Thanks to everyone, audience and speakers alike, for a wonderful event which brought together writers from Scotland’s many diverse communities. Representing those of Polish, Indian, Pakistani, Mexican Spanish, Nigerian, Chinese Malaysian, Scots, and Japanese backgrounds, we heard from: Martin Stepek, Leela Soma, Raymond Soltysek, Juana Adcock, Ogba Uweru, Magdalen Chua, Eunice Buchanan, Ryotaro Hoshino, Sheila Puri, and Etta Dunn. I believe we also had some Russians in the audience!
Our host for the evening, Chiew-Siah Tei, deserves special praise for her considerable work in uniting such a varied line-up of fascinating voices. Rather than undertake the near-impossible task of summing each speaker’s contribution, we shall content ourselves here with listing their biographies below. But my favourite quotes from the evening were perhaps from Sheila Puri (“I saw the cracks behind the veil”), from Ogba Uweru (“when we die, who do we become?”), and from Raymond Soltysek (“to think that I have lived this long to become this petty”). But gosh, everybody was great!
Stop press: you can read Raymond Soltysek’s blog post on the evening here.
Martin Stepek was born to a Polish-Scottish family in 1959. He has been a successful businessman and political activist (Convenor of Scottish Green Party), and is presently a teacher of mindfulness (at a mental well-being practice, recommended by NHS for sufferers of depression). Martin is also a researcher of his Polish heritage. One result of this research was his poetry cycle For There Is Hope, an English-Polish book reflecting on his father’s deportation – along with his mother and two younger sisters – during World War Two. The work has been described as an “astonishing poem which is a monument, a meditation, a prayer, and an epic”. He currently operates a national charity, the Scottish Family Business Association, and is in the process of writing a historical biography of his father’s life before he settled in Poland.
Leela Soma, born in Madras (now Chennai), lives in Glasgow, Scotland. Her debut novel, Twice Born, was published in December 2008. Her articles and poems have been published in New Voices, the literary magazine of the Federation of Writers Scotland, and in Gutter magazine. Her second novel, Bombay Baby, was published in 2011 by Dahlia Publishing Ltd. Leela’s collection of short stories was published by Pot Hole Press in 2013. Her work reflects her experiences as a first generation Indo-Scot.
Raymond Soltysek is a Saltire nominated prose writer, a BAFTA winning screenwriter, and a Robert Louis Stevenson award winner. Raymond has, further, successfully secured a Scottish Arts Council bursary. He works in teacher education, and promotes creative writing in schools.
Juana Adcock was born in Mexico and has been living in Scotland for six years. Her first poetry collection will be published this year in Mexico. She works as a translator.
Ogba Uweru was born in Zaria, in the Northern region of Nigeria. He later moved to the South, where he completed his secondary schooling and first degree in Geology from the University of Calabar. Ogba worked for five years as a contractor to one of the major mobile subscribers in Nigeria: Powertrac Machinery and Investments. He obtained an MSc at Glasgow Caledonian University in 2012.
Magdalen Chua’s current projects deal with the physical and temporal dimensions of writing. In particular, she is interested in the nature of communication that takes place in letter writing. She has been working on a series of collages, Articles from Madam O, in response to letters received from home. Born in Singapore, she came to Glasgow to develop a practice in curating. She soon discovered that she was working to fuse curating, writing, and art. Articles from Madam O will be exhibited at Govanhill Baths from October 15th, with the preview from 6-8pm.
Eunice Buchanan is a poet from the East Coast who writes, and has won prizes for her work, in the Scots language.
Ryotaro Hoshino was born in Japan in 1987. He received his art education in Tokyo and Glasgow. His practice began in painting, and Ryotaro has been developing an interest in neurology and language as a way to explore the ‘mystical’ human ability. In 2009, he began translating Proverbs of a Pygmy by the late Japanese short novelist Akutagawa Ryunosuke. He is presently co-translating that title with the artist Magdalen Chua.
Sheila Puri’s short stories have been published in a wide range of anthologies. Currently, Sheila is working – very slowly – on a play which, once she gets down to the work, she finds for the most part enjoyable. It’s just the problem of getting down to it!
Etta Dunn is the Executive Convenor of the Federation of Writers (Scotland) – an organisation with over 700 members. Her work has been published in print, audio, and film format; she has also acted her own stage plays, at the Tron Theatre. Etta is currently editing and publishing the work of six writers, with her own imprint Fleming Publications.