Meeting with refugees and migrants passing through Paris, or more aptly, endeavouring to pass through city of Paris en route to the UK, the team began in the North East of the city inviting participants to join a project that will evolve ways of “translating” their stories and experiences by drawing on cultural expressions that many in Europe will recognise and cherish. Charles Dickens, Matthew Arnold, Jules Vallès, the Rosetta Stone… What happens when “texts” such as these become a starting point for working in a multilingual group of people whose life and educational horizons have been destroyed by war?
The work of these sessions is to find ways of hearing the stories of their participants from within a European tradition, while also thinking about how that tradition is reshaped and enriched through this process. So far it has given rise to pieces written or transcribed in a multiplicity of languages – making use of whatever means we can muster to allow their creators’ stories to find new resonance, beyond both the burning intensity of their immediate space of expression and the complete extinction of that intensity in the categories of administrative or news-media speak. Every story is different, but they are stories that cannot be heard unless there is a horizon for their reception. Our shared horizon, as the cliffs of Dover have become an increasingly impossible frontier, has been to look to what literature can offer. The work will be exhibited in London’s Senate House, as part of next month’s Being Human festival of the humanities.
Read an extract from Dr Anna-Louise Milne’s diary of the workshops here.