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Asylum and Exile: The Hidden Voices of London

Past Event
  • Presented By: Presented by Free Word and English Pen
  • Tue 3 Feb 2015
  • 6:45pm - 9:00pm
  • Free Word Centre

Immigration is one of the most passionately debated issues around, with a rise in anti-immigration, anti-asylum rhetoric both in the UK and elsewhere, particularly in western Europe and Australia. Asylum seekers and refugees are being argued over, demonised, scapegoated and disbelieved – or patronised and advocated for in heart-wrenching yet generalised terms – but are almost never given a chance to speak in their own words about their own lives.

January sees the publication of Asylum and Exile by Bidisha, a writer and broadcaster specialising in international human rights, the arts and culture.

Inspired by a residency with English PEN and Bidisha’s outreach work with refugees and asylum seekers since 2012, Asylum and Exile goes behind the stereotypes and scare stories to reveal the humanity, tragedy and bravery – and frequently the humour – of the individuals who’ve left everything behind to seek sanctuary from violence.

Bidisha gives space to their testimonies, which are by turns shocking, moving and hilarious.

Join us with Bidisha along with campaigners and those bearing witness and testimony to the stories in Asylum and Exile for an evening of readings, storytelling and debate.




Bidisha is a writer and broadcaster, outreach worker and international human rights journalist. She is the author of two novels, the travelogue Venetian Masters and the international acclaimed reportage Beyond the Wall: Writing a Path through Palestine, also published by Seagull books.  

Malika Booker is a British poet of Guyanese and Grenadian parentage. Her pamphlet Breadfruit was published by Flippedeye in 2008, and recommended by The Poetry Book Society. Malika’s collection Pepper Seed was published by Peepal Tree Press in 2013. It was longlisted for the OCM Bocas 2014 Literary prize and shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre 2014 Prize for best first full collection. Malika was the inaugural Poet in Residence at The Royal Shakespeare Company.

Bamidele Hassan arrived in the UK in 2007 after a political crisis within the ruling Democratic party of Nigeria where he was a youth leader and then the Secretary General. He is currently working as a facilitator of a poetry class for The Migrant and Refugee Communities Forum.

Bethan Lant has worked at Praxis Community Projects, a charity working with vulnerable migrants, for over 13 years.  She has particular expertise on migrants caught up in the criminal justice system and undocumented migrants.  She is a management committee member of the Jesuit Refugee Service UK and a former management committee member of London Citizens, where she was active in the Strangers into Citizens campaign for regularisation of undocumented migrants.

Maurice Wren joined the British Refugee Council as Chief Executive in March 2013, having previously been the Director of Asylum Aid (2002 – 2013). Prior to Asylum Aid, Maurice held senior positions in the homelessness field at Shelter and the Housing Associations Charitable Trust (HACT). He is presently co-Chair of the National Asylum Stakeholder Forum at the Home Office, Chair of the Refugee Week Steering Group, and a Trustee of Migrant Voice; Every Casualty Worldwide; and the European Network on Statelessness.

Asylum and Exile, published by Seagull Books, is part of the series Manifestos for the 21st Century.  Here distinguished writers address the issue of censorship in a complex and fragile world where people with widely different cultural habits and beliefs are living in close proximity, where offence is easily taken, and where words, images and behaviours are coming under the closest scrutiny.

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