Showing posts with label Brexit. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Brexit. Show all posts

Thursday, 7 January 2021

What fresh hell is this? The B-word and creative freelancers by Dawn Finch

I have always held the opinion that it's probably best not to express too many opinions. This means that I have usually opted to not say anything at all about Brexit preferring to wait for people to tell me just one positive fact about it (still waiting, by the way...). Facts - love those, but like all of us, I'm drowning in opinions right now and those are not always the same as facts.

Most of us are already feeling the negative impact of changes that restrict our freedom of movement and impede our ability to see Europe as our wider work-space, but for most of us, we simply feel so overwhelmed by the whole thing that it just feels like a massive dog-pile of opinions. Picking the facts out of this dog-pile is becoming increasingly difficult and it is with great relief that I read the latest piece from the Society of Authors. I say "relief" but I should stress that's not relief about the content, but about the fact that the details her are at least clear and understandable.

The end to Freedom of Movement means that many creatives will have to negotiate complicated visa and work permit regimes before travelling to EU27 countries and we'll all need to be aware of the extent of any potentially varying exclusions that may apply to us. Authors travelling to an EU country for research or work should remember from now on to check with the UK consular office or embassy, and this is not always going to be as simple as it sounds. There is a significant risk of backlogs, and of paperwork delays as even the embassies try to set into place how this will all work.

Some things are clear, such as the fact that we should still be able to work in France for up to 90 days without a visa, but we will need a work permit. Sadly the details for other countries are still up in the air and awaiting conditions based on reciprocal arrangements that have yet to be agreed.

There is, of course, a huge amount of confusion and uncertainty about the emerging rules, but what is clear to the Society of Authors is that it will "present a costly and complex barrier to thousands of freelancers working in the creative industries". The Society draws attention to a petition calling for a Visa-free work permit for touring creative professionals that has already gained well over 200,000 signatures.

I would strongly recommend reading the Society of Authors' article and following them on social media for regularly updated information. With so many opinions flying around it is refreshing to have a source of information tailored to my needs as a freelance creative European.

Access the latest news from the Society of Authors via their website, and the article referred to in this piece can be found here.

Dawn Finch is an author and information professional.


Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Censorship and Brexit - Ciaran Murtagh

On Friday the BBC re-released a sketch from Horrible Histories that apparently 'trashed Britain'.  You can watch the offending sketch here:

It was from a 2009 episode called Vile Victorians and it upset a lot of people including Piers Morgan, Andrew Neill and the Daily Mail, so it must be doing something right.

Caution - this link will take you to The Daily Mail

It piqued my interest because as a kids TV writer, it seemed strange for so many grown men - and it usually is men - to get enraged by an 11 year old sketch, which many children have enjoyed and - crucially - understood for years.

Link to some frankly ridiculous Twitter comments.

The reason for the outrage was the fact that it was unpatriotic. Factually and historically accurate, but unpatriotic because it pointed to aspects of British history, that while true, displayed Britain in an unfavourable light.

No matter that this sketch has been broadcast many times to zero protest. No matter that it's from a show called Horrible Histories -  the clue's in the name.   No matter that Horrible Histories also trashes the 'Vicious Vikings' and the 'Rotten Romans'- maybe other countries have thicker skin, or aren't in the middle of an identity crisis.

We now live in a country so past irony that The Sun can create a poster celebrating Brexit in which the fictional character Alan Partridge is apparently a Great Britain,  while his very real creator Steve Coogan is a shattered Remainer.

Also on the poster and in the Great British camp are Mr Blobby, Basil Brush and Mr Bean. As a writer for at least two of those characters - Mr Blobby writes his own material -  I think I can confidently say Mr Bean is apolitical at best and if I had to pin Basil down I'd have him a little 'Countryside Alliance-y', but then again - THEY'RE BOTH MADE UP, SO HOW WOULD I KNOW!?

Noted Great Briton and anti-EU advocate Mr Bean. Apparently.

Regardless it's obviously fine to give fictional kids TV characters British values and agendas to reinforce your political point, but don't you dare put actual facts in front of the kiddiwinks for fear of being labelled unpatriotic.  Or maybe The Sun poster is clearly a joke and I shouldn't take it so seriously, in which case... Horrible Histories! 

The only thing that's changed in the 11 years since this sketch was first broadcast is that we now live in age where we no longer have a need for experts and facts are apparently negotiable depending on your world view.  That and they got a British born Asian to introduce it. Can't have people with a darker skin tone telling us OUR - and their, but lets not worry about that -  history can we?

Another criticism levelled at the sketch is that is lacks perspective, it doesn't say anything about all the good things the Victorians and Britain did. Which is true, it doesn't, but then it's a comedy sketch for children, it makes one point and it makes it very well, it's how sketches work. You never hear of any of the perfectly healthy parrots the pet shop owner sold in the Dead Parrot sketch do you? Where's the perspective? Next you'll be telling me that 'Allo 'Allo isn't representative of life in German occupied France and not all Dublin matriarchs are men in drag.

Life in German occupied France not all bad. Apparently. 

In the scheme of things it's a silly thing to get annoyed about, but as a children's writer I find it very worrying. It points to an insidious trend. If the future of writing for children means passing some strange Daily Mail criteria for what is and isn't acceptable then we're all screwed.

Children are happy to be challenged, happy to be provoked, happy to question and happy to think for themselves. The evidence of the past few days seems to suggest that certain adults are not. We should always remind ourselves that we're writing for the children who are happy to explore different perspectives, not the grown ups who would rather we reinforce a particular world view.

On a wider note, for anybody who creates anything, if these angry, seemingly educated people feel so threatened by an 11 year old sketch about Queen Victoria on kids TV,  just imagine how they'll feel when faced with more grown up criticism on a news show. Or maybe they'll just select favourable journalists from now on.

Regardless, the shouting voices are getting louder. Post Brexit you're either with us or against us. In an age where a slightly peculiar decade old sketch in which Queen Victoria has sugar poured on her head can cause such indignant rage I worry for anybody who dares to create anything with a dissenting voice, no matter how light hearted it may be.

Ciaran Murtagh's work can currently be seen every Friday at 6pm on CBBC on Crackerjack.  Follow the link to see an unashamedly apolitical Basil Brush doing his thing. 

Saturday, 2 February 2019

'Drawing Europe Together': Sue Purkiss

It's going to be obvious anyway from this post - but I am a staunch Remainer. There. Said it. I think we should stay in the EU for many reasons - think how much time and money we and several other countries would have saved if there had never been a referendum! - but mainly because I love Europe and I really, really want to continue to be a part of it, though I can see now that that's unlikely to happen.

So you can see why a book with this title - Drawing Europe Together - was likely to appeal to me. I came across it in Waterstones a few weeks ago. It's put together by Axel Scheffler, the illustrator of many of Julia Donaldson's books, including the wonderful Gruffalo. He explains in his introduction that "the seed of this book was planted by a German children's book publisher, Marcus Weber at Moritz Verlag, who asked his illustrators to do a 'drawing for Europe'". An exhibition of the drawings eventually came to London, where it was added to by British-based illustrators, many of whom, unsurprisingly, took the opportunity to express their feelings about Brexit. With the creation of this book, the venture was taken a step further.

A lot of the pictures feature Europa, a mythical personage who was kidnapped from what we would now call the Middle East by a god in the shape of a bull, and brought to the place that now bears her name. In Polly Dunbar's image, see the little boy from Britain, who stands apart, looking wistfully back at the other children, one of whom reaches out to him.

It's a sad book in many ways. Axel Scheffler explains his own feelings: "Personally, Britain has been my home for 36 years. I came to study and work here, and that was made possible by the EU. It has enriched my life and I hope that I have enriched the life of this nation in return by creating The Gruffalo and many other popular books together with Julia Donaldson. I've never seen myself as a guest in the UK but it now no longer feels like home to me. The fatal decision of Brexit, which seems to me a tremendous act of national self-harm, fills me with disbelief, pain and anger."

I share his pain and his sadness, and I think it's a dreadful thing that Europeans who have lived here for many years and contributed so much, now feel unwelcome. I too think that we have made a terrible mistake, and I feel angry when I see the posturing and manoeuvering of many of our politicians, who have consistently refused to listen to those derided 'experts' who have tried to warn us. I have often disagreed with government policy, but I have never felt so utterly convinced that the path our country is taking is the wrong one.

Here, Sarah McIntyre presents us with an agitated starling, tied to a stake which keeps him in Britain, while all the other starlings fly free. It's beautifully executed, and its message is clear.

I commend this book to you. There is no anger here, but there is wit, humour, artistry - and considerable sadness. 

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

An Awfully Big Adventure: Pantsing by train (Anne Rooney)

I'm sorry to say I missed my slot to post last month, because:
Plaque marking the birthplace of
Vlad Tepes, Sibiu, Romania

Vampires. I was in Transylvania and I couldn't get my iPad to connect to ABBA.

Up a misty mountain in Salzburg, in the rain,
looking through an arrow slit in the old
city wall
This was a final pre-Brexit European adventure. I wanted time to write and read, so I bought an Interrail ticket and booked a night in a hotel in Koln (Cologne) in Germany and left the country with some books and my iPad and a backpack. On my own. A writing retreat on the move.

I like writing on trains, and I like reading on trains. In fact, I barely touched the book I wanted to work on as I found I can't edit on an iPad. But I wrote other things, so all was well. Over two and a half weeks I spent around 70 hours on trains, walked over 200,000 steps and travelled as far as Romania. I didn't want to tread familiar ground, so stayed away from the usual writerly haunts of France, Italy, Spain, etc. And I didn't have a plan.
Finding fossils in the mountains,

Writers divide into plotters and pantsers: those who meticulously plan where their book is going and those who fly by the seat of their pants and make it up as they go along, seeing where the book takes them. I think travellers divide along the same lines.

Some people like to know exactly where they are going, on the page or the plane. They research their destination and plan what they will see and do when they get there or on the way. I prefer just to get going. A couple of weeks after I got back, I went to the Bookseller Children's Books Conference in London. One of the speakers started off by saying that when you go on holiday, you do lots of research, or at least choose where you are going. Plan where you are going? Why would you do that?

Sibiu, Romania

Of course there are dead-ends and you have to rewrite or retrace your steps. Just as I might start a story knowing only that it will be a bit Gothic and set in the past, so I got onto Eurostar thinking I'd go a bit east and stay in decent hotels. (This wasn't to be a return to studenty hostels. This was interrailing for grown-ups. Cockroaches are all very well when there's no alternative, they have their place, but in 21st century Europe?)
Each night I decided on the next day's destination and booked a hotel. Or occasionally I did it the morning I was leaving. A vague route emerged but, just like writing in this way, it didn't always work. In Salzburg, I decided to head itowards Sarajevo. It seemed a suitable place in this last year of the centenary of the First World War. And if I was going to Sarajevo, I might as well do the whole war-and-conflict thing and go to Bosnia and Kosovo, too. So I got a train to Ljubljana in Slovenia with the rough intention of going from there to Bosnia and from Bosnia to Kosovo and Montenegro.

 I found this set into the platform at the railway station in Ljubljana:

James Joyce had been to this station before me

City wall, Sighisoara,
 It seemed like a good sign, but, just as when you write a good opening line to a chapter and think it means things will go well, it was a delusion. My hotel (which was expensive) was horrible. The room was the size of a matchbox and it was opposite the A&E department of the largest hospital in the country, which had a helipad on the roof. It poured with rain, as though someone was pushing clouds down a funnel straight above my head.

I spent two nights there trying to find a way to get to Bosnia, but all the trains into and through Bosnia had been suspended. I could go by train to somewhere in Croatia and get a bus, but it would take a very long time and I'd have to do the same to get back. Going through Serbia was little better. There was one train a day south from Belgrade and it left at 6 am. It needed a reservation and couldn't be booked online. I'd have to go to Belgrade and hope there were seats. It was too much of a risk. I'd travelled myself into a corner. Time to throw that chapter away. I spent a few hours bemoaning my lost adventure in Kosovo and booked a hotel in Budapest.

Entrance to tea shop in a bomb
shelter, Bratizlava, Slovakie
I was last in Budapest the night the Berlin Wall came down. Then, the station was as packed with people fleeing to Berlin and that little gap in the wall. This time the most remarkable thing was that there are no cashpoints and I'd forgotten Hungary isn't in the Eurozone. Budapest had changed beyond recognition, with all the bullet holes fixed and the secret Hospital in the Rock no longer secret but open to tourists. I went to a dinosaur museum. I wanted to see a Magyarosaurus on its home ground. In fact, the dinosaur museum (the Hungarian Natural History Museum) set me up pretty well for spotting wildlife from the train in Romania. From Budapest I got a train to Romania. One of my daughter's college friends had lived in Romania so I messaged her and she told me some places to go.

Firewood for the winter,
The trains in Romania are slow, cronky and full of elderly people smoking and carrying their spades and things. There were no goats on the trains, but the occasional horse-drawn cart still in the fields, and I got the feeling they would have brought their goats if they could get them up the steps. The trains stopped *all the time* at any random crossroads or wherever someone seemed to wave them down. It took 13 hours to get from Budapest to the first stop in Romania but the trains within Romania were even slower: 4 hours for a 100 miles seemed about the standard. This isn't a travelogue, so I won't go on about how wonderful Romania is, but I will go again. I did buy garlic in the supermarket the day before I got the bus out to Bran and Dracula's castle. And I did hear wolves howling in the night, and go through forest-draped mountains in a thunderstorm. So it was a bit Gothic and rather set in the past.

Nuremberg — where the rallies were
I came back through Budapest again, Bratislava in Slovakia, Nuremburg and Koln once again, but it didn't feel like coming back until Koln, so often a last stop before Eurostar that it rather feels like home being nearly home.

Pantsing as a holiday method is just as exciting and unreliable as pantsting as a writing method. But even the dead ends are interesting.

Anne Rooney

Dinosaur Atlas, Lonely PlanetShortlisted for Royal Society Young People's Book Prize 2018 and
School Libraries Association Prize 2018

Friday, 15 July 2016

I would pack freedom...poems after Brexit by Miriam Halahmy

Before, during and after the Referendum I had a series of school visits in and around Refugee Week 2016. The theme this year is WELCOME and I set my talks around this theme.

I am drafting this blog in the week after the Referendum and the subsequent turmoil in our country. Everyone seems to be out on the streets or up in arms on social media. No-one seems happy. Our political parties have hunkered down into their separate corners and after some painful dentistry, I am feeling quite low.

What do the children think?
This seems to be about the most important question of the day after everything that has happened.
Sita Brahmachari has written a wonderful piece on the Guardian Children's Website about addressing children's questions and fears post-Brexit.
Going into school with my book HIDDEN and my Welcome message at a time when immigration seems to be the only word on everyone's lips, I really didn't know what sort of reception I would get. The schools I visited were very varied from Tottenham and Hackney to leafy Barnet.
I spoke to Muslim kids, Christian kids, Jewish kids and secular. I spoke to top sets and those with extra learning needs. I spoke to students from Y7 -Y10. I read out from Hidden and Yasmin's Journey (not yet published) - both books champion asylum seekers and ask the reader to put themselves in the shoes of those who have to leave their homes forever. I read out poems by asylum seekers.

How did the students react?
Not one student yawned, or looked out the window, or refused to engage, or made any kind of derogatory comment about asylum seekers/immigration/Refugee Week. They were moved by the stories, entered into spirited and positive discussion and wrote amazing poems about what it would mean to them to leave their homes,their families and their country forever.

As I make my recovery from a painful mouth and an aching heart, it is the children who give me hope for the future of these beautiful islands - the islands that my parents gave up their youth to fight for in WW2 and which my family came to in the mid-nineteenth century to seek safety after the pogroms against the Jews in Poland and Russia.

Here are their words to show you how much hope lies out there in our schools :-

I would pack freedom
I wouldn't pack weapons
I would pack love
I wouldn't pack hate
I would pack food
I wouldn't pack fear
I would pack memories
But I wouldn't pack

I don't want to leave.  
            Jordana, 13 years.

I might be from abroad,
but when we are together
I feel like I’m safe.
We may get abused but hey
tell me ‘It’s okay’
when we are actually safe.
Because I’m hurting
but your softest whisper
keeps me sane from all the whispers that keep me up.
So I’ll keep on walking
despite the pain in my foot
because you promised me that together we would get to that sacred land,
But you lied and I believed you.
                                                       By Haniya Mohamed-Mustaffa

Home Away From Home
It seems like a long time
Seems like a long time ago
She was in her prime
Life was going so slow

She wasn’t told that her life would change
Didn’t get to hear the choices made
All she ever knew now out of range

She remembers how scared she was
Unfamiliar faces, no comfort
Only time would tell if she would come to love
Her new home

Memories of before already fade
Right here, right now she smiles, she’s safe

This is her home away from home
This is her home away from home.

                                                           By Kenny Shomuyiwa

In the dawn of this trembling not so brave new world I wish all the children in the world and everyone, including all the animals and all living things on our planet, 

Friday, 24 June 2016

Pick Yourself Up, Dust Yourself Down (Reality Bites: Part Two) – Liz Kessler

After a night of disbelief and a morning of despair, I am picking myself up and blinking against the sunlight that is poking out from dark clouds after hours of rain.

And, cheeky as it might be, I am taking advantage of this still being my ‘day’ on the ABBA blog to post a Part Two.

There are things I need to say, and I want to say them very clearly.

When more or less half of our country votes one way and half votes the opposite way, neither side can categorise the other with generalised labels or blanket descriptions.

No one will benefit from accusing 17 million or so people of being either ignorant and easily duped or being racist xenophobes. That simply isn’t true and isn’t helpful as a means of going forward. Equally, to gloat in the faces of 16 million or so people who are suffering and despairing is not going to take our country anywhere good.

I personally believe that Nigel Farage is an extremely dangerous man who has somehow been elevated to a position of power and influence by national media outlets that have granted him a generous and comfortable platform which he did nothing to earn. But this does not mean that everyone on the ‘Leave’ side of the vote agrees with or supports him.

His image, as an affable chap who’s in it together with the good, honest, working folk, has been cleverly orchestrated, and he has used scapegoat politics to give people a focus for their dissatisfaction with the status quo. ‘Don’t like what those out of touch politicians are telling you to do? Stand up for yourself – and while you’re at it, here’s some immigrants to blame.’

Yes it sounds simplistic – but it works. It’s worked before and it’s worked here. But we have to recognise that NOT EVERYONE who voted ‘Leave’ agrees with his stance or supports those politics. 

So here’s a challenge.

To those who voted ‘Remain’, let’s shrug off our sadness and shock, and ditch our despair and depression. The vote has happened, and this is where we are. So let’s look around and see how to deal with it. Find allies, keep conversations going, shake hands with people whose arguments we have been opposing for these last few months and let's prepare to work with as many people as we can in order to be part of rebuilding our country - and thus still have some influence in how that rebuilding takes place.

There is nothing we can do to change what has happened, so let’s turn our thoughts to positive action.

And to those of you who voted ‘Leave’ for your own, deeply held reasons and beliefs, and have been angry at being castigated as racist and xenophobic – now is your chance to get out from under that label. Join with those of us on the other side in letting Farage and the rest of them know that you don’t support him. Work with your communities, support the immigrants you say you are not opposed to, and please, please, whatever you do, try not to gloat over your victory.

And yes, even those who are UKIP supporters - I am utterly, utterly opposed to your politics - but the country has taken a vote and it has led us here, and I would rather have conversations in a reasonable and measured way than sling mud at each other across a wall that is so high neither side can see over the top of it.

We are here now. We have to work with what we’ve got, so let’s do it with dignity, compassion, optimism and kindness. 

And maybe when our children grow up and take our world into their hands, there is still a chance that they will look back on these days and be proud – of all of us.

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