saw some of our social media posts and tweets during Refugee Week. We were promoting The World is for Everyone, our 2019 anthology of creative writing by PAMOJA Women Together, a group of refugee, asylum seeker and irregular migrant women based in Nottingham. And we were canvassing opinion on the best way to share Refugee Stories—is it long fiction, poetry, graphical short fiction, drama, memoir, creative non-fiction or essays? Do let us know what you think. Back to Top

What country, friends, is this? June 2020

The UK's first lockdown is approaching its end. At times it has felt like an interminable train journey through a strange country without mountains or other landmarks, and whose station names are in an alien script. Now, about to arrive in the new world that was forming in my absence, I wonder - am I ready to alight at the unknown terminus? How will I cope with the nervousness I feel at moving out of quarantine? But I need to face my fears. This new world is where I and everyone must grapple with politics and economics, refashioning society so we can deal with the massively urgent interlinked challenges of climate change and the refugee crisis. These issues haven't, to date, been as vital to our current political elite as they are to members of the public. How can we change government's perceptions? In the past, activists have achieved major public attitude changes: nuclear disarmament and civil rights being two examples. Covid-19 issued a clarion call for us to help the vulnerable and be more aware of the needs of those around us. Let's carry that feeling of wider community with us as we leave the station. Back to Top

Palewell's first online event, mid-May 2020

When the pandemic first reached the UK, I didn't realise how much it would affect my life, the economy and the whole of society. But I was determined, as far as I could, to deliver the book publication projects Palewell Press had promised. That choice has helped me personally, providing contact with many of our wonderful writers as well as the artists who are generously collaborating with us.So far this year we've published At the Storm's Edge by Frank McMahon, poems with a stark understanding of humanity's fragile place in the sweep of history, and Those Other Fields by David Punter, whose poetry reveals the interconnections between our selfishness and greed and the acceleration of both climate change and the refugee crisis. Only Frank's book, which came out in January, had a launch. And there are more books coming, most immediately, Afternoon Music by Tom Harding who shares the unease many feel about the pace and purpose of consumerism. Face-to-face celebrations will wait until later this year. Right now, nervous but excited, we're planning our first online event. Please join us us on Zoom on Thursday 28th May at 7 pm to hear Frank, David and Tom read from their fabulous books. An audio recording is now available of the poems read at this event. Back to Top

The times they are a-changin’, May 2020

In 1964, "The Times They Are A-Changin'" by Bob Dylan was a call to action which helped me articulate my concerns about society. The balance between rich and poor, state and citizen, the rights of people defined by their skin colour, all these needed to shift. And they did so, surprisingly fast, leading to the improved but still imperfect world we see today. The pandemic is triggering another time of rapid change. The foundations of our society are being lifted up and rocked. Tectonic-scale forces have interrupted every complacent thought and small-horizoned plan. It’s understandable to feel anxious. But periods of disruption have often led to fairer social conditions. The UK’s NHS and Welfare State largely grew out of attitudes transformed by the Second World War. This country certainly needs that kind of change. UK food poverty and the true numbers and suffering of homeless people are finally being acknowledged. Those who heal, teach or in other ways care for us are being recognised as vital - their salaries and status are likely to reflect that. When the world’s nations try to restart their economies, we also need governments and corporates to pay more serious attention to Global Warming. The threat it poses is even greater than coronavirus. Greenpeace has a new campaign to encourage the electorate and politicians to deal with climate change. As John Sauven, Executive Director of Greenpeace, writes: "The government's response to the pandemic will impact every aspect of our society, our own lives and the global economy. A stimulus package to inject billions into the economy is being put together by the government to support industry and workers' livelihoods, but the current plans could prop up the most polluting companies like the airline industry without any conditions. We need an economy that works for everyone - and our planet."   Back to Top

What world will emerge from the current crisis? Mid-April 2020

Dear friends, that is how I’ve come to regard you after four years of writing this monthly newsletter. I hope you are all well and safe although that may be unrealistic of me. Most of us know someone who is seriously ill or has already died of coronavirus – changing the lives of their loved ones more profoundly than even these few strange months had already done. As the NHS and other public service heroes risk their lives to protect us, I’m busy trying to move Palewell Press forwards, keeping its promises to authors while seeking new ways to deliver those. I’ll share that journey with you, and updates on our next set of books, in other newsletters. But increasingly urgent changes are happening around us. What world will rise from the ashes of this pandemic? You, I and everyone we’re connected to have a part to play in shaping that world. The next few weeks gives us a breathing space, if we stay lucky, to think about the world we need, how to make it more fair and more sustainable. If you’d like to share your ideas for our future or your poems and stories about this challenging time, please email them to me. Whether or not you do so, I will be thinking of you and wishing the very best for all of us. Back to Top

The Fire Next Time, April 2020

Even before coronavirus, this twelve months felt ominous with Global Warming really starting to bite. It's true sub-Saharan Africa has undergone decades of desertification and many other regions were already suffering from Climate Change. But watching satellite images of Australia burning was a terrible blow to the world's sense of self. The many fires that started in New South Wales last November spread right across Australia, burning 25.5 million acres. In their article "Food and Fire", John Leary and Lindsay Cobb from Trees for the Future say "The reason for the magnitude of these fires is complex and certainly requires attention to climate, but it can all be traced back to one thing: How we grow our food."
Since time immemorial, animals have been an essential part of closed-looped, mixed farming systems, with grazed pasture regenerating the soil after cultivation and rebuilding its fertility and with pigs and poultry living largely off residues. In the last 50 years there has been a revolution in how we produce the food we eat – resulting from a combination of technology, the push to a wholly market-driven economy and policies encouraging cheap food. Many farm animals are now raised intensively, separate from the land on which their food is produced. As with the expansion of oil palm for human consumption, large areas of forest have been cleared and burnt to produce feed for these industrially raised animals – resulting in loss of the forests’ rain-making canopies and of biodiversity. Those of us in the richer nations need to eat less meat – seeking out that which is raised naturally on pasture as part of traditional mixed farming systems – an approach encouraged by the Pasture-fed Livestock Association (PFLA). In "The Abattoir", a poem from The Soil Never Sleeps, which was commissioned by the PFLA, Adam Horovitz writes: We built the inhabited world as a farm / over millennia. If we deprive the woodland / ruminants, which help us manage it, of trees, if we / whisk up soups in chemical vats to tame the weeds, / we strip the landscape of its language. / Make a bowl in which to harvest storms. Back to Top

Coronavirus Update, Mid-March 2020

Sadly, in the light of the coronavirus epidemic, Palewell Press has decided to postpone all our book launches and other public events. The most immediate effect is that the launch of Those Other Fields, David Punter's beautiful pamphlet of Human Rights and Environmentally-themed poems, won't happen on March 27th but must wait until later. But you can buy his book right now from Palewell Press. Despite the coronavirus, 2020 continues to be very busy at Palewell Press. Currently, we're working on Afternoon Music from poet and artist, Tom Harding of Northampton Poetry Review; Vanishings, poems on Species Extinction by Rebecca Gethin; Useless Now But Beautiful Still, a collection of psychological short-stories from young feminist writer, Rocio Rodriguez-Inniss; and Fur Beneath the Skin, a diversity-themed YA novel from historical writer, Christie Dickason. We intend to keep producing this season's books in the same order and timescale as planned but to hold the launches later in the year. As soon as each of these books are available to buy we'll let you know in the Newsletter. We expect to be sending out our usual monthly Newsletter at the start of April. Once events start to be scheduled again, we will show them on our Facebook page, talk about them in the Newsletter and list details on our Events Page. For comments and suggestions, email the Editor. Meanwhile we wish you all a calm and stress-free Spring. And we send our deepest hopes for safety and health to people in China, Iran, Italy and other areas of the world already badly hit by the virus. Back to Top

Trying on the future for size and fit, March 2020

Many of us worry about the future - how will it look and feel? Wouldn't it help if everyone, including our political leaders, could go into a High Street store and try on a variety of futures to see how they fit? Each outfit would need climate change features - how much protection will it provide against storms and flooding; how hot will it feel in spring, summer and autumn, especially for people living in the Southern Hemisphere? Is there enough room for population growth and to accommodate people displaced from areas impacted by global warming and climate-triggered conflict. Worst of all, if leaders of nations in the Northern Hemisphere decide there isn't enough room, what will the tragic fate of our fellow human beings do to our ability to sleep at night in our chosen future? Sounds like time for a radical redesign! Back to Top

The rights of unaccompanied child refugees, February 2020

Today’s editorial concerns unaccompanied child refugees in Europe and their right to be reunited with their families living in the UK - undeniably a vast subject that cries out for compassion and justice, and for the UK to keep faith with promises embodied in earlier legislation. But this January the House of Commons passed the Brexit Withdrawal Bill without amendment, in particular the amendment from Alfred Lord Dubs that would have guaranteed refugee children that right. Theresa May accepted the Dubs wording when she was in Number 10 but Boris Johnson has watered down the commitment in the Bill's Clause 37 to simply stating that a minister will “make a single statement to Parliament within two months” of it passing to explain progress on the arrangements for child refugees seeking their families in the UK.
Brexit Minister, Lord Callanan, says the government’s policy “has not changed at all”, that there is no difference between their views and those of Lord Dubs and they recognise these children’s right to come to the UK. They say they are already in negotiations about that with the European Commission and think it’s unnecessary to include an amendment mandating a specific outcome of those negotiations. But Lord Dubs, a Labour peer who fled the Nazis as a boy, fears if the requirement isn’t in the Brexit Withdrawal Bill, given the high-pressure nature of Brexit withdrawal negotiations and other tasks on the political agenda, it may be dropped. He and other Peers, including Conservative ones, fought this decision when the Bill was debated in the House of Lords. They won the vote in the Lords but the government is presenting the Bill to the Commons again without the Dubs amendment.
This has further heightened uncertainty around the rights of child refugees. It is a matter of sorrow and anger to Palewell Press that so many of our MPs were prepared to put short-term political objectives ahead of human rights. To see what this means for families involved, watch the @SafePassageUK video of a UK-based Afghan refugee whose orphaned and unaccompanied 16-year-old nephew is currently stranded in a Greek refugee camp. As Lord Dubs says, these children are depending on us. We can't turn our backs. Back to Top

Focusing on the light, January 2020

For me, 2019 felt less like a year of two halves than a bundle of ill-coordinated fragments. So many terrible choices were made. Because of or in parallel with these choices, disasters took place that left people, creatures and ecosystems in trouble. Their images filled TV and PC screens, overran our mobiles. There were good events too and courageous people: Greta Thunberg sailing to America to face down climate-deniers in the UN; Jason Endfield holding Natural England to account, month after month, for licensing the legalised killing of songbirds, ravens and waterfowl; the film 2040, directed by David Gameau – subsequently nominated as Australian of the Year – and sponsored by Greenpeace. Gameau’s film is dedicated to his daughter who will be a young adult in the year 2040. It shows that the technology we need to reverse global warming is already available, and the world lacks only the political will for it to be deployed. Then there is the Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill that Big Issue founder, Lord John Bird, is piloting through parliament. His bill was inspired by the pioneering Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 that is already functioning as a bulwark against political short-termism in Wales. But I couldn't integrate these contradictions or position myself on the continuum between despair and hope. That was until I heard someone say: “rather than being daunted by darkness or denying its existence we should acknowledge it is there but choose to focus on the light.” A mood of cautious optimism surfaced in me. I began to follow the actions of creative, nurturing people and take the time to research encouraging developments. It isn’t a false position. We were born into a complex, challenging time. It doesn’t help to spend our lives harking back to a “simpler” age or burying our heads in the sand. Global Warming is one of the greatest challenges facing generations alive today. Let us remember the idea that “While I breathe, I hope", which comes from the writings of Theocritus and Cicero. While we live we are in a position to do something about these challenges. To achieve that it is vital we focus on the light and stay hopeful. Back to Top

Wishing you hope at Christmas, December 2019

Hope - a little wind rising in the fortunes of those we care about, which could be our family and friends or people we haven't met like refugees. Letting ourselves believe in the possibility of change, the right kind of change, whether it leads to freedom from oppression, better health, not having to choose between eating and keeping warm, or maybe seeing someone special again after too long. We all need hope, need it as fundamentally as the air we breathe. And what gets many of us out of bed on cold, dark mornings is seeing hope reawaken in those around us. This is a strong theme in The World is for Everyone, the creative writing anthology from the PAMOJA Women Together group of refugees based in Nottingham. As well as this lovely anthology, we have other sources of hope to share with you. You could sum them up as the effectiveness of People Power.
The first is the news about Rodney Reed who has been on Death Row in Texas for 20 years, accused of the rape and murder of Stacey Stites, with whom he had a consensual affair. Rodney has remained in prison despite the fact that his original trial was flawed and significant new evidence – including new witnesses – could exonerate him. Thanks to the campaign by Amnesty, Change.org as well as many others, just four days before Rodney was due to be executed, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals gave Rodney a stay of execution and said he would have a new trial. It is because of members of the public who wrote letters, made phone-calls and signed petitions that Rodney is still alive. 
The second heart-warming piece of news was about our roadside verges which have become a vital player in maintaining plant and insect diversity. The charity Plantlife has provided all the local councils in the UK with guidelines for protecting verges, essentially to cut less and cut later in the year so plants have time to set seed and pollinating insects can still find food outside the summer months. Plantlife's team are starting to get interest from a number of local authorities who are keen to know more about wildflower-friendly verge management. Many authorities have commented how this year they’ve seen an increase in members of the public asking them to do more for verge biodiversity. Road verges are starting to flourish once again, providing food and homes for bees, butterflies and other insects. People Power is convincing councils to manage road verges better for nature.
Lastly and just as amazing is the news from Jasmine Wakeel. On October 10, helped by the year-long campaign that she and a quarter of a million others ran through One.org,  The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria secured US$14 billion in pledges for its life-saving work. With this funding, the Global Fund will help save another 16 million lives over the next three years.  These hopeful pieces of news, driven by People Power, are the kind of Christmas presents which will brighten the coming years for millions of people. Back to Top

Refugees' right to enjoy the arts, November 2019

The idea that bad news travels fast is borne out every day. Worrying stories about our fellow world citizens, whether they're living in, trying to escape from or travelling through Syria, Bosnia, Turkey, Mexico and many other countries, flood the media. I sometimes struggle to stay positive. So it is a delight, for a change, to pass you some good news - from one of Turkey's Syrian refugee communities. We are grateful to UNHCR - the UN Refugee Agency - for sharing it on YouTube. The story resonates strongly with me because it supports one of the universal Human Rights that guide Palewell Press:  "Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits."
Nada is a Syrian refugee now living in Turkey. Recalling the many bookstores and libraries in Damascus, she believed her fellow Syrian refugees in Istanbul would welcome better access to books. She began by renting books to people she knew and their response was so positive that she set up Boukah – an Arabic-language library and bookstore especially intended for Syrians. Later she met Mohammad, another Syrian refugee, at a Book Fair and they fell in love. Mohammad joined her in running the business and two months ago they received a UNHCR enterprise grant. With the money they have bought more books and produced the store’s own creative calendar. Nada says “we are so happy because we have many dreams.” We wish Nada and Mohammad every good fortune in developing their dream of a bookstore.  Back to Top

Refugees in limbo on Europe’s borders, October 2019

Refugees entering Europe are subject to the Common European Asylum System (CEAS), which prohibits EU Member States sending an individual back to where they are at risk of persecution and offers international protection to those who are granted refugee status. But CEAS was an insufficiently thought-through emergency protocol, designed to provide minimum standards related to asylum. Despite the growing refugee crisis, CEAS principles haven’t been updated since 2014. It is left up to EU Member States' discretion to establish procedures for obtaining and withdrawing international protection. This has led to EU countries using both legal and illegal means to prevent refugees reaching them in the first place.
Refugee numbers are building up at points around the borders of Europe, causing emotional, financial and operational problems for the countries they are trapped in. Other EU states should offer more help. For UNHCR spokesperson, Liz Throssell, the plight of the 4,400 unaccompanied children across the Greek islands of Lesvos, Samos and Kos is particularly worrying, with only one in four in a shelter appropriate for their age.
On Lesvos itself, sea arrivals in September, mostly of Afghan and Syrian families, increased to 10,258. As well showing generous hospitality to refugees who successfully land, local people have had to witness the horror of repeatedly finding bodies in the sea or washed ashore. The small island (population 86,436) is struggling to find space for everyone. At Moria, the island’s disused military barracks, more than 13,000 people are crammed into tents and shipping containers with facilities meant to house just 3,000. Moria camp exists because of the island's proximity to Turkey - around 5-8 km at its closest point by sea. But tensions are rising in the camp. A recent fire in a shipping container injured 19 people including four children and left at least one woman dead. Riots triggered by the incident have caused the Greek government to pledge increased transfers of refugees to the mainland.
Elsewhere, refugees trying to enter the EU through Croatia are being held back on the Bosnian side of the border. It is rumoured that those trying to cross have been met by extreme brutality although it's unclear whether this was from vigilante groups or members of the Croatian police. Bosnian officials attempting to provide for rising numbers of refugees feel abandoned by the international community. With shelters bursting at the seams, vulnerable people are trapped in limbo, many housed in unheated disused factories where they and their children go hungry.
Whether or not Brexit happens, the UK must collaborate with all the other European governments to agree and implement a more humane, effective way of addressing mass human migration. Time is running out for both refugees and the countries they travel through. Back to Top

Summer Holidays and Slavery, September 2019

Our office will be closed during September. Urgent messages to the Editor will answered as soon as possible. I will return in October refreshed and ready for all our autumn launches and the Mini Book Festival.
Like most people in the UK, I’m encouraged to take a break from work because rest and changed surroundings are good for body and spirit. But there are people living not far from me who aren't allowed to rest, whose every hour is exploited by slave-owners. They may be trafficked women, imprisoned and used as prostitutes; illegal immigrant workers in nail-bars, construction sites, cannabis plantations or farms in the power of brutal gang-masters; or terrified British teenagers trapped in the County Lines drug-trade. Despite legislation to abolish slavery, it remains a fact of British life. During 2018, more than 5,000 potential victims of modern slavery and trafficking were referred to UK authorities. And the estimated number of victims of trafficking and modern slavery in Britain rose from 13,000 in 2013 to 136,000 in 2018. People denied the most basic human rights exist in a twilight economy that makes the slave-owners rich and uses up the workers until they're replaced by new victims. Modern slaves include men, women and children, always from the most vulnerable groups. Many of them fell into slavery while trying to escape poverty or war. They may be too frightened to speak up so the rest of us must be vigilant on their behalf. As Hannah Wheatley, a founding director of the charity One Family, states "We can’t leave it to law enforcement to fight human trafficking alone. All of us must stand watch against modern slavery, rooting it out of our communities, leaving no refuge for traffickers." With the charity's support, Hannah set up a Modern Slavery Helpline for reporting suspect situations. Whenever a service is provided at much lower than usual prices we should suspect the shark-fin of slavery. And if we know a friend is using drugs like cocaine or visiting prostitutes, we should challenge them to acknowledge how their addiction is leading to other people being enslaved. Back to Top

Transformative Power of Witness, August 2019

There are 65,000,000 displaced people in the world. We can never know them all, their faces, their fears, their ultimate fate. Beyond acknowledging that they exist, what can we do for or about these millions of strangers? On 26th July, I was at Oxford’s Common Ground café and social workspace. We were launching Testimony of Flight by Jane Spiro. As Jane and chosen guests read poems and prose from this haunting book, they brought to life people who were caught up in the Holocaust. I found myself bearing witness and grieving for her characters and, irresistibly, for their many contemporaries whose lives ran in parallel but whose stories remain largely untold. Together with the whole audience I rededicated myself to helping refugees. At Christmas, Palewell Press will publish The World is for Everyone, an anthology of work by the PAMOJA Refugee Women Writers Group in Nottingham. These women are survivors, inspired by the wish to make their children safe and see them grow up as full happy members of our society. Their writing also bears witness – to what it’s like fleeing a dangerous but much-loved birthplace and having to endure the UK's asylum process. Like all of us, they need to feel their dreams and concerns are being recognised. Let us listen to them as attentively and honestly as we do to the long-dead voices from Testimony of Flight. Back to Top

Green Healing Energies, July 2019

We all have our ups and downs. A couple of weeks ago it was my turn to feel low. The news seemed fuller than ever of desperate situations, injustice, climate catastrophe. Fortunately, my diary held appointments at Greenpeace and Freedom from Torture that, even tired and dispirited, I didn’t want to miss. The Greenpeace briefing at their centre in Islington was about projects that involved BP, single-use plastics and the law of the High Seas. Afterwards we had a vegetarian lunch in the tiny garden between the offices and the warehouse in which they store climbing equipment. Occupying a corner of the garden was a beautiful wildlife pond with waterlilies, rushes and a bevy of blue dragonflies - there’s a photo at the end of the July newsletter. The pond seemed a microcosm of what Greenpeace supporters want for the whole planet: a complete ecosystem in harmonious balance. As well as its symbolic role, however, the pond will be working its healing magic on busy Greenpeace activists who carry responsibility for many difficult challenges; recharging their batteries so they can return to their desks better able to function. We all need that kind of recharge. Being in contact with a natural system that’s working well can rebalance our mental and physical health. I left feeling a little more hopeful about halting the slide into climate disaster that's putting so many people and creatures at risk.

Later that week, I went to Faces and Spaces – a photo exhibition at the London centre of Freedom from Torture. The photos were part of a project run by Accumulate, a youth homelessness charity, to offer young torture survivors a chance to develop photography skills. Simultaneously, the charity was screening a couple of excellent animations also made by torture survivors. After visiting the exhibition, I was fortunate to be given a tour of the gardens which Freedom from Torture uses as a safe setting for its talking therapies and practical gardening therapy. Around a thousand torture survivors benefit from these calm spaces every year. Bees buzzed through lavender bushes, vegetables grew vigorously in raised beds and water rippled along the rill that curves through the meditation courtyard. Spending an hour there and hearing about the marvellous work done by Freedom from Torture left me calmer, as if I too needed healing and had found it. With organisations like these, and all their supporters, experts and activists working for the common good, it no longer felt futile to strive for a safer, fairer, greener world. Back to Top

UNESCO and a perilous hope, June 2019

UNESCO is the part of the United Nations that supports Education, Science and Culture. Its constitution, adopted in 1945, claims that “the wide diffusion of culture, and the education of humanity for justice and liberty and peace are indispensable to the dignity of man.” For people living in the immediately post-war Europe of 1945, bruised and saddened by a Second World War, the one their parents had been told would never happen, UNESCO and the fledgling United Nations offered a perilous hope. Perilous because so many dreams had been dashed, by the greed and ambition of certain world leaders like those who carved up Europe after the First World War, by the awful spectre of global conflict and the terrible events and choices that all sides to that conflict had found themselves caught up in. To hope that life-chances might become better and fairer and that education and creativity could be made accessible to all individuals could have seemed naive - after so much had failed why should people risk being disappointed again? In spite of that, it was what many yearned to believe. Otherwise, how could they live with what had happened, bring more babies into the muddle and grief around them or persuade their existing children to grow up as decent caring individuals?

At the Changing Wor(l)ds Festival in Nottingham I attended an event called On the Frontline: Muslim and Jewish Poets Speak Out. Hosted by Exiled Writers Ink, the poetry of Jennifer Langer, Amir Darwish, Jill Abrams and Mohamed Mohamed was a brilliant testament to the way creative work can bridge what sometimes seem massive gulfs between those of different religion, ethnicity or political beliefs. The wide diffusion of culture, with justice, liberty and peace continue to motivate most people I've met, wherever they live in the world and however easy or challenging their lives have turned out. We share a belief in education being available to all regardless of gender and other differences; and in our right to create stories, books, films, artworks and newspaper articles without suffering oppressive interference in our creative endeavours. Regimes that imprison writers simply for publishing the peaceful written word are seen as pariah. As I write these words I can sense my parents standing with me, shoulder to shoulder - my father, a barrister who was an Amnesty observer at several Human Rights trials, and my mother, a compassionate and tireless worker for the rights of refugees and other marginalised people. They attended the first meeting of the United Nations in London. Following in their footsteps, the books published by Palewell Press, and by its sister presses in the Changing Wor(l)ds Network of cultural activist organisations, contribute to those values. By reading this newsletter and buying those books, you do too. As Victor Hugo wrote: "There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come." Greetings to all our unseen friends. Together, we can make things better for everyone. Back to Top

Inheriting Social Exclusion, May 2019

Three of our most recent books share a focus on alienation – how easily a person can find themselves feeling excluded, being left behind with no way to join the mainstream. Some individuals carry inner beliefs, manage to hold onto their culture or create new beliefs to help them weather this experience. Arthur Talks looks at this challenge from the viewpoint of homeless people in the UK. Inside the Blue House (about displaced Ukrainians) and Testimony of Flight (about Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe) were both written by the daughters of refugees. All three books capture the extraordinary difficulties faced when losing touch with your origins and becoming excluded.
Sadly, the children of people marginalised by war, famine, homelessness, racial prejudice, mental health issues or other causes can also suffer, especially if they don't know why members of their family are grief-stricken, depressed or absent. Even as young as toddlers, children can be painfully aware of their parents or grandparents being troubled. If they don’t understand what’s causing the trouble, they often feel it’s their fault. This can lead them to repress their own needs in order to meet the behaviour they imagine their families require or, going in the other direction, to become disruptive or apathetic at school. It's a short step from these feelings to the children themselves becoming socially excluded.
Where the scope for peaceful family life is impaired, UK schools, playgroups and youth projects can help to encourage the children's hope, effort and self-worth – as demonstrated recently by Oxford Spires Academy. Creative writing by their, mostly refugee, pupils, in “England – Poems from a School” (editor Kate Clanchy, pb: Picador) show what can be done to inspire and reintegrate children whose families have experienced trauma. But in the current economic climate, organisations will struggle to provide resources for such work. Back to Top

2019-2030 Years of Climate Decision, April 2019

The UN Intergovernmental Panel (IPCC) latest report on Climate Change says urgent and unprecedented action is required to keep global temperatures between 1.5C and 2C - only 12 years remain to achieve this. Beyond that point, even half a degree warmer will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. Avoiding this additional half-degree could also prevent corals from extinction and ease pressure on the Arctic. As the report was approved by a plenary of all 195 countries in Incheon in South Korea, delegates hugged one another, some of them in tears.  Despite the stark warning, the USA and Brazil are expected to withdraw from the accord.
It can seem as if all these decisions will be made by governments but individuals play an important part too. One of our climate heroes is Jadav Payeng in India. Through planting one tree every day for 37 years on the barren sandbar island in the Brahmaputra river, he has recreated a 1360 acre forest that today is home to wildlife. 
Adaptation to climate change will vary depending on each country’s geography but mitigating its effects on the most vulnerable people requires a common global goal. Each community needs to discuss its values and what it might be prepared to lose to achieve them. This process isn’t just "about building stronger bridges. It is about communities. Successful adaptation will require strategic thinking, resourcefulness, creativity, collaboration and effective communication.” Ariana Jordão was part of the campaign in Machynlleth, Wales, that got the local council to be one of the first in the UK to declare a Climate Emergency.  Across the world, people are calling on their councils to follow suit. Now Ariana has started a petition asking MPs in Westminster to
  • Declare a nationwide Climate Emergency:
  • Halt fossil fuel expansion and fossil fuel subsidies by 2020 and begin to support the roll-out of clean renewable energy technologies immediately.
  • Ensure current and future policies are consistent with averting climate change and preventing ecological collapse.
  • Support the rapidly emerging climate action plans and resilience initiatives throughout the country.
  • Reduce carbon emissions to net zero no later than 2030.

No Pasaran - emotive performances by Dodo Modern Poets 

Last month's No Pasaran conference "Confronting the rise of the far-right"  concluded with a beautiful evening of arts supporting social justice.  Anders Lustgarten's play "Lampedusa" took the audience into the thoughts of two people facing moments of personal crisis and change: a fisherman trying to rescue shipwrecked refugees off the island of Lampedusa and a young British-Chinese woman paid to chase UK citizens defaulting on loans. The play was followed by moving performances from three members of Dodo Modern Poets: PR Murry sharing poems on animal rights and refugees, Jenny Mitchell performing tragic works on slavery, and Patric Cunnane, reading new poems as well as some from his recent collection The Ghost of Franz Kafka.  The evening ended with a brilliant performance by internationally famous Kurdish musician Resho Zelal. One of the founders of Zelal Band, Resho's music focuses on the Kurdish cause, human rights and women’s freedom. As a Kurdish artist he has been subjected to political pressures and he cannot return to his homeland. His playing echoed through my soul reminding me of the Kurdish poetry read at Ledbury in 2017 by Bejan Matur. Back to Top

Malala and hearing from refugees, March 2019

Malala Yousafzai says she wrote her latest book "We are Displaced" because "we hear about refugees in the newspapers, on TV, and it is just numbers...but we do not hear from them." Like Malala, Palewell Press wants the world to hear from those who have become refugees, displaced, in exile; and also from their families, friends and lovers who are inescapably affected by these tragic circumstances. This month we're featuring the books we've published so far around this troubled subject and looking ahead to Inside the Blue House, poems by Sonia Jarema, whose family was caught up in Ukraine's diaspora. Back to Top

Sow the wind and reap the whirlwind, February 2019

This quotation from The Book of Hosea in the Old Testament shows an awareness of environmental challenges similar to those we face today. Hosea was speaking metaphorically but also as someone familiar with over-tilled land washing away in storm or blowing up into dust spirals. Adam Horovitz’s poetry collection The Soil Never Sleeps contains this warning: “…if we whisk up soups in chemical vats to tame the weeds, we strip the landscape of its language. Make a bowl in which to harvest storms.” (The Abattoir).
But Climate Change isn’t the only perfect storm facing us. Later this year we'll be publishing Inside the Blue House by Sonia Jarema and Testimony of Flight by Jane Spiro in which each writer reflects on her family’s experiences as strangers in a strange land. Every day, the world’s 65 million displaced people face grief, exclusion and danger. Will those be the impressions that dominate the rest of their lives or can we all do more to make refugees welcome? Back to Top

Sharing our 3rd birthday, January 2019

Palewell Press is three years old this month. We've had an amazing time publishing twenty-two books so far and made lots of new friends. It's a great pleasure to acknowledge the help we've received from family, friends, authors and volunteers, and the publishing advice we've come to rely on from Valley Press, The Emma Press and Cinnamon Press. The anniversary has also given us an unanticipated sense of connection with three-year-olds around the world. Are they at peace, well fed and playing happily, or troubled by famine, homelessness, war or exile? What kind of future lies ahead for each child; and how can our actions and those of government make that future brighter for everyone? Back to Top

Wishing you all a slow, deep Christmas, December 2018

The Climate Change crisis has given rise to some remarkable messages about consumerism. In November, Martin Lewis spoke on The Money Show about stress in the run-up to Christmas, how it causes some people unhappiness, debt and worry because all of us have “disconnected from the reason we give gifts.” He suggested it was time to stop giving each other unnecessary Christmas presents and, if we want to be generous, give to charity instead. In Annie Leonard’s original documentary, The Story of Stuff, she explained that all the things we use have hidden environmental and social impacts, that consumer society is organised as take-make-waste: taking vast resources, making consumer products, then throwing them in the waste before buying more stuff. This echoes the tragedy covered in Iceland’s Christmas video - that 25 orangutans die every day because we keep buying products that use palm oil. Annie went on to say that, in the midst of all this crazy consumerism, we’re losing touch with what we really need to make us happy – contact with people and nature. She described herself as “living in community” – sharing things with her neighbours so they don’t each need a lawn-mower or fax machine. Maybe, as Martin and Annie recommend, we could all slow down a little: reduce waste by no longer giving unwanted gifts, appreciate the things we have, using them for longer and sharing them with each other? As we did so, there'd be time to reach deeper into those areas of life that bring us real happiness—friendship and harmony with the natural world. Back to Top

Child victims without a voice, November 2018

The wider world is sadly full of victims who aren't able to make their voices heard and respected, including refugees, homeless people and trafficked women. Palewell Press exists to publish writers from suppressed groups and those writing about them. But nearer to home is another group who also need to be listened to respectfully - UK children exposed to domestic violence. During October, the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee issued their report on Domestic Abuse in which they recommend that the yet-to-be-appointed ‘Domestic Abuse Commissioner’ should review the impact on children of their experience of the family courts, children’s services, CAFCASS and the police, with particular reference to contact arrangements in domestic violence cases. Back to Top

Independent Publishing and Freedom, October 2018

Palewell Press is strongly committed to the UN Declaration of Human Rights. One of its key principles is that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” This month we start work on two very different book projects, each of which exemplifies this right. The Evil Wheels of our War is a memoir by Zaina Erhaim, an award-winning Syrian woman journalist, of her time in Syria during the Syrian War – the truth behind the headlines. Our other book is The Architect – a social treatise like those by America’s Founding Fathers rather than a memoir. It was written by Steve Champion and Craig Anthony Ross who are long-term prisoners on Death Row in California. There are elements in society, in the UK and elsewhere, that might object to our publishing Zaina, Steve and Craig’s thoughts. Challenging those elements is part of what independent publishing is for. Back to Top

Low Tech projects and sustainability, September 2018

We're really impressed by charities whose work dovetails into the existing life of the recipients. A recent example is Practical Action's project for Bangladeshi communities in the districts of Jessore, Khulna and Satkhira where 70% live in poverty. Across the farming year, people's fields are either too dry or waterlogged or at risk from the monsoon. The charity plans to combine floating gardens and fish farming. The fish swim in a bamboo cage on top of which is a platform for growing squash and other vegetables. The fish create waste used by the plants as fertiliser and the plants filter the water so the fish can thrive. Practical Action was founded by radical economist and philosopher E.F. Schumacher fifty years ago. Typical of their projects, the fish farm-floating garden idea brings together local building materials and a 'light-bulb' idea that people benefit from but also feel empowered by. Back to Top

Our world is heating up, August 2018

It's been a scorching month where we work in South-West London; but worse in Northern England and Wales where Fire Crews worked desperately hard to contain moorland fires. Astonishingly, it appears some of these fires were arson. Over the coming decade, UK infrastructure and services will need major investment to adapt to shifting climate realities. Elsewhere in the world, though, the situation feels more urgent. The Japanese heatwave causing multiple deaths was declared a natural disaster. News from Japan was swiftly followed by wildfires that destroyed Mati and Rafina in Greece's north-eastern Attica region, leaving scores dead while others fled to beaches for safety. What makes the worsening climate even more worrying is how global warming impacts refugees and the world's poorest citizens. For thousands of years, environmental issues have been inextricably linked to human migration. In our own century, as large parts of the planet become uninhabitable due to heat or rising sea-levels, families seek to move to safer areas. But they're met by fear and anger from populations already worried about food, housing and employment. These are global challenges whose solution requires planet-wide consensus rather than unilateral acts such as building massive walls along national borders. Time is short to establish this consensus. Back to Top

Refugee Week but continuing injustice, July 2018

It has been a month of extremes - not just because of the strong drying winds and London temperatures higher than Rio, though these feel like climate change is accelerating. On June 19th, with Lena Amir Baurak of Qisetna and Dr Anna Ball, we co-hosted a Refugee Week event at the wonderful Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham, just named as British Book Awards Independent Bookshop of the Year. It was a serene, joyous evening with readings from Rana Abdul Fattah's Tiger and Clay - Syria Fragments and Syrian music on the Oud and Daf - thanks so much to Manal and Majed. For a few hours, peaceful words and music reached out to the world through the warm, flower-scented air. Back in London, though, we were confronted by the continuing human disaster in the United States. Although President Trump has signed an executive order proclaiming the end of family separations at the Mexican border, immigrants' rights organisations are now struggling to locate more than 2000 children already placed in HHS's care. Research by the Women's Refugee Commission confirms the views of Courts, child welfare experts and medical professionals - children as young as three when placed in family detention have become suicidal, lost weight, regressed developmentally, and developed severe depression. Back to Top

Helping suppressed voices be heard, June 2018

Last month we wrote about Kalyani Thakur, a feminist Dalit poet from West Bengal and her translator, Sipra Mukherjee. Dalit, meaning "broken/scattered" in Sanskrit and Hindi, is a term mostly used about themselves by those Indian castes subjected to untouchability. Kalyani has used her poetry and the magazines she edits to help Dalit people find a voice. As Amal Clooney urged students at Vanderbilt University recently, we need to stand up for refugees, LGBTQ+ people, women, and all other groups that have been traditionally marginalized by society. This week I read an amazing challenge to those who abuse women. "Girls are coming out of the woods" is the title poem in a new collection by Tishani Doshi, an award-winning poet and dancer of Welsh-Gujarati descent based in Tamil Nadu. Our latest collection is Metamorphosis by Gillian Petrie. In "Under the thorn tree", she writes:

Muslin-wrapped against the heat,
the women talked of pain that should not be endured;
and then,
in ones and twos, sought out the city men
who made decisions

while the women waded, knee deep,
through the trickle-lanes
of orange river-mud
in shanty-towns.

Amal, Tishani and Gillian remind me of one of Palewell Press's values - to help suppressed voices be heard. Back to Top

Working together for change, May 2018

The words "Be the change you wish to see" have always inspired me but world news is full of people's suffering. Sometimes, I feel too tired and disheartened to make a difference. That's when collaborating with others is so powerful. On April 13th, I was at Nottingham Trent University's Post-Colonial Studies Centre for the founding event of "Changing Wor(l)ds" - a network of groups and organisations that, like Palewell Press, aim to use words to change the world for the better. Each of my fellow-attendees by themselves will make a positive difference to society, justice, literacy and the welfare of others. But, by collaborating, helping to leverage, contribute to and publicise each others' efforts, we can achieve so much more. A special part of the "Changing Wor(l)ds" event was the performance by Kalyani Thakur, a feminist Dalit poet from West Bengal and her translator, Sipra Mukherjee. Dalit, meaning "broken/scattered" in Sanskrit and Hindi, is a term mostly used about themselves by those Indian castes that were subjected to untouchability. Through her poetry and by editing two magazines - Neer Writupatra and Chathurtha Dunia - Kalyani has drawn attention to the life experiences and history of her disadvantaged community and given them renewed purpose. Listening to her and Sipra, I felt part of a positive wave of people-powered change across the world. Spoken together, our words can move mountains. Back to Top

Happy Easter and Thank You, April 2018

It's more than a week since Palewell Press was nominated for the Saboteur Awards category of most innovative publisher. But I'm still smiling broadly with delight and surprise. How lovely to have made that kind of impression on people. Everyone associated with Palewell Press sends a big thank you to the generous person who nominated us and all those who enthusiastically followed suit. We're rapidly approaching the Easter break. Whether you regard Easter as a religious holiday, or a reason to prepare special meals and treats for your family, or just a reminder that Spring flowers and sunshine can't be far away, I wish you a happy and extra-long weekend. While celebrating Easter, let's not forget refugees who rarely get the chance to enjoy the company of family and friends in peaceful surroundings. Since the Calais Jungle closed, those who'd found a temporary refuge there are adrift again, with even greater feelings of vulnerability. Back to Top

Sharing ideas or selling books? March 2018

Sometimes, while trudging to a book event with a suitcase of books or a box of wine, occasionally both, I wonder what I'm doing there. To give the question a wider context - what do independent publishers really do? First of all, we need to do what it says on the tin - work with authors to build the best possible book and, by publishing it, help them share their ideas. For a publisher like Palewell Press, communicating each author's ideas is central. They tend to be passionate about particular causes and want their book to help change the world. That's why we want to publish them - because we share their passion. It all sounds beautiful and creative but there are lots of practical, difficult tasks to be done in the process - one of the most challenging being how to sell books. Over the last two years, we've found ourselves selling books in many different ways and locations. Today we had a pop-up bookstore at the bank with whom we have a business account. We knew we might not sell many books but it offered a chance to talk to potential customers - some of whom had never bought poetry, or discussed either human rights or sustainable agriculture. It felt good to talk about the thinking behind Adam Horovitz's The Soil Never Sleeps and the emotional journeys charted in David Russell's An Ever River and Irma Upex-Huggins' Red Winds. All in all, a fascinating morning, well worth the minor effort of setting up the stall. So many great people visited the bank today, and they're just a fraction of those on every high street and shopping mall. Hopefully pop-up bookstores can encourage more of them to give authors' books and ideas a closer look. Back to Top

Love is what makes... February 2018

Happy February, one month closer to Spring, nearly Valentine's Day. Sometimes the lines of popular songs can trigger a thought. "Love is what makes the world go round." But more than that, love makes things rather than destroying them. It is the creative impulse. The Scots have a word - makar - meaning poet or bard, with Jackie Kay being the current Scottish Makar or Poet Laureate. All authors writing books for Palewell Press, and other authors too, are making poems and stories about subjects very close to their hearts. Our editors take those stories and poems and make them into books. It's a lovely, creative process that supports our belief in a sustainable world in which, to quote the UN Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits. Back to Top

Sharing the Earth's Bounty, January 2018

A Happy New Year to all our customers and newsletter recipients. Thank you so much for staying with us on this journey. Over the last two years, Palewell Press has gone from being simply an idea to having a real impact in publishing books and sharing news about our three key interests - Justice, Equality and Sustainability. We believe in building a sustainable world that can support itself and all its peoples, in which they share equally and are protected from abuse and injustice. This week sees the culmination of a major book publishing project around those themes. Our first book launch in 2018 will be The Soil Never Sleeps, a new poetry collection by Adam Horovitz, in which he writes passionately about Britain's landscape and especially its farms. If we are to solve the world's food and energy needs there will be difficult decisions to make. But we mustn't let that lead to reckless environment destruction by powerful companies. A big oil company has applied to start drilling for oil in Leith Hill in the North Downs - right in the heart of Southern England. It would set a dangerous precedent for other landscapes at risk from dirty energy exploration. The Environment Agency is considering whether to allow the oil company to carry out exploratory drilling, with all the risks of water and soil pollution to this officially designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Please check out and sign the 38 Degrees petition against this plan. Back to Top

Sustainable Peace on Earth, December 2017

I don't know about you but I sometimes find it hard to watch the news - every day brings more disturbing stories from around our world, whether it's West African people trying to travel through Libya being sold at auction as slaves or, nearer home, the delays in sorting out Grenfell. But that makes it even more important to hang onto our dreams. Mine is for peace on Earth, a genuine sustainable peace where every group of people has access to sufficient food and living space, where each individual's human rights are respected. However unrealistic such dreams may seem, they are the emotional rocket fuel that propels us to work for a better world. A vital element of peaceful coexistence is care for the environment. Our first book in 2018 will be The Soil Never Sleeps, a new poetry collection by Adam Horovitz in which he writes passionately about Britain's landscape and especially its farms (see In the Coming Months). As my Christmas wish for all of us, I'm sharing these lines from Adam's book:

If you've listened, you'll know we're balanced on the edge
between oblivion and life and that the only charm
for our salvation comes in the moments when we pledge
to do no lasting damage, cause as little harm
as we can manage in field or office, city street or farm.

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When a dream comes together, November 2017

Last month this column asked "What can one person do to help refugees?" Our Homeland and Exile event at the Poetry Café on Monday provided one answer. With my co-host, Latefa Guemar Narriman, an Algerian-born academic, I share a dream of creating a twice-yearly discussion forum on the themes of homeland and exile that would showcase the work of refugee authors and encourage audience participation. Our first event looked at Tiger and Clay by Syrian exile, Rana Abdul Fattah, and State of Emergency by Algerian-born poet, Soleiman Adel Guemar (published by Arc). Rana read over Skype from Istanbul, Adel's poems were read by his friends and family, Agnes Meadows performed her haunting poem "Refugee" and the evening ended with a beautiful protest song in Berber. Stories were shared, people felt strengthened by hearing each others experiences and how they coped. An amazing evening. Back to Top

Refugees, Ghosts and Rainbows, October 2017

What can one person do to help refugees? It sometimes feels impossible but, when lots of individuals cooperate, we are able to move mountains. As I write I can see out of my window. It's a beautiful October day - just chilly enough to give me energy; sky clear except for a few fluffy clouds. This view is familiar to me even though the trees change with the seasons. But what if I had to leave my home, maybe never to return, as refugees have to? No view through a window would feel familiar. There'd be little time to appreciate the beauty of nature. Instead I'd be slogging across country through a land of strangers, permanently worried about my family's current needs and uncertain what the future held. I wonder how well I would cope. This is the challenge facing 65 million refugees, people just like me. Sometimes I feel powerless to help them. But every thing that each of us does changes the world, more so when we group together. Last Sunday, Enfield Refugees Welcome hosted the Enfield Poem-a-thon at the Dugdale Centre. 60 poets including Tim Waller and other poetry friends each read for 8 minutes and were sponsored to do so. They planned to raise £4,500 to help a refugee settle in Enfield. But the event was such a success they raised over £11,000 - a whole family of refugees can be made welcome. Well done to all involved. You have also renewed my belief in the power of individuals to make a positive difference. Back to Top

The right to speak your mother tongue, September 2017

What would it feel like to lose your mother tongue, not just from your mother marrying someone in another country but because the state forces your minority language group to be educated in the majority language? What if speaking your mother tongue in public led to reprisals, and the only time language came alive was when your mother told your fairy-tales and sang songs in the language of her youth? It could create a rift in a person’s creative life that only time and certain experiences might heal. Bejan Matur comes from a Kurdish family but was educated in Turkish. Her nine published volumes of poetry are all written in Turkish. But running under the surface, silent yet insistent as an aquifer, the Kurdish language survived. As an adult, she remembers going home to her mother and speaking in Kurdish for almost the first time. After that, she worked with her mother to gain a stronger grasp of the language. At this year’s Ledbury Poetry Festival, she performed in Turkish, alongside her translator, Jen Hadfield, who is from the Shetlands. Both women poets are preoccupied with landscape and inheritance. I thought nothing could exceed the sadness and musical integrity of Bejan’s poems, recreated in English by Jen. Then Bejan read us two new poems in Kurdish. The sound was so different from Turkish – like water tumbling over the stony bed of a mountain stream. It echoed in her vocal cavity as if spoken at the mouth of a vast limestone cavern. The whole hour in the company of these poets was mesmerizing, tragic, unforgettable. Back to Top

Grenfell - Where do we go from here? August 2017

The repercussions of Grenfell Tower continue to reverberate, not just across London but the whole of the UK. How fairly do we treat those living in poverty? Are they visible to us, to the politicians who decide where to spend the money raised from taxes we pay, to journalists on the newspapers and TV programmes that so often promote a "good life" based on spending and the search for perpetual youth? A lot of criticism has been directed at the choice of cladding which made the tower so inflammable - what the builders used and why it was approved. But in his powerful poem about Grenfell Tower, Ben Okri takes "cladding" further, as a metaphor - that too much of what organisations do these days is cosmetic, hiding the injustices and alienation underneath. Okri's poem appeared first in the Financial Times and you can hear all of it on Channel 4's YouTube channel. But don't miss what he has to say on why he wrote the poem about Grenfell Tower. Like many of us, he sees it as a landmark event. We can't just provide support to the survivors and remove similar cladding from other towers. We must tackle the way our society's housing is managed in 2017 and how it discriminates against the poor and the young. Back to Top

Tragedy and Social Justice, July 2017

It seems only last month I wrote in this newsletter about the Syrian civil volunteer group known as the White Helmets, and then in another Issue about the murdered MP, Jo Cox. In November last year, Jo Cox received a posthumous peace prize jointly with the White Helmets. The prize was awarded by Archbishop Desmond Tutu at the Rising Global Peace Forum launched in Coventry last year. Jo's husband Brendan says she valued the White Helmets because, "These are the people who run towards danger when others run away. They’ve saved over 70,000 lives and helped many more and, for Jo, they were a symbol of how, even in the depth of inhumanity, humanity can still respond and individuals can still find that compassion, that commitment and that service in their hearts." In the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster, we saw the same selfless courage displayed by the London Fire Service. This has been a sobering summer. One tragic event after another has claimed victims, reminding Londoners of the Blitz. There is a strong thread of injustice behind the Grenfell Tower incident. It seems that building construction choices were made on the housing of poorer families that one suspects would have been made differently if the block's residents were better off. That suspicion is being investigated but one thing is clear, the people in our emergency services take amazing risks in our defence. We owe them a vast debt of thanks. The trauma and injury they suffered while working on Grenfell Tower has left many in distress. The Fire Fighters' Charity is helping them but it's almost entirely funded through donations from the fire community and public. Back to Top

Climate Change and Politics, June 2017

Last month, shivering in unseasonably chill Spring weather, we celebrated two pieces of good news from environmental campaigners. But overall the picture is more worrying - our political bodies appear blind to the threats facing Earth and its inhabitants. I saw in an Oxfam film that, across Somalia, around 3,000 people a day are being displaced by the drought. With tragic statistics like these being reported daily, Donald Trump has still decided to pull out of the Paris Accords. Many world leaders have already condemned his action - with the disturbing exception of Theresa May. Nearer to home, the latest newsletter from Culture and Climate Change notes that the government's green paper on future industrial strategy seems to lack any reference to climate change. And here we are, in the middle of an election, yet very few candidates are talking about the five days in May when London breached the annual air pollution limit. Thank goodness for independent organisations like Oxfam, Greenpeace, and Culture and Climate Change who keep these issues in the public eye. Back to Top

Let's love our local libraries, May 2017

Recently, The Big Issue looked at lending libraries and what they mean to people's literacy levels, feelings of empowerment and access to literature. It featured local groups keeping their libraries alive in innovative ways. I was reminded of them this week when, in Jo Bell's Blog, I read the marvellous poem "Why We Need Libraries" by Ian McMillan. Do read it, then think how you can support your local library. Back to Top

Homelessness Reduction Bill passed, April 2017

March did yield one excellent piece of news - the day after the horrific attack on Westminster Bridge, MPs were back in Westminster to carry on with their planned work. And part of that work was the Homelessness Reduction Bill finally being passed by Parliament. This is largely due to a powerful campaign run by Crisis and supported by The Big Issue. No One Turned Away calls for every homeless person who approaches their council to get the help they need. The Bill, tabled by Conservative MP Bob Blackman and supported by MPs all parties, still has to be signed by the Queen to become an Act. It should come into force in early 2018 at which point Councils will have £61 million over two years to start delivering their new duties. Government has committed to review within two years how the duties are working in practice and whether the funding is enough. The Bill provides new support to people who aren’t entitled to help under the current system like single homeless men. And it also requires councils to try and prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place. Back to Top

Women Asylum Seekers - a way forward, March 2017

Every year, around 2,000 women seeking asylum in the UK are locked up in centres like Yarl's Wood - described in the Telegraph as 'a place of national concern.' Many of these women refugees experienced rape or other gender-based violence in their country of origin. But when they came here, they were locked up in, what is effectively, a prison without a clear release date. For women with traumatic memories, detention is especially distressing, and the uncertainty of the duration makes it even worse. The UK is one of the few European countries with no time limit on such detention. The Way Ahead - a new report from Women for Refugee Women - was launched this week. It proposes a different approach that supports and engages with people seeking asylum, and works to resolve their cases in the community, without using detention. The charity's eventual aim is to end the detention of women who seek asylum and the report documents the growing support their proposals are receiving from MPs and members of the House of Lords. But the Home Office is being slow to implement the new regulations. This is a big dream that will depend for success on all of us. Please download the report and start sharing it and tweeting about it. Back to Top

Will 2017 be the hottest year on record? February 2017

A cold and, at times, scary January is behind us. I'm looking forward to Spring and Summer. But will this year be the hottest year on record? Already, wildfires have devastated the Maule region of Chile, wiping out the town of Santa Olga and threatening the nearby city of Constitucion. Most of Santa Olga's 6000 inhabitants managed to escape in time but they have no homes, schools or churches to go back to. Our role as citizens concerned about climate change is not just to say "we told you so" to Presidents and big business but to welcome refugees or send aid to those affected by climate change; and to support Greenpeace and others working to limit the risk to Earth and all our futures. These are challenging times. It can be tempting to avoid thinking about the future because it feels threatening. Sometimes art can help us face up to our fears and be more positive. Culture and Climate Change is a collaboration of artists and scientists using stories and other artworks in order to communicate more effectively about the challenges facing humanity Back to Top

Exiled and imprisoned writers, January 2017

English PEN is the founding centre of a worldwide writers’ association with 145 centres in more than 100 countries. Operating out of the Free Word Centre in Farringdon, English PEN campaigns to defend writers and readers in the UK and around the world whose human right to freedom of expression is at risk. One way they do this is by people in the UK writing cards and letters to exiled or imprisoned writers. I would recommend taking part in one of these letter campaigns to anyone concerned about people being persecuted for engaging in free speech. Sending letters warns the authorities that people elsewhere in the world know about the writers, and it comforts the writers and their families to be remembered. The organisation also runs a lot of interesting events like their February 2017 evening of comedy about censorship called "You Can't Say That". Back to Top

Yonas Kinde, refugee, gets into the Olympic Marathon Final

Yonas Kinde is a refugee marathon runner from Ethiopia and was part of the Olympic Refugee Team competing in Rio. In his relatively short running career in Europe he's gained titles in Luxembourg, France and Germany but couldn't enter major competitions because of his lack of citizenship. So the opportunity to be part of the Olympic Refugee Team was welcome. Like many refugees, he finds it hard to talk about why he had to leave Ethiopia. Even in Luxembourg he's had to live under international protection since 2013. Adjusting to life as a refugee has been a challenge but it's clear that running always makes him happy. Kinde did well, reaching the Olympics Marathon Final and finishing in 2:24:08. The photo at the top of the page is of a new mural in Rio, painted by artists Rodrigo Sini and Cety Soledade and celebrating the first Olympic Refugee Team.
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Refugee Olympics Team, July 2016

At Palewell Press one of our key values is inclusivity, that everyone should have the same chance to learn to read and find freely available books in a library, to access PCs and the Internet, have their ideas published, find work, join sports clubs and try out other skills. I was thrilled during London’s Paralympics, very impressed by Big Issue coverage of the Homeless World Cup that brings together street football programmes from around the world. And now I can’t wait to cheer on the Refugee Olympics Team. At the Olympics Opening Ceremony, ten people will be walking round together – six men and four women whose original homes were in South Sudan, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Syria but who’ve been forced to become refugees. These ten were chosen from a shortlist of 43 refugee athletes and they represent many millions who have lost their homes and countries due to war, persecution or natural disaster. Their banner shows the five Olympic rings, they received additional training to prepare for competition at world level and they’ll be staying in the athletes’ village. Hats off to the IOC for inclusivity and to the refugee athletes – Yolande, Popole, Yusra, Yonas, James, Yiech, Rose, Anjelina, Paulo and Rami – for having the courage and discipline to step forward unvanquished by previous tragedy. Back to Top

Lovely Ledbury - 24/07/2016

Ledbury, a Poetry Festival with all the programmed events you’d expect, free sessions to participate in and exhibitions of beautiful weaving and other artwork. But Ledbury is so much more than the sum of its events. Wordshare Poets performed in the Ledbury Fringe this year at the Muse Café in Homend Mews where Claire and Jan made the three of us – Jane Sherwin, Jenny Messer and me, Camilla Reeve - very welcome. Then we performed as individuals reading our herbally inspired poems at Poetica Botanica under a tree in the walled garden. But what makes Ledbury really special comes from this small Cotswold town filling up with poets and poetry-lovers. You hear someone perform at an event, maybe get them to sign their collection afterwards, then you run into them in the street and suddenly see them attending your event as well. The feeling of community grows as a series of warm interactions. For a short time, poetry’s in heaven and all’s right with the world. I came home wishing that feeling could sweep across the UK bringing everyone pleasure and a sense of belonging. Back to Top

Derek Summers – In the Alyscamps - 22/07/2016

It feels especially good and relevant post-Brexit to be preparing In the Alyscamps, the second poetry collection from Derek Summers, for publication by Palewell Press. A committed European, Derek’s poems reflect his extensive, enthusiastic travels from St Petersburg to Van Gogh's Haarlem, from Hornchurch to St Honorat’s chapel in the Alyscamps at Arles. In this, his second collection, he also pursues his fascination with the contrasts between English and French language and culture. The Alyscamps in the title is a Roman necropolis or city of the dead. Used as a burial ground for 1500 years and shaded by avenues of stately trees, the place has a wonderful atmosphere. People love going for walks there and Van Gogh and Gauguin chose to paint it together, working side by side. Like The Alyscamps, his poetry both celebrates and commemorates times past. He writes of places and people, some of them centuries old and others utterly modern and glimpsed only days before the poem was written. Derek believes poetry provides redress to some of life’s wounding experiences and that it can speak truth about power, if not to it. Reviewer George Beddow says the poetry “is marked by sincerity, honesty and compassion... There is an unashamed social and political commitment that is rare...Finding consolations amid conflict – whether internal or external, is difficult at the best of times. Sharing them eloquently is even more so."Back to Top

Mental Health Awareness and Poetry - 01/07/2016

Getting increasingly excited at Palewell Press in the run-up to publishing Nick Alldridge’s beautiful poetry collection Playing with the Pieces about how he dealt with depression. Publication is expected in early July. Catch Nick on the Poets Anonymous radio programme on Radio Croydon, Sun 03 July at 14:00, talking about the new book. Sue Johns calls “Playing with the Pieces” a brave and moving collection – Nick Alldridge’s poems explore everything from the raw emotions of losing control "crawling ... like moths through lighter fuel" to the simple honesty of "I am depressed." But Alldridge also has the gift of black humour. In a sonnet addressing a friend who has committed suicide, he asks "can we talk about that?" Much of this collection explores, positive and negative, aspects of the poet’s life. Debating how these memories may help or hinder his wellbeing in the future. In a series of poems Alldridge links his, younger and older, self by the sharing of fingerprints. This is a perfect analogy for not being able to, totally, let go of the past. In the final poem it is also a passionate advocate for self-acceptance. As the poem Labels deduces, being different doesn’t mean being inferior. In her review of Nick’s collection, Jane Grell wrote that he puts you surprisingly at your ease...and allows you like a confidant into his musings: "Short utterances speak of loss/and hold us locked in shared experiences,/orbiting each other, poet and listener." He doesn't shy away from dark subjects such as lost love and friendship, even depression at its worst. Referring to an old voicemail, he writes: "I left the message there,/too bitter-sweet to play again/too important to delete." His language, like his topics, is both complex and accessible and there, to counter dark thoughts, is a wry humour which, along with hope, and life, triumph in the end. "This present time is such a gift." And so say all of us! A collection well worth reading.Back to Top

Love to Europe - 24/06/2016

Today started with sadness hanging over me like a cloud. My mother’s family came from Poland, Austria and Hungary and my father’s from Ireland, Wales and Scotland. Legend has it we’re partly Basque as well. No matter how few or many generations you look back, the UK is a real melting pot. I remember Mum and Dad maintaining friendships and family links around the world – keeping them alive by letters, phone-calls and occasional journeys since email hadn’t been invented. For a few hours this morning it felt as if the united peaceful Europe they dreamed of after WW2, the Europe of visits to French friends, German cousins, Spanish colleagues, of sporting competitions, international choral events and sunny holidays had been moved a little further away from where I live. But has it – do we need to sit back and let our foreign connections be distanced? No way - however difficult the new rules make it, let’s take great delight in staying in touch and let’s show some love to Europe! Back to Top

Jo Cox and standing up for others - 17/06/2016

I was deeply saddened by the murder of Jo Cox as I suspect were many people. Struck down in the street. A hate crime? Was it because of her strong support of Syrian refugees? Parliament and her constituency have both lost someone special. Tim Farron’s letter to Liberal supporters linked his feelings about Jo’s death with shock and sorrow about the massacre at the LGBT club in Orlando. And I second that thought. Our sympathy goes out to those most closely bereaved by these terrible events. But the rest us have lost something too – our confidence in public order perhaps, in civil society, a world where Good Samaritans come forward when travellers need help, where everyone’s instinct is to aid the afflicted rather than taunting them or capturing their sufferings on mobile phones. People of all political and religious persuasions, and as a humanist I include myself in that number, need to come together in a renewed search for these virtues. Publishers, journalists, newspaper editors, authors, poets and teachers - we all have an important part to play in providing a platform for the publication of peaceful, inclusive ideas.To paraphrase the old adage about challenging censorship, it isn’t “Publish and be damned” we need now but “Publish to ensure others are blessed.” Back to Top

Speaking up about our Mental Health - 07/06/2016

A poetry collection, a committee of MPs and a wellbeing centre - what do they have in common? You know how it goes – you hear the name of a favourite artist and suddenly you’re seeing their paintings everywhere? I’m experiencing that in relation to the need to talk openly about Mental Health. Like many of my friends I’ve had episodes of depression but didn’t say anything at work in case it damaged my career. These days we’re encouraged to speak up and share our feelings. But as Rachel Diamond of 38 Degrees emailed recently – when you do need help it can be hard to get it. Local mental health services are closing down, and waits for appointments can be months. A committee of MPs is looking for a way forward and asking whether mental health services should be free under the NHS. On the plus side, my amazing daughter Sasha Wallace is pressing on with the People’s Choice phase of her bid to create “Bloom - the Health Spa for the Mind” where local people in Croydon, or another urban centre, can learn how to manage and improve their own mental wellbeing. Do look at her pitch and vote for her on https://www.vmbvoom.com/p…/bloom-the-health-spa-for-the-mind. And to crown the simultaneity of these connections, Palewell Press is about to publish Nick Alldridge’s beautiful poetry collection “Playing with the Pieces” about how he dealt with depression. So my initial sense of deja vu is rapidly morphing into a celebration of what can be achieved when we all work together on something important. Back to Top

What is Independent Publishing for? 06/05/2016

As followers of this page may know, I recently relaunched Palewell Press. Since it started in 2006, my little press had been a very personal resource, allowing me and poet friends get their words into print and in front of a wider audience. Within that limited brief, it achieved success. Having independently published Travels of a Spider in 2006 gave me confidence to approach the editors at Flipped Eye Publishing about them producing my second collection Travelling East by Road and Soul. Between 2006 and 2015, I also brought out several poetry pamphlets and my first novel. Then in 2015 I published The Letterpress Poets Anthology which sold a lot of copies (ISBN 978-1-326-38531-6 at £6.00 plus postage from enquiries@palewellpress.co.uk). The book helped Letterpress Poets be invited to perform at the also-relaunched Aldeburgh Poetry Festival this November. It was at this point I realised I wanted more. Publishing poetry was aesthetically satisfying. But it didn’t engage the other sides of my personality – the passion for Human Rights and universal access to literacy, concerns about the suffering of refugees, people isolated by circumstances or disability, and the damage we’re doing to the planet. Mainstream publishing is a difficult nut to crack for writers whose challenge the status quo. But couldn’t Palewell Press play a part by publishing writers with something important to say about our troubled world? This was clearly going to need a lot of time and energy. I gave up the day job, relaunched Palewell Press and went out to poetry events with a fresh sense of purpose and excitement. Throughout the Spring those feelings grew as I met writers whose work isn’t just marvellous poetry or prose. It champions the oppressed and gives a voice to others less able to speak for themselves. Right now, I’m getting ready to share that excitement, to shout it from the rooftops. Watch this space! Back to Top

My Writing Journey and The Artist's Way - 01/03/2016

I started writing poetry about thirty years ago. My first marriage had just ended in divorce and I was keen to meet new people but still feeling raw. A friend suggested I leave dating for a while and join a writers’ group instead. So I tried attending the Room on the Roof group at Riverside Studios. They made me welcome and kick-started me writing poetry. For ages I poured everything onto the page – all my angst and my tentative hopes for happier times in the future. Goodness knows how many fairly dreadful poems I wrote in that first couple of years. That kept going till, just as an experiment, I tried writing a short story. To my horror the poetry instantly dried up. Where had it gone? And when, two years later, I tackled writing – or trying to write – a novel, my ability to write short stories disappeared as well. It seemed like my brain was wired so I could only work on one sort of creative expression at a time – so frustrating. Poetry had become such a valuable outlet. The blank page had been like a totally accepting friend I could communicate with, but now I felt completely blocked. Then, during an evening class on novel-writing, I heard about Julia Cameron’s book “The Artist’s Way”. Julia had seen lots of creative people who either couldn’t start writing or for some reason had stopped and wanted to get past whatever stopped them. She swears by two techniques both of which I’ve found invaluable: Morning Pages and The Artist’s Date. The Morning Pages technique requires you to write about 3 x A4 sheets of diary every morning, just brain-dumping anything and everything that drifts through your consciousness – such as whether you like the new type of cereal you tried at breakfast or you’re overdue for a dental appointment. You can include more creative thoughts if they come to you and my Morning Pages very occasionally leads to a poem. But their real purpose is to help you clear away the log-jam of uncreative, often gloomy or cross, thoughts clogging up your mind. That makes room for creative ideas to come to the surface of your inner “well”. The Artist’s Date technique is to go out alone, every so often, to have some fun – maybe visiting a food market and trying different types of cheese or sitting in the park watching the clouds drifting across the sky. If you’ve been working hard on a manuscript or some other creative project and are feeling exhausted and demotivated, that’s a good moment to go on an Artist’s Date. The idea is to play rather than work. Julia advises against treating it as a day to write. Instead you are filling up the creative “well” inside you that I mentioned earlier. Do check out Julia's website and watch the free videos she offers about both these techniques. Or borrow her book “The Artist’s Way” from the library. And I hope you find her ideas as liberating as I have. Back to Top