Around 70 refugee women and children living in Glasgow have been invited to spend a day at Wigtown Book Festival.

The visit, on Saturday 28 September, has been organised by the charity Open Book in partnership with the Maryhill Integration Network (MIN).

For some it will be their first trip into the Scottish countryside.

Marjorie Lotfi Gill, who founded the Open Book charity and is also Chair of the Wigtown Festival Company board, runs monthly poetry, reading and creative writing sessions with the women of MIN.

Open Book organises the sessions to help the Glasgow-based women build up new social networks, develop their language skills, gain confidence and integrate into Scottish life. The visit to Wigtown will allow the women to attend events with their children and experience a book festival as a family.

Two events in the festival’s Big Wig children’s programme will have readings in English and Arabic. One Button Benny and Big Bill the Beltie Bull have both been translated into Arabic by Glasgow-based Syrian war refugee Saffanna Al-jbawi.

The group includes people from Syria, Libya, Iraq, Nigeria, India, Ghana, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Cameroon and Egypt.

Marjorie said: “Our Open Book sessions at MIN are aimed at valuing the histories of the women in the group and encouraging them to develop their own voices. Sharing literature and poetry, and using it as inspiration for creative writing about their own experiences, can make an enormous difference.
“Having the chance to come to Wigtown will give them, and their children, a chance to discover more about Scotland’s culture and to experience the magic of a live event with their families.”

The visit will also be an introduction to a new year-long British Council funded project called Home in which people taking refuge in the UK and Canada will write, in conversation with one another, about what the idea of home means to them.

According to Remzije Sherifi, Director of the Maryhill Integration Network, said: “Open Book has contributed greatly to our work with its regular sessions and meets MIN’s vision for an inclusive society where everyone is treated with dignity and respect, and can live supported and connected lives.
“This visit to the Wigtown Book Festival will be very special for the women, and their children in giving them the chance to enjoy a superb event and to see rural Scotland, some of them for the first time, to build their confidence and allow them to make new connections and friends.”
Remzije believes the experience will further strengthen the relationship with Open Book: “We look forward to continuing to develop our partnership work on Open Book and Home projects. Marjorie has a unique writing voice and is a wonderful facilitator – she helps bring out the creativity of everyone she works with.”

Saffanna Al-jbawi, a former teacher who will be travelling to Wigtown with the group on Saturday, came to Scotland with her husband and four children six years ago.

MIN provided her with help learning English and on settling into Scottish society. She has now become one of their volunteers and is also studying accountancy at college.

Saffanna said: “I translated the books into Arabic for the children and am very much looking forward to coming to Wigtown to read them. The event will be great fun and I think the children will enjoy it very much.”

She met Marjorie through MIN and they have now collaborated on a series of translation projects to help Arabic speakers living in Scotland.

  • For full details of Wigtown Book Festival go to com.

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