Alta’ir: Durham-Jordan Creative Collaboration

Amman 1Alta’ir means bird and is the Arabic name for the brightest star in the constellation of Aquila. The name is an abbreviation of the Arabic phrase النسر الطائر, al-nesr al-ṭā’ir: “the flying eagle”.  Alta’ir is a partnership project between Durham Book Festival (co-founder), the Council for British Research in the Levant (CBRL) (co-founder), St Mary’s College, Durham University (co-founder), and Dr. Fadia Faqir (initiator and co-founder), and the British Council.
Durham Book Festival
Founded in 1990, Durham Book Festival is one of the country’s oldest literary festivals. For many years it was a well-kept secret in the region’s cultural calendar, but it has grown significantly in the recent years. The festival is now part of Durham County Council’s festival programme, and since 2011 has been produced by New Writing North, with support from Durham University and Arts Council England, as well as a range of trusts and foundations and corporate sponsors.
CBRL’s British Institute in Amman
The British Institute is an international research institute in Jordan established in the 1970s. It is part of a wider regional network, the Council for British Research in the Levant (CBRL), a registered charity in the UK that is affiliated to the British Academy. The Institute aims to provide as a core part of its mission a venue for thought, critical reflection and the exchange of knowledge. It has recently identified literature as a discipline that it would like to develop. The Institute has accommodation on site and can introduce scholars or writers to other researchers in Jordan, as well as programming public events and discussions.
St Mary’s College, Durham University
Established in 1899, St Mary’s is one of Durham’s oldest Colleges. Originally founded as a pioneering women-only College, its community is now mixed and comprises around 750 undergraduate members and 150 full-time and 200 part-time postgraduates. It is a warm and friendly College situated in a great location, close to many of the University’s academic departments and central facilities. Its neoclassical buildings and extensive grounds provide a beautiful environment in which to live and study.
Fadia Faqir
Durham-based author Fadia Faqir is a dual citizen of Britain and Jordan. Her work has been published in eighteen countries and translated into fourteen languages. She is the author of five novels: Nisanit (Viking Penguin Inc.,1990), Pillars of Salt (Quartet Books, 1996) My Name is Salma (Transworld Publishers, 2007), Willow Trees Don’t Weep (Quercus Books, 2014), which is partly set in Durham city, and Petra Mon Amour (in progress). The Danish translations of her second and third novels were the runners-up for the ALOA literary award 2001 and 2010 respectively. A prologue entitled ‘At the Midnight Kitchen’ was published in the USA by Weber Studies and won their fiction prize, 2009. She has written several short stories and plays. Her short story ‘Under the Cypress Tree’ was short-listed for the Bridport Prize 2010. Her play, Turn Your Head Not, was premiered in Copenhagen. She is also the editor and co-translator of In the House of Silence: Autobiographical Essays by Arab Women Writers (1998) and was the senior editor of the Arab Women Writers series, for which she received the Women in Publishing 1995 New Venture Award. She was a member of the judging panel of Al-Multaqa Short Story Competition 2016.
She is an Honorary Fellow of St Mary’s College and a Writing Fellow at St Aidan’s College, Durham University, where she teaches creative writing. She is a trustee of Durham Palestine Educational Trust, a charity that sponsors Palestinian students, and initiator and co-founder of the Banipal Visiting Writer Fellowship.
The British Council
The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. They create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. They do this by making a positive contribution to the UK and the countries they work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections, and engendering trust.

The Project
Writing and reading development agency New Writing North which also runs Durham Book Festival will identify a writer from the North of England who can spend up to one month at The British Institute on a paid residency. They will develop their own work, and the Institute can introduce the writer to places of interest in Jordan.  NWN and the British Institute is particularly interested in the idea of the writer visiting places that are outside of Amman (that have parallels with the north of England)
Each year the residency will provide a unique space for a British published author to reflect and to write, and to also have the opportunity to share their work with Arab audiences. The residency will raise the profile of British writing in Jordan and the Arab world and Arab writing in the UK in the hope that long-lasting connections between writers in the UK and the Arabic-speaking world are forged.
The goal is to encourage dialogue with the Arab world through literature. The cultural exchange and dialogue that it will enable and create, will open windows for non-Arab audiences in the UK onto the realities of Arab cultures in all their diversity and vibrancy, enabling fruitful discourse to develop.
It is hoped that this will lead to further exchange, to mutual respect, to new writings, and deeper understanding.
The overall aims of the project are to build on the cultural dialogue between the UK and Jordan, and to develop the Civic role of the British Institute in Amman.

An Exchange
Durham Book Festival/ New Writing North plans to send a writer from the North of England over to Amman to spend up to four weeks there as a guest of the British Institute in Amman. We have identified May 2018 as the best time for the visit to take place.
The UK writer would:

  • Work with (up to 5) selected Jordanian writers including emerging writers on a development programme
  • Deliver writing workshops that are made accessible to the general public
  • Visit and run workshop outside of Amman in more deprived South of Jordan
  • Deliver a series of discussion events around the work that the writer generates whilst in Jordan

We would like to bring a Jordanian writer to the UK, ideally in October 2018, to tie in with the Durham Book Festival.  This may be a writer the UK writer has been working with while in Jordan.  New Writing North would like to host an event at Durham Book Festival about the project bringing together the Jordanian writer and the British writer.  This may be the presentation of new work by the writers, or a more general discussion about the project, which would include some readings.  While they are in the UK we would organise an itinerary for them which would respond to their interests, and could include visits to places of interest, some writing time, meetings with other writers and / or scholars and public events.

Durham Book Festival, the British Institute, and Dr Fadia Faqir would draft a call-out for writers to be promoted through NWN’s networks.
Once the writer is appointed in the UK DBF and Dr. Fadia Faqir will meet with the writer to talk in more detail about the Institute, Jordan as a country, and some of the areas they might cover during their residency and agree on the objectives of the residency.
Once the writer is appointed in Jordan, the director or the assistant director of the British Institute in Amman will meet the writer to talk in more detail about Durham and St Mary’s College, UK as a country, and some of the areas they might cover during their residency and agree on the objectives of the residency.
The British Institute can provide accommodation, catering facilities, lecture and seminar space, access to the library and will make travel arrangements associated with the residency.
The director or assistant director of the British Institute will host and accompany the writer while in Jordan, including setting up and promoting public events and workshops.

For more information click on the following:
Durham Book Festival Event

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