Pop Up Festival Presents Swallows Kiss

Award-winning author, Sita Brahmachari writes about the event she will be doing with Jane Ray at the National Maritime Museum on 18 June as part of the Pop Up Festival Presents free lived-streamed festival 14-18 June.  For more details about this amazing festival and to see the programme of bestselling writers, poets and illustrators go to: https://pop-up.org.uk/our-work/education/pop-up-festival-presents/

 Schools can book in here   

The event will launch a new book Swallow’s Kiss, one of the 10 Stories to Make a Difference collection published by Pop Up on 24th June. For more information about the collection go to https://pop-up.org.uk/shop/

‘Swallow’s Kiss’ at The National Maritime Museum  18th June 

No one is too small to open a door or a page and find a welcome – a place to belong. 

Author Sita Brahmachari (credit : Martin Levenson)
Sita Brahmachari (credit: Martin Levenson)

I’m so excited that our Pop up Festival Presents event for Swallow’s Kiss will be recorded in a gallery at The National Maritime Museum that houses a beautiful new exhibit. ‘Afril’, a collaboration by artist Eve Sheppard working with Action for Refugees in Lewisham. It features a beautiful and moving new sculpture of a refugee survivor with so much lived detail in its creation. This gallery seems to me the perfect place for Swallow’s Kiss to fly from.

 Just as the sculpture ‘Afril’ is the result of an art work anchored in community so too our story Swallow’s Kiss grew out of the Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrant Community where myself and illustrator and author Jane Ray have worked together as artist and writer in residence for the last eight years.

In connecting to our community’s artists, writers, human rights organisations, museum and galleries start to chart the untold stories of our histories that are so needed by people of all ages. ‘Afril’ and  Swallow’s Kiss both welcome a global family and explore the stories of humans who have migrated by violent force, choice or extreme need across oceans. These artworks and stories explore what our contributions are today to language, history, identity and culture. They say: you are a part of this story. No one is too small to open a door or a page and find a welcome – a place to belong.

Jane Ray
Jane Ray

At our event at The National Maritime Museum Jane Ray and I will talk about how our story could never have been written without the voices and contributions of the community it’s dedicated to at Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants. Recently the communal art and poetry from the class we work in has been featured in an exhibition at the United Nations ’Voices on the Wind.’  I will read one of these poems and Jane will share some art work in homage to this community. 

We’ll tell of how the idea for Swallow’s Kiss was hatched on a London bus when we were travelling from the refugee centre carrying a bag of bright and beautiful paper birds with wishes written on the wings by refugee people. The following week we were to return and continue to work on these paper birds.  That night I imagined a child discovering a lost bag of paper birds in a café under a table, the wishes in the wings of the birds contained so much feeling and the child empathised so deeply with the winged-wishes that the birds began to sing into her heart and the story of Swallow’s Kiss was born. Jane and I will share our Swallow’s Kiss making process in a call and response method between art and word on a London bus! 

Swallows Kiss illustration – Jane Ray

One of the big themes in the story is how children, families and communities connect with each other and form friendships across language, history, religion and culture. The wishbird feathers contain the hopes and dreams from and for refugee people in many languages. We learned from Congolese members of the Art and Writing group that the Lingala language is spoken by approximately twenty million people around the world. In our story Blessing’s Mama sings her a Lingala Lullaby.

 At the National Maritime Museum we’ll sit and talk around an art table like the one in Swallow’s Kiss and make wish birds like Blessing and her new friend Hani do in the story. We’ll write wishes on wings and invite you to make your wishes too. 

The summer Swallows are nesting right now. We hope your many wishes can travel across oceans and skies like Swallow’s do and find a beautiful and safe place to build a home and learn to fly.

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