Sunday, 31 December 2017

Note for New Year

In the time between Christmas and New Year... while walking in Queen's Wood where my novel 'Red Leaves' is set, I came across this sign. To the old signpost that used to contain directions to a frog pool and the locality have been added quotes from literature and music from creative voices singing through the woods from yesteryear.

This sign - and the jigsaw being made on our me thinking about the possibilities that New Year always brings... for re-building, renovating, and creating new directions. This jigsaw map of London will soon become dated as street names, sculptures, memorials and new buildings are added...

Creativity is possibly the most underrated and difficult-to-measure force for good and change. By its nature it is fluid and flowing as a river, and the new directions in Queens Wood where ancient woodland, frog ponds, literature and music are all contained within the same signpost gives me hope that 2018 will be a year to celebrate creative thinking.

Happy New Year and go 'Dance By the Moonlight!'

Monday, 11 December 2017

Hands of Friendship #Grenfell Tower

On 8th December I attended an Authors for Grenfell visit to St Thomas More Catholic School in Wood Green. The school had bid for an author visit offered as part of the Authors for Grenfell auction that saw hundreds of authors and publishers bid for lotts to raise money for the survivors of Grenfell immediately following the tragedy.

That was over five months ago and still so many families have not yet  been permanently rehoused. The spectre of Grenfell Tower looms over the West London landscape and is a constant reminder of the tragic losses faced by so many fellow Londoners and their families whose roots spread far and wide over the world.

Macmillan Children's Books offered thirty free copies of 'Tender Earth' to St Thomas More Catholic School who bid for the offer and we organised for a  Christmas event based on the theme of  ''Sanctuary'.  Like the children in 'Tender Earth'  the year seven students wanted to reach out in friendship and empathy to children in another borough who still do not have  permanent homes following the fire.

A central theme of 'Tender Earth' is that Laila discovers that she is not powerless and can act together with her friends and community to show solidarity and stand up for what they believe in.  In the workshop we discussed the rights of the child enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Haringey children wished their contemporaries in West London the gift that should be their right... a home.  I spoke about Amnesty's Write for Rights campaigns and what impact a letter, message of support or post card can have on individuals whose rights are being threatened.

Students  created hands of friendship with great care and wrote ..
' We all have the right to a stable home'

' I give you my hand to hold onto.'

' Although I haven't experienced  what you are going through, I feel very strongly. I wish everyone could do something to help you this Christmas..'

In a further act of friendship, St Thomas More's Librarian Margaret Brownlie has decided to share the free copies of 'Tender Earth' with a school in Kensington and Chelsea where students have been directly affected by the tragedy.

We discussed the power of collective action. Here is a  letter to Kensington and Chelsea Council. If and when the children receive a reply I will publish it here on this blog.

Dear leaders of Kensington  Council,

We, year seven students are writing to you about the people of Grenfell Tower who lost their homes  and everything they had six months ago in the tragic fire. It is unacceptable that they have not been given permanent new homes. How would you feel is you and your family were in this situation?

We have discussed together and the action we would like to see you take is:

- Make these people's lives a priority.
- Permanent  homes built to a good standard in the area of Kensington and Chelsea
- Compensation for people who have lost  so much
- Therapy for young children and families  experiencing trauma
- Give children health and safety advice about fire

The most important thing is we are children in year seven and all children need somewhere to call home so that they can have a future.

Please can you reply to our questions,

Blessing (On behalf of Year 7)

Further Reading:

New human rights commission for Grenfell Fire

To take part in Amnesty's ' Write for Rights'
Write a letter and make a difference

Background to Authors for Grenfell