Sarah Irving

I do things with words, mainly English and Arabic

Nothing more violent than silence

A couple of years ago I had the honour of being invited to speak at Manchester’s beautiful John Rylands Library (the beautiful Victorian original on Deansgate, not the concrete monstrosity in the heart of the university) alongside Beau Beausoleil, the founder of the Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here project. The Library was displaying the wonderful, challenging range of book art that the project had given rise to, and the event included readings from the related book.

A more ambitious event took place earlier this year at the Arab British Centre, and the Centre has now released a video of some of the highlights – Beau speaking about the bombing of al-Mutanabbi Street, the violence that has been visited upon the people of Iraq and their culture, and the important fact that this is “not a healing project… I don’t want anyone to come away from this feeling better about themselves”. Hayat Kamille performing a sweet, moving monologue celebrating the re-opening of the Shahbandar Cafe on al-Mutanabbi Street (and by extension the resilience of the people of Baghdad in the face of extraordinary pain and horror), and Hala Ali‘s fantastic, impassioned defence of culture in the face of violence and imperialism.

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