What a lovely and amazing event to celebrate International Women's Day with UK author Naomi Alderman, US author Sarah Blake, and Turkish author Elif Shafak! Guardian journalist Homa Khaleeli facilitated a panel discussion on 'Women & Self-Censorship'. Some comments from the speakers certainly left me with lots of food for thought, especially what Naomi Alderman said about how books written by women are usually bought by women while books written by men tend to have a wider audience - both men and women. An audience member also asked what the speakers thought about the fact that her book club tended to read classics written mostly by men, as opposed to those written by women - whether modern or classics. Naomi suggested that this could be representative of the misplaced belief that work by women are perceived as women speaking whereas work by men may be perceived as 'people' speaking. Hmmm... hopefully the day will come when the idea that contemporary fiction by women writers are mere 'chick lit' will be debunked. If books represent a dialogue between the writer and the reader, let's keep the dialogue going, regardless of whether the writer is a man or a woman. - Fran
It was a truly amazing evening with Israel director-author Shira Geffen, Palestinian author Rabai al-Madhoun, artist Martyn Stanton Harris, Jewish comedian Ivor Dembina and writer-editor Shaun Levin, who acted as moderator for a panel discussion. The event began with a slide show of powerful images by photographer David Lurie. Martyn then took the stage to share the impetus for his artwork (images of the exhibition below).
Director-author Shira Geffen next shared the motivations behind her most recent work, which led her on a secret trip to Gaza where she met the mother of a jihadist martyr. She related how moved she was when this mother embraced her warmly, in that one moment - stripped of ideologies and ethnicities - she was "just a daughter" and the woman who welcomed her into her home, "just a mother." The audience were treated to a short film by Shira called What About Me? on the absurdity of checkpoints.
Author Rabai al-Madhoun next read some excerpts from his most recent work The Lady of Tel Aviv (the English translation will be published next year). He spoke of being in exile for 38 years, and of being displaced from his homeland.
Comedian Ivor Dembina had the room in stitches when he performed extracts from his solo show 'This Is Not A Subject For Comedy.' Poking fun at his Jewish upbringing (especially those from Hendon!), Ivor's biting and sometimes irreverent humour touched on everything from Israeli politics to what Israel has come to symbolise to the Jewish diaspora.
Writer-editor Shaun Levin wrapped up the event with a panel discussion on what it means as an artist and writer to address conflict issues. This was followed by a lively and incisive Q&A session and book-signing with Shira, whose screenplay Jellyfish, has just been released.