The Wandering Bard team is formed by three intrepid writers who met by chance one grey December morning in Manchester (UK). 2016 had been a tough year: the climate, the refugee crisis, politics – everything was going nuts. So these three writers (born in three different countries) engaged in an intense conversation about BIG THINGS such as art, community and the world. The chat continued over emails and phone calls and, in 2017, anxiety and frustration turned into idea after idea for a project that would steer against those trends of erecting borders and shutting each other out, a project that would begin to build bridges instead. And so the Wandering Bard was born.
Inés G. Labarta ¦ Director, Chief-Editor and Podcast Interviewer
I became an immigrant by chance, but I have been a wanderluster ever since I can remember. The first time living abroad – in Ireland, 2010 – got me in. I loved the different skyes, landscapes, people, languages. And guess what: I also discovered that my changing environment fueled my creativity. I need to move (by foot, train, plane) to write and create new stories. In 2016, Brexit (and the US politics, the Spanish politics, climate change and the refugee crisis) turned my world upside down. For the first time, I realised that all the freedoms I had been born with (to move around many European countries, to own my body as a woman, to be bisexual, to be an immigrant) were threatened. I’m not going to lie: 2016 and 2017 felt like a long, painful hangover. Yet, no matter how many times the media screams that ‘citizens of nowhere’ are dangerous, I’ve never been more proud of being an immigrant. It’s part of my identity now. In the past, I’d always been ashamed of mixing my art with politics. I considered the first one too sacred, the second one too dirty and deceitful. Now I realise that art is the way I can make sense of this despair and reach out to others. It’s how I connect with my community and the planet. It’s also the way I have to express who I am: a hybrid, multilingual, queer, messy human. I don’t believe in nationalism because, as empowering as it can be, it also has a very oppresive side that I’ve experienced first hand – first as a Madrid-born child with a pro-Catalan-Independence family on my father’s side, and second as an immigrant in the United Kingdom and Ireland. So yes, I am a citizen of nowhere because I feel at home in the Highlands, in Miyayima, in the Guadarrama mountains, in Edinburgh and Clonmacnoise. I didn’t choose to be born in Spain – but I do choose to consider this planet my home and to connect with others no matter where they come from.
Inés G. Labarta is a writer, artist and illustrator. She has published a collection of three novels – Los Pentasónicos (Edebé, 2008-2010) – and two novellas – McTavish Manor (Holland House, 2016) and Kabuki (Dairea, 2017). She’s the author of many award-winning short stories and her illustrations have been featured on websites and merchandise. She blogs regularly at Worderlust. Inés is also a Creative Writing assistant lecturer at Lancaster University – where she’s currently finishing her PhD – and at the University of Central Lancashire. She’s been writer-in-residence at the Northwest Literary Salon and Lancaster Arts and a guest podcaster at Lancaster Litfest. Inés’ passions include hiking, creating obscure languages and apples.
Rosemary Kay ¦ Project Manager
I am a passionate believer in the use of stories to bring people together, to help us understand other cultures and experiences which enrich us, and allow people from other worlds to have a voice. I am a Europhile, and want to see a strong Europe, with a United Kingdom as part of a strong continent. Not only because the free movement of people, ideas and trade has benefitted us all for decades, but also because a strong Europe, in which we all collaborate, is the main reason we have enjoyed peace in this part of the world for the last sixty odd years. Europe did, after all, win the Nobel Peace Prize, in recognition of the way peace has been maintained thanks to the joint intention of nations working together, embracing difference in culture and language, but always resolving and compromising to achieve goals which are greater than can be achieved alone. And I’ve got friends all over Europe, a brother who lives in Italy, and children who need to visit the NHS on a regular basis, where we need all those European doctors and nurses to keep us alive and healthy. So I did NOT vote for Brexit, and would like to see it kicked into the Shocking-Moments-of-Political-Madness-Bushes as soon as possible. I also feel very strongly about the way we have treated refugees recently in this country. Immigrants have benefitted our nation for centuries, so there is a selfish reason to welcome people who have been forcibly displaced. But there is also a moral reason. I have no power in government, but the least we can do is give victims of war, who have come to us for help, a voice, and listen to their stories. The Wandering Bard will hopefully be part of that endeavour.
Rosemary Kay is an international screenwriter and biofiction writer, whose awards include BAFTAs, a Prix Europa, the BBC2 Dennis Potter Award, Royal Television Awards, the Jury Prize for Best Debut (Toronto Film Festival), the Audience Best Film Award (Telluride Film Festival), and Canada’s Banff International TV Award. She has worked with leading TV and Film companies, including Colombia, Sony, ITV, Granada, and BBC Film. Current screenwriting commissions include Holes in the Wall, a 90-minute original drama for the BBC; Wilderness, an original multi-episode family noir with Hattrick/Mercurio Productions/Finnish Broadcaster Yle; and the Netflix Original Innocents (Series 2) for New Pictures.
Rosemary’s hybrid fiction/non-fiction book, Between Two Eternities was published by Headline in 2000. Saul, the American version, published by Random House in Canada and St Martin’s Press in America in 2000, has been translated into several languages. She is writing her second novel about the real woman who inspired Dickens to create the iconic character Miss Havisham. Having received the President’s Doctoral Scholarship, she is a research scholar at Manchester University studying the spaces between fiction and non-fiction, the ways real people and historical events are fictionalised to explore contemporary issues and preoccupations, and the role of innovative storytelling in hybridized narratives.
Rosemary has just set up a company with Pete Woodbridge, Immersive Storylab, to explore the use of AR/VR in site-specific immersive film/drama projects. She is making a prototype interactive narrative experience app using videometric live-action film with funding from CreativeXR/Digital Catapult/Arts Council.
Sophie Schünemann ¦ Copy Editor, Podcast-Editor, Designer
I originally came to England to do one year of Study-Abroad at Keele University (which lets you do awesomely random combinations of subjects). That was in 2005. I loved it here, so I added one more year to my Study-Abroad period. And another one. And another one … And here I am, still, in 2018. I have put down roots here, but I go home to Germany quite often and I love that, as a European Citizen, I can do so simply with my German ID card, which is credit-card-sized and always in my wallet anyway. No need for a passport. Not until, now, anyway. Because if things keep going as they are, that kind of movement is going to become more difficult, not to mention more costly. Such hampering of our movements bothers me for many reasons, the most simple of which is that I want, I need, that freedom of movement to see my family and friends in other parts of Europe, to travel, to do my research, to write. For instance: as part of the PhD I am currently undertaking I am working on a project (and a novel) that focuses on the life and fairy tales of the German female children’s author Sophie von Baudissin (1817-1894). As such, my current research and writing form just one example of how my work is influenced by my existence as a wandering bard – a writer always writing in a country not her own, but carrying with her the ideas, values, memories and, importantly, stories from her home country. This tension, between a longing for elsewhere and then again for home, inform much of my work, as does the need to carry pieces of my old home and language into my new, chosen, home. So I hope that one of the things the Wandering Bard will do is open up a space for writing that comes out of wandering and uprootal – the deliberate kind and, perhaps even more importantly, the forced uprootal that is, once again, much too present. I hope it will open up a space for writing that laments, explores and celebrates uprootal in all its forms, a space for the stories we carry with us from elsewhere, and the stories each new “here” triggers within us.
Sophie Schünemann is a writer and teacher. Her poetry has been published i.a. in The Rialto, has won the Daniil Pashkoff Prize and has been shortlisted for the Aesthetica Competion and the Roy Fisher Prize. She is a sessional tutor of Creative Writing at Keele University, where she is also currently completing a PhD in the same subject and acting as the online publicist for the Keele Hall Readings. Her (admittedly harmless) obessions include knitting, wings and tacos.
This project is partially funded and supported by the Northwest Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership and the English and Creative Writing Department at Lancaster University. The header image and the profile pictures of the authors have been created by photographer Marja Lingsma.