Photo: Gavin Weber. Copyright Simon Faithfull. As a writer, activist, mystic and summer sea dipper, I was very pleased this week to begin a fascinating new job: Artist-in-Residence for Fabrica Gallery, responding to the Simon Faithfull exhibition REEF. In a work that combines sculpture, video, eco-art, and installation, Faithfull salvaged and rebuilt an old boat, then deliberately sank the vessel in order to record it gradually becoming an ocean reef. My role is to engage audiences with the themes of the exhibition, ‘working with ideas of the sea as a metaphor for emotion, the imagination and psychological space.’  Concerned as I am with the complex relationship between psychology, politics and spirituality, I have taken the concept of ‘sea change’ as my central creative current; and the tempestuous blue planet Neptune as my guiding star. I will be blogging for the gallery – in a meta-hyper-blog moment, I direct you…

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Getting excited! Sept 19-20 I’ll be taking part in the second Tottenham Palestine Literature Festival, organised by Haringey Justice for Palestine. The festival is a free weekend of literature, politics, music and Palestinian food, held at the West Green Learning Centre and featuring an international cast including Ghada Karmi, Selma Dabbagh, Baroness Jenny Tonge, Brian Whitaker and Sarah Schulman. Guests will be exploring topics including Biography, Fiction, Poetry, Travel, SF, LGBT in the Occupied Territories, and – you can’t discuss Palestine in the UK without it – the Balfour Declaration. The full programme is available as a flyer here or a funky slidehow here. On Friday night I’m chairing the travel panel, with the intrepid Sarah Irving and the legendary Dervla Murphy. On Saturday I’m reading from Astra on the Middle Eastern SF panel, and discussing science, religion and Islamic SF with archivist and scholar Ruqayyah Kareem and Chair Yasmin…

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With pleasure, and no small amount of astonishment, I announce today that for my ‘poetry and essays about Ukraine’ – the latter published here on the blog – I have earned a place on the list of recipients of the 2014 Hryhorii (Gregory) Skovoroda Award (honestly, in section 7, there I am: Наомі Фойл). Hryhorii Skovoroda was a 18th century Cossack poet, philosopher, teacher and composer. Born in what is now East Ukraine, and known as ‘the Russian Socrates’, he was a thinker who believed both that ‘the Kingdom is within us’ and ‘the Sanctity of human life lies in doing good to others’. According to Wiki, his philosophy found political expression in his support for the serfs, with ‘sharp hostility to the Muscovite oppressors’. He was a gentle person, so considerate of others that he literally dug his own grave – showing up at a friend’s house to stay…

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As I discussed in my last blog, for various reasons I don’t want to discuss my inner world in detail online. But the current moment, however, feels like the right time to at least publically acknowledge that, like so many others, I am affected by mental health issues. While I’m not a particular fan of Robin Williams, as someone who has struggled with depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember, I was sad to hear of the circumstances of his death. I have since found the public response to his suicide moving and, in a quiet way, hopeful. While, predictably, some mainstream reaction to the tragedy has been cruel and ignorant, blaming the man for his illness, other media outlets – The Guardian, Facebook, Twitter, writers’ blogs – have hosted compassionate and informed discussions about the nature of depression. This is a conversation that we need to…

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1. Rebelling against the old Arab adage, the Palestinian novelist Emile Habiby ‘believed that it was possible, and even useful, to “carry two watermelons under one arm” – that is, to take up both literature and politics’. The risk, of course, being that you will drop and smash both. Everyone who knows me knows I care about Palestine. And Ukraine. And Syria. And feminism, and diversity in media and publishing, and climate change and the godawful iSore tourist tower planned for Brighton seafront . . . But this year I realised that I could not do two full-time jobs – write an SF novel a year and be a 100% committed activist – and two part-time jobs – teach and read Tarot cards – and stay sane, let alone keep even one of my passions tucked snug in my armpit. I decided to prioritise my writing and, while always allowing…

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  #thegreatarmstradedebate: 1914: the Western world is descending into the bloodiest war it has ever witnessed. Amid the waste of life, the waste of money and the wastelands of Europe, arms manufacturers thrived. What did people do to stop it? What means of protest did they have? And what are people doing now, 100 years later, to stop the arms trade? Join us with your ideas at a public, multimedia event. May 17, Brighton. Stalls, posters, artwork, leaflets, films, music, café… Chair: Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty Speakers and performers include: Davy Jones (Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Kemptown) Lindsey German (Stop the War Coalition) Hannah Hills (Campaign Against the Arms Trade) Naomi Foyle (Spoken word artist) Dr Idrees Ahmad (Pulsemedia.org)   I was recently invited to read a poem at the above event, organised by The Green Party, Stop the War and the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, in conjunction…

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          Given the current crisis in Ukraine, and my own lack of expertise in the country’s history and politics, it is humbling indeed to be included in English PEN’s Ukrainian Poetry Evening in Oxford this Thursday, featuring poet Ihor Pavlyuk and translator Steve Komarnyckyj reading from A Flight over the Black Sea, published this month by Waterloo Press. As well as an honour, it is also a responsibility that I don’t take lightly. I therefore wanted to take the opportunity to publically thank Steve Komarnyckyj and Susie Speight of Kalyna Language Press for extending the invitation, and English PEN for approving it. I would also like to express some of my own thoughts and feelings about the worsening situation in Ukraine – an analysis that is indebted to Steve’s dedicated Tweets and personal emails over the last weeks. But to begin by introducing Ihor’s work, to…

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            Jenny Diski‘s characteristically pithy LRB blog today on Thatcher’s funeral ends with a quote from Peter Hennessy: ‘More of Margaret Thatcher… will cling to the velcro of our collective memory than any other politician of recent times.’  Velcro’s far too suburban for Brighton, of course, where we prefer to camply flick about grotty balls of the Blu Tack of History.  Viz this less-than-funereal display in a shop window in Kemptown today. The hat nicely capped the broken fire hydrant of my outrage: kudos to the window dresser.  And before I went off on one about the T-shirt, I did have to stop and think about Che Guevara, who has been accused of presiding over the execution of allegedly 1200 collaborators after the Cuban Revolution – beginning with his own coldly documented murder of a colleague – and enabling Castro’s imprisonment and maltreatment of homosexuals…

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