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Against a backdrop of increasing fragmentation fuelled by anxiety and fear, the conditions and values that underpin our open, democratic societies are under threat. Unravelling Europe will ask how we can better comprehend the complexities at play in order to “re-stitch” the fabric essential to the flourishing of a truly democratic Europe.
The title and concept of Unravelling Europe was inspired by ‘South’, a poem by Greek poet Katerina Iliopoulou. You can read an excerpt from the poem, prefaced with a note from Katerina, here.
Inevitably, current debates about Europe and its place in today’s interdependent and globalized world focus on the political, business, military and academic worlds; rarely are cultural or artistic perspectives included.
As the author Elif Shafak says, writing about the attacks in Paris at the end of last year:
“In the fight against extremism, political analysis dominates discussions while military solutions hover in the background. Culture, however, does not receive enough attention – even though it is at the heart of today’s conflicts.”
This is where Free Word can bring something unique, uniting culture, politics and free expression. Unravelling Europe will put artists at the centre of this series, alongside thinkers and speakers from other disciplines.
We have many exciting events taking place within Unravelling Europe, both in the immediate future and beyond.
On 10 February, Free Word, in collaboration with Fritt Ord and the Royal Norwegian Embassy, hosted a screening of ‘Jihad: A British Story’ by Deeyah Khan, a film that explores the root of Islamic radicalisation in the UK. At this event, panellist Munir Zamir read the first commissioned poem for our Unravelling Europe series, which you can read on our blog. You can listen to a recording of the post-screening panel discussion and audience Q+A with Deeyah and some of those featured in the film, chaired by Sayeeda Warsi, here; videos of the event are available to watch here.
You can read Briefing Notes written by Raheel Mohammed of Maslaha on Prevent, the national counter-terrorism strategy, and coming up we’ll have a blog by Yuan Yang, a financial journalist and Young Poet Laureate candidate, on the link between storytelling and economics. On 16 March, we ask ‘Is there an alternative to the growth imperative?‘ in an event with Rethinking Economics. If you are interested in this area, related articles are available on Krytyka Polityczna‘s website – one which asks ‘Are there alternatives to capitalism?‘ and another, here, that discusses the new pan-European movement DiEM 25, a group whose aim is to democratize Europe and create an alternative between the retreat to a “cocoon of the nation state” and the neoliberal system of austerity. Krytyka Polityczna have also interviewed sociologist Maciej Gdula about the frustrations and aspirations of Polish voters; read more here.
From 10 March – 8 June, we’ll host an exhibition by Quilliam Foundation here at Free Word Centre – The Unbreakable Rope shows diverse sexual orientations within Islamic cultures, asking how we can promote tolerance, freedom and cultural co-existence within today’s increasingly diverse European society. Rachel Maggart, an artist and curator, will reflect on the exhibition in a blog that asks ‘how can artists change narratives?’ You can also read an essay by art historian, curator and critic Harry Seymour – Love in Bloom explores non-heterosexual relationships in the Arab world and how attitudes have developed over time.
In light of this exhibiton, Quilliam Foundation, in collaboration with Free Word, will also host a panel discussion exploring modes of creative activism against prejudice toward British Muslims who are presumed, through a narrow interpretation of Islam, to be sexually deviant or transgressive. Find out more and book tickets by clicking here.
We’ve also been recording short vox pops with key figures in arts and culture, including Raheel Mohammed, Director of Maslaha, and journalist Isabel Hilton, asking ‘What is the most pressing issue that Europe faces today?’:
We’d love to hear from you about the kind of events and digital content you’d like to see more of, so please leave comments on this post or get in touch with us by email; you can also join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #FWEurope. And of course, join us at Free Word Centre!
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