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A great example of a story that started very small and then got bigger and bigger and...

Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Sonja Linden's brilliant play with a very long title, , I Have Before Me a Remarkable Document Given to Me by a Young Lady from Rwanda, opens on April 2 in Kansas City. It's inspired by Sonja's work at The Medical Foundation, and her relationship with someone I've been lucky enough to meet a few times now - an incredibly brave woman who was the only one of her family to survive the Rwandan massacres and who, against all the odds, went on to gradually rebuild her life in London. Basically, it's about the healing process of writing, talking and telling your story to someone. What's extra, extra good about this Kansas residency is that I first saw the play when Sonja put it on in a tiny theatre behind a London pub. She was really worried that noone would come to see it. Since then, it's had a rave review in The Times, been on a UK tour and now it's premiering in the States. It all goes to show that there are lots of people who want to hear real stories about asylum. If you happen to be in Kansas , go see it. It's on for a month.

Nice T-shirt

Tuesday, March 29, 2005
originally uploaded by sophiev.
I'm going to get one of these. And all the profits go to The Refugee Council.

No offence

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Is it better to have freedom of expression (which may include expression of all kinds of views that I may find seriously offensive) than to have censorship? Personally, I think so...

Happy New Persian Year

Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Or Happy Norooz! And here's Hossein Derakhshan's blog in English and Persian with an impressive list of links to other blogs by Iranians inside and outside Iran. Apparently there were at least 75,000 active blogs in Persian in December 2004.


Monday, March 21, 2005
originally uploaded by sophiev

Last December, I spent some time in Guatemala. In the bookshop off the Parque in Antigua, I came across amazing poems by Humberto Ak'abal. In Mayan K'iche', there is no verb to be and time and space are defined differently, less sequentially. You can feel this in Ak'abal's poems, which he himself translates from K'iche' into Spanish. After years of European colonisation and genocidal conditions for the indigenas in Guatemala, he's reclaiming something - not just language but a way of understanding the world.

Joining up the dots

Sunday, March 20, 2005
Since I began this blog, just over a week ago, I've stumbled across a surprising number of people - writers, poets, journalists, activists - out there telling their stories. So there are lots of little dots of story-telling activity which I hope this blog can join up in some way, making a bigger story, a whole. There are people like Simon Mol in Poland whose life and writings help to counter all the distortions circulating in the media about refugees and asylum-seekers. I've also come across people who've been telling their stories for years without any real means of getting themselves heard. Some of these people seem as excited by the idea of blogging as I was when blogger-bard extraordinaire Tom Smith first suggested it to me. And Ghias's enthusiasm in getting his blog up and running has been fantastic. It seems to be a perfect medium for his poetry. His poems move down the screen in a kind of rhythmic scroll which somehow creates a continuity for the disparate experiences he's describing. It's as if the poems are tracing a path, both back to where he began and also on into all the possibilities of the future. I wonder if he feels this too?

Other people have been just as enthusiastic as readers of the blog, forwarding the url to friends and sending messages of support. I hope they keep visiting because they are the people who will help Lots of Big Ideas grow into a real community, something that can change things. Thanks, everyone.

Choman Hardi

Saturday, March 19, 2005
Choman Hardi
Choman Hardi,
originally uploaded by sophiev.
I've just been exchanging emails with Choman, whom I met through the Arvon Jerwood Young Poets' Apprenticeship Scheme last year. I wanted to congratulate her on the excellent review in Poetry London of her first collection in English, Life for Us. Then it occurred to me that I should let everyone know about Choman's book, in which she explores her own personal experiences of war, persecution and exile, those of her family and of the Kurdish people. Choman's voice is unique, graceful, beautiful. And you can hear her read at The Poet's Letter Poetry Performance in London on 11 April.

Jump on our chickenbus

Friday, March 18, 2005
originally uploaded by sophiev.
This is really exciting. Ghias felt so encouraged by the feedback he received on 'Night poem', featured yesterday, that he's already started his own blog. And that's what Lots of Big Ideas is all about... There's something liberating and refreshing about being able to publish straight to your audience, particularly when you get responses almost immediately. If you'd like to see your story or poem posted here, or you'd like to know how to get a blog of your own going (and it really does only take about half an hour), I'd love to hear from you: sophienicholls@hotmail.com

Introducing Ghias Aljundi

Thursday, March 17, 2005
I've known Ghias for around six years now - from the time that he first arrived in the UK from his homeland, Syria (via a long and dangerous route). Ghias is a born story-teller. He has always written but, in darker days, he had to bury his writings under a tree in his garden in order to keep them safe from prying eyes. During years of imprisonment, he wrote his stories in his head. I'd like to think that Ghias's tree is now bearing fruit - his words just keep coming. He has at least one-thousand-and-one big ideas and he turns them into poems, plays, short stories, articles. This is one of his latest poems. Ghias hopes to get his own blog up and running very soon, so keep checking back here for the link...

Night Poem

Circles the sky
With strings of fear.
Strangers for the corners of time,
Passers-by for the angles of wind.
I pour my silence
Into a dark bottle
And drink the ancient sadness
From the ancient cellar.
Oh, how can we bring down
The towers of dignity
And kill the seasons of waiting,
Throw away the furniture of reality?
All days are
Introductions to the empty volumes
On the shelves of horizon,
Topic sentences
To the absence!

Ghias Aljundi,
Oxford, 27-2-05

I am Iranian

Beautiful poem by Sheema Kalbasi on an interesting site. RAHA World Independent Writers' Home states that: 'As the mind has no boundaries, the RAHA concept does not have frontiers and is opposed to information and cultural control by global communication entities whether media conglomerates, states or local governments, or religions.' Wow! That's a very big idea.

George Szirtes

Monday, March 14, 2005
George arrived in the UK as a refugee in 1956. This year he won the TS Eliot prize for poetry.

Displaced People of the World

Sunday, March 13, 2005
Salgado's stunning pictures in a Time magazine photo essay. I wonder what stories any one of the people shown here would tell us, if only they could?

People with extraordinary stories

Saturday, March 12, 2005
Besides being a rather lovely person, Sonja Linden is an award-winning playwright. Inspired by her work as writer-in-residence at the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, her plays aim to present to audiences 'the human stories of courage and adversity behind the distortions of asylum-seeker rhetoric.' Find out more about her theatre company iceandfire.

Small stories

originally uploaded by sophiev.
In the Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City, you can see clay figurines like these made by ordinary people in pre-Columbian times. One village would trade its work with another. So, that's how we used to learn about the cultures and traditions of people who were strange to us - through making and exchanging small stories in clay.

What is Lots of Big Ideas?

Friday, March 11, 2005
Big ideas usually start small. Lots of Big Ideas grew out of one very small idea: that it might be possible to create a space in which people who feel that they don't have a voice can finally tell their stories.

Why do I feel that this is important? Well, firstly I believe passionately that the process of writing can help us to make transformations in our lives. By putting things into words, by making a story or a poem out of our experiences, difficult things often become more manageable. In the process of writing, we might come to see things differently. We might discover things about ourselves and others that we didn't know before.

Secondly, I believe that there are many people in the world right now whose stories are never heard. Among these are the people who have been displaced from their countries as a result of conflict, or who have been forced to leave their homes, families, jobs and identities in order to seek safety from persecution.

These people very often don't get a chance to share their stories with anyone. I can't imagine how this must feel. I also can't imagine how terrible it must feel to tell your story to someone only to have them treat you with suspicion, or to have your story misrepresented by someone who doesn't understand you and isn't willing to try.

Perhaps you are one of these people and you'd like to use this space to write something about your experiences. Perhaps you are the friend or colleague or neighbour of someone who has a story to tell.

Maybe, like me, there's simply something you'd like to say to the world about how it makes you feel to live in a society which, very often, refuses to listen to the voices of displaced people.

Do you already have a blog that you can link to this one? Would you like to know how to start a blog so that you can tell your own story? Or would you like to contribute to this one with your big ideas? Maybe, if there are enough of us, others will begin to listen. Please get in touch.