To mark 18 years of the Refugee Council’s Children’s Section Penguin Books have teamed up with the charity to produce a collection of audio stories inspired by the theme ‘turning 18’. A range of refugees and asylum seekers took part in the project and have lent their energy, time and remarkable stories to the series. Here’s how we did it…..
The project started with a writing workshop held at Penguin’s offices in central London and led by Booker Nominated author Romesh Gunesekera. The workshop was attended by a range of refugees and asylum seekers including current and ex clients of the Children’s Section. Participants took part in creative writing exercises which encouraged them to create a personal response to the theme ‘turning 18’.
The range of responses and writing styles was staggering. From carefully crafted vignettes to simple snapshots of experience all the pieces gave a unique and personal insight into what it means to become an adult. After the workshop, participants went away to perfect their stories and whilst news spread that the project was happening we received stories from more refugees who were interested in submitting their stories too.
In addition to this, we received guest submissions from Penguin writers Joe Dunthorne (author of Submarine) and Beverley Naidoo, whose book The Other Side of Truth won the 2002 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award for its portrayal of child refugees.
After collating the submissions, we invited the refugee writers to record their stories at Penguin’s recently-built audiobook studios. Penguin has a well-established history publishing audiobooks ranging from literary classics, through to commercial bestsellers. However, this would be the first collection of its kind to be recorded with such a wide-ranging scale of voices.
From the very first reading it was clear that delivering the pieces in the voice of the writer would help people to connect with the work. The unique accent, tone and inflection of each voice adding depth and colour to each story..
In order to raise public awareness of the issues facing refugees and asylum seekers we wanted to give some background on the refugee voice to explain a bit more about their individual story: where they are from and why they had fled. The collection includes voices from Nigeria, Bolivia, Jamaica, Tanzania, Iran, Uganda, Afghanistan and Somalia. Contributors include those who have fled conflict, young people who were trafficked here as children, and those who have escaped persecution for political beliefs, or sexual orientation.
Famous supporters of the Refugee Council’s work kindly agreed to provide the narrations. They included fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, artist Grayson Perry, actress Zoë Wanamaker and political campaigner Peter Tatchell.
The ‘Turning 18’ collection will be serialised here over a number of weeks from 22 November 2012.
Keep checking the website for the latest instalment.