In this episode, poet Roy Mcfarlane reflects on the month of June as both a time of rest and reflection, thinking about the summer solstice and sunny days alongside the ongoing issue of racism in football and the Windrush scandal as we marked Windrush Day on the 22nd June. The piece is read by Shantel Edwards.
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Curator: Shantel Edwards (Festival director)
Production: 11C/ Birmingham Podcast Studios for Writing West Midlands
BLF Newsletter Podcast Transcript: Episode 6, Roy Mcfarlane
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.
We will be bringing you a new short episode at the start of each month, with each piece read by our guest writers. You can read the pieces on our website, where you will also find information about our upcoming digital events.
Hi, I’m Roy Mcfarlane and this is June’s Monthly Writers Blog for Birmingham Literature Festival.
Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June’s long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.
-Adam Zagajewski, "Try to Praise the Mutilated World"
June the month of strawberries and creams and the longest day of the year, 21st June, summer solstice day. Boris Johnson tried to bring an end to the mutilated world we’re living in, having visions of Freedom Day as if we were part of the cast of Independence Day, but with a Delta variant fighting back, celebrations had to be put on hold.
Summer solstice day, solstice from the Latin word ‘sun standing still,’ the timing between planting and harvesting crops has been traditionally the time to relax. As writers we know of planting words, half written in a notebook, or a body of work in files; over the last few months I’ve been planting seeds in competitions, magazines, anthologies and commissioned work, seeing which will flourish, find their roots and blossom in the next collection. June will be the closest I’ll get to relaxing, and getting away from writing, online and social media interaction.
During this month my walks along canals with herons, coots and a gang of seagulls chilling on telegraph wires, watching me walking through their neighbourhood has been exchanged for morning jogs along the sea front where the June sun gives iridescent blue seas and a convention of seagulls, bigger and bolder than the ones from Tipton who stride with swagger.
But the writer in me can’t be quietened, I go into full rage in response to Priti Patel’s interview, encouraging football supporters to boo in response to England football players, both black and white, taking a knee in response to online racism, racism in the stands and the ongoing racism that leads to death. And yet Priti Patel’s response is no different to Donald Trump’s inciting aggressive response to Colin Kaepernick taking the knee. Also, it’s 5 years on from the Jo Cox murder, influenced by divisive, dividing words which inspired such a backlash in the lead to Brexit.
Thank god for Windrush Day, 22nd June, acknowledging the impact and importance of migration to the making of Britain. The emblematic Empire Windrush signalling the arrival of Caribbean post-war migrants to Britain in 1948; a date in the British identity as paramount as 1066, Henry VIII and all his wives, and 1966 ‘They think it’s all over! It is now.’
In Wolverhampton the unveiling of a blue plaque brought mixed emotions for many, as we acknowledged Paulette Wilson Windrush Campaigner ‘likkle but tallawah’ a reminder of how the government turned a Caribbean post-war migration dream of Windrush into an “illegal immigrants” of the state nightmare.
I’m reading Just Us by Claudia Rankine, the title taken from the wonderful stand-up comedian Richard Pryor; ‘you go down there looking for justice, that’s what you find just us.’ I guess in taking the knee, in Windrush celebrations, we are simply looking for a sun that will rise on all of us with the same warmth, same freedoms, a sun that shakes hand with the night and meets us back in the morning, alive and well.
Thank you for listening to this week’s episode of the Birmingham Lit Fest presents…podcast. Follow us on Instagram, twitter and Facebook @bhamlitfest. All information about the festival and upcoming events can be found on our website www.birminghamliteraturefestival.org. The Birmingham Lit Fest Presents... podcast is produced by 11C and Birmingham Podcast Studios for Writing West Midlands.
What is Birmingham Lit Fest Presents….?
The Birmingham Literature Festival Podcast - Welcome to the very first Birmingham Literature Festival podcast, bringing writers and readers together to discuss some of 2020’s best books. Each Thursday we’ll be releasing new episodes of the podcast, including wonderful discussions about writing, poetry, big ideas and social issues. Join us each week for exciting and inspiring conversations with new, and familiar, writers from the Midlands and beyond.