The Birmingham Literature Festival podcast connects writers with readers. Join us for exciting and inspiring conversations about writing, poetry, big ideas and social issues with writers from the Midlands and beyond. New episodes monthly from April 2021.
- Episode 2: February, Abda Khan
A year after the last full month of ‘normality’ for us all in February 2020, novelist and lawyer Abda Khan reflects on how a year of Covid-19 restrictions has impacted her and how much our lives have changed in hundreds of ways, from the major to the insignificant, since then.
Take a look at the rest of this year's digital programme on our website: https://www.birminghamliteraturefestival.org/
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Curator: Shantel Edwards (Festival director)
Production: 11C/ Birmingham Podcast Studios for Writing West Midlands
BLF Newsletter Podcast Transcript: Episode 2, Abda Khan
Welcome to the Birmingham Lit Fest Presents…
podcast and our new series of commissioned writing about 2021. Each month we are commissioning a new writer to reflect on the month that has passed, offering us moments of connection through great writing and the opportunity to reflect about what we have collectively experienced at the end of the year.
When I was asked to write about how February has been for me, I started by looking back at photos from the same time last year. It struck me that during the almost yearlong state of lockdown, not only has life changed in ways previously unimaginable, but certain phrases have evaporated from our vocabulary, whilst others have taken hold. As a writer, I am intrigued by this.
February 2020; kicked off at a packed restaurant for a family birthday, I gave a talk about my Sidelines to Centre Stage Project at Wolverhampton Literature Festival where I mingled with attendees over tea and samosas, travelled to Glasgow and sat in a mosque full of hundreds of mourners after the death of my uncle, went into Tamworth Radio to talk about my novel Razia with three of us crammed into an airless studio smaller than a boxroom, had lunch with and gave a talk at Solihull Rotary Club, visited mac at Cannon Hill Park for discussions over coffee about a forthcoming project. And there were many more everyday happenings, not documented by the click of a phone camera, all of which are now unthinkable; legal work at the office where multiple clients would attend together, meeting friends in overcrowded coffee shops, enjoying the pictures with my kids (although they tell me that firstly, no one says ‘pictures’ anymore and secondly, as the youngest is now nearly 16, they’re no longer kids).
Now, life is Zoom, and Teams, hand sanitiser, and face masks, and everyone knows what WFH means. The most exhilarating activity is my weekly click and collect trip to Asda. Hands, face, space - now, we must all “look like letter boxes”, and the PM must think it peculiar how words come back to bite you.
No more does anyone ask “what are your plans for the weekend?” or “where are you going for your holiday?” No longer are we faced with dilemmas such as “how do I get out of that works do?”, nor does anyone wish “this dinner party would end.”
The loneliness that comes with being a writer has not changed. It is a solitary pursuit, often undertaken late into the night with only silence for company. Yet, other aspects of my life as a writer have disappeared, and these I miss; interacting at events face to face, being part of the buzz and chatter that can’t be replicated in a Zoom call (which always starts with “you’re on mute”). Still, technology has been a godsend; I have continued with book club, delivered numerous talks, attended courses, taught courses, persisted with my yoga, been to parents evening, hosted a poetry event, and watched every single episode of Spooks.
Having had a nasty run in with COVID myself, I feel fortunate to be alive, to have the hope that at least February 2022 will look more like my February 2020, and that the period of lockdown in between the two will eventually seem like that experience in your life which you hated every minute of, but one from which you learnt a great deal.