On 12 January, the Hebden Bridge writer, whose fourth collection of poems Towards a General Theory of Love was published last year by Bloodaxe Books, is organising an online show to raise money for Artists in Exile.
This small voluntary organisation seeks to place Ukrainian artists with UK hosts. Also on the bill of poetry notables are George Szirtes, Roy McFarlane, Samar Shazad, Dr Golnoosh Noor, Horatio Clare and Sasha Dovzhyk. I spoke with Clare about the event, the work of Artists in Exile, and what led them to get involved.
What difference can poetry make?
“I’m an artist, not a nurse or politician or a solider or a builder. All I have is art – in my case, it’s the art of poetry. I have a lot of faith that words can change the world. But sometimes you need to do more than write. Me and my teenager had already decided that we wanted to open our home to someone fleeing the war Ukraine.
“I was also aware that ours is not the typical household – it wouldn’t be for everyone. When Boff Whalley [Chumbawumba] posted a link to Artists in Exile, we got in touch. We were matched with a young artist from an industrial city in the east of Ukraine, and she’s been with us now for several months.”
What does Artists in Exile do?
“Few expected the war to last this long. People in Ukraine are not just experiencing the terror of bombs – they are cold and hungry. Being in the UK might mean safety and warmth, but it also means leaving everything behind. As a tiny organisation of unpaid volunteers, Artists in Exile has helped Ukrainian artists to travel to the UK, to settle in safe accommodation, and support, with the chance to form new networks, communities and careers.”
What does the event hope to achieve?
“Eventually, the organisation wants to extend its work to artists in exile from other countries, other conflicts. But for now, they are working flat out, with no funding. I organised this fundraiser because I believe that people want to help each other. Not everyone has a spare room to offer, but we can help with donations, with our time and our kindness and words. Each of the authors reading on 12th is offering their time and support for free.
“Tickets are pay-what-you-can and every penny goes to Artists in Exile. Some of the readers speak directly from the experience of exile – from Ukraine, Hungary, Iran. All speak from a deep faith in community and the power of words.”
The event works on a pay-what-you-feel basis and tickets can be accessed via Eventbrite.