Inspiring Older Readers

posted on 13 Feb 2018

Refugee Tales : A conversation with Rachel Holmes

Refugee Tales is an outreach project of Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group inspired by the experiences of men held in immigration detention at Gatwick and the work of the Group in 20 years of visiting.

You can find out much more about them on this link to the project

The Letterpress project has been proud to support the Refugee Tales project and has reviewed the two collections of stories that have resulted from its activities - you can see those reviews HERE and HERE.

Author, Rachel Holmes who has worked with the project has been kind enough to answer a few questions we've asked her about the project and her involvement in it. Rachel  is the author of Eleanor Marx: A Life; The Secret Life of Dr James Barry & The Hottentot Venus: The Life & Death of Saartjie Baartman. She is currently writing a book about Sylvia Pankhurst and is a contributor to the recently published This is Not A Border: Reportage and reflection from the Palestine Festival of Literature edited by Ahdaf Souief & Omar Robert Hamilton. 

Rachel co-edited, with Lisa Appignanesi and Susie Orbach, the much-discussed Fifty Shades of Feminism (2013). She was co-commissioning editor of Sixty Six Books: 21st Century Writers Speak to the King James Bible (2011) with Josie Rourke and Chris Haydon. 

Here's what Rachel had to tell us:

How did you become involved with The Refugee Tales Project?

Ali Smith, the wonderful patron of this project, asked me to get involved because she knows it’s something I care about.


What made you choose The Barrister as the character to tell your tale?

Immigration lawyers dedicated to justice and the rule of law who believe passionately in human rights are working day and night within a legal system that is currently Kafkaesque on immigration detention. I wanted to explore and understand what makes a legal aid barrister tick and the daily challenges they face to do their job.


What role do you think that books play in raising awareness about social injustice? 

We humans are social and story-telling creatures.  The point of society and politics is living with people other than ourselves.  Books are stories about other people.


What are your hopes for the project? 

I’m looking forward to the first day that we walk in celebration of the end of the gross injustice of arbitrary and indefinite detention in Britain.


How can people help? 

Gift copies of Refugee Tales to your family and friends for birthdays and special occasions; recommend reading it in your book club or, if you don’t have a book club, organise a Sunday walk followed by a reading of one of the tales in your favourite cafe or pub with a group of friends or family.