Contributors, Hosts, Musicians


Ali Smith was born in Inverness in 1962 and lives in Cambridge. She is the author of Artful, There but for the, Freelove, Like, Hotel World, Other Stories and Other Stories, The Whole Story and Other Stories, The Accidental, Girl meets Boy and The First Person and Other Stories. Hotel World was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the Orange Prize and The Accidental was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Orange Prize.

Ali_SMITH (credit Sarah Wood)

Ali Smith (credit Sarah Wood)

How To Be Both won the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, the Costa Novel of the Year and and the Goldsmiths Prize, and was shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize and the Folio Prize.


David Herd is a poet, critic, teacher and activist.

david herd

David Herd

He has given readings and lectures in Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, the USA and the UK, and his poems, essays and reviews have been widely published in magazines, journals and newspapers. His collections of poetry include All Just (Carcanet, 2012) and Outwith (Bookthug, 2012), and his recent writings on the politics of human movement have appeared in the Times Literary Supplement Los Angeles Review of Books, Parallax and Almost Island. He is Professor of Modern Literature at the University of Kent and a co-organiser of Refugee Tales.

Jeremy Irons has an astonishing list of notable theatre, film and television credits. He has appeared in many West End theatre productions including The Winter’s Tale, Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing, The Taming of the Shrew, Godspell, Richard II and Embers. In 1984, he made his Broadway debut in Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing and received a Tony Award for Best Actor.
He is one of the few actors who have won an Academy Award for film, an Emmy Award for television and a Tony Award for theatre.

Jeremy Irons

Jeremy Irons

Well known to British and American television audiences his appearances range from Brideshead Revisited in 1981 to the Borgias in 2011.
In 2008, two researchers, a linguist and a sound engineer, found “the perfect [male] voice” to be a combination of Irons’ and Alan Rickman’s voices based on a sample of 50 voices.

Anna Carteret is best known for her role as police inspector Kate Longton in the BBC’s long-running 1980s television series Juliet Bravo.

Anna Carteret (credit John Thaxter)

Her other television credits include: The Saint, The Pallisers, The Glittering Prizes, Send in the Girls; Peak Practice, Holby City and Casualty. Her films include Dateline Diamonds, The Plank, Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont and Private Peaceful.

Anna has also voiced every female character in the British children’s TV series Forget Me Not Farm and Miriam in the British/Welsh Christian animated TV series Testament: The Bible in Animation.


Jonathan Cullen is an actor, teacher and director. After taking a degree in French & Philosophy at New College, Oxford he studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Since graduating with a professional acting diploma in 1985, his theatrical career has included work with the National Theatre, the Royal Court, the Young Vic, the Old Vic, Shakespeare’s Globe, Chichester Festival Theatre and in the West End.

He has recently played a Frenchman in The Merry Wives of Windsor for the RSC – hence the moustache. Since 1998, he has been passing on his passionate love of Shakespeare and Acting, working as a visiting teacher at some of London’s major drama schools & university theatre programmes. His directing credits include work at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, the Guildhall School of Drama, Rose Bruford College, the British American Drama Academy, the Globe Theatre Education Department, and at Chichester Festival Theatre. He has also worked extensively on screen, television and radio.
Listen to Jonathan reading The Visitor’s Tale on the 28for28 website.

Nima Taleghani was born and brought up in North London, studied English Literature at Warwick University and then went on to study for an MA in English at UCL.

Nima Taleghani (credit Sam Irons)

Very recently he has been in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s 2018/19 season in both Romeo and Juliet and The Merry Wives of Windsor. His other theatre credits include, Laika (Unicorn Theatre), Blasted (Styx), The Plough and the Stars (Abbey Theatre’s Ireland & U.S tour), The White Whale (Slung Low) and his television, film and radio credits include, Hatton Garden, Dublin Old School, 90 Minutes , Casualty and Love is Not New in This Country.
Listen to Nima reading The Smuggled Person’s Tale on the 28for28 website.

Raymond Antrobus was born in London, Hackney, he is the author of ‘Shapes & Disfigurements’, ‘To Sweeten Bitter’ and ‘The Perseverance‘. In 2019 he became the first ever poet to be awarded the Rathbone Folio Prize for best work of literature in any genre.

Raymond Antrobus

Other accolades include the Ted Hughes award, PBS Winter Choice, A Sunday Times Young Writer of the year award & The Guardian Poetry Book Of The Year 2018, as well as a shortlist for the Griffin Prize and Forward Prize. In 2018 he was awarded ‘The Geoffrey Dearmer Prize’, (Judged by Ocean Vuong), for his poem ‘Sound Machine’. Also in 2019, his poem ‘Jamaican British’ was added to the GCSE syllabus.
He is the recipient of fellowships from Cave Canem, Complete Works 3 and Jerwood Compton. He is also one of the world’s first recipients of an MA in Spoken Word education from Goldsmiths University.
Raymond is a founding member of ‘Chill Pill’ and ‘Keats House Poets Forum’ and is an Ambassador for ‘The Poetry School’.
His poems have been published in POETRY, Poetry Review, News Statesman, The Deaf Poets Society, as well as in anthologies from Bloodaxe, Peepal Tree Press and Nine Arches.
Raymond has read and performed his poetry at festivals (Glastonbury, Latitude, BOCAS etc) to universities (Oxford, Goldsmiths, Warick etc). He has won numerous Slams (Farrago International Slam Champion 2010, The Canterbury Slam 2013 and was joint winner at the Open Calabash Slam in 2016).
His poetry has appeared on BBC 2, BBC Radio 4, The Big Issue, The Jamaica Gleaner, The Guardian and at TedxEastEnd.
Raymond also writes for young readers. His debut children’s picture book ‘Can Bears Ski?’ is illustrated by Polly Dunbar and is set to be published in the UK by Walker Books and in the US/Canada by Candle Wick Press.
There is much more here:

Haymanot Tesfa, was born in Ethiopia, where she did her diploma in painting at The School of Fine Arts. She had two solo shows and partook in many group exhibitions at different stages in Ethiopia before 2003.

Haymanot Tesfa

Haymanot Tesfa

Haymanot uses mixed techniques and does still-life, portraiture and illustrative work.
As well as an artist, Haymanot is a singer, a writer and photographer. She says,” I’m living on our beautiful earth to admire words, melody, colours and nature, which gives me inspiration to be creative”.

Aida Edemariam’s first book, The Wife’s Tale, was a finalist for a Governor General’s Literary Award and won both a Royal Society of Literature Jerwood Award and the 2019 Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize. She is also a senior feature writer and editor at the Guardian.

Aida Edemariam (credit David Levine)

The award-winning journalist and broadcaster Manveen Rana has recently been hired as the main host of The Times and The Sunday Times new weekday podcast, The Stories of Our Times.

Manveen was previously at the BBC where she was an investigative reporter for Radio 4’s Today programme and BBC News, including Panorama and the News at Ten. Her most notable work included breaking the story of sexual harassment at the top tier of Save the Children, an investigation into controversial PR firm Bell Pottinger, and A New Life in Europe: a podcast and series of documentaries that followed a Syrain family, day and night, as they travelled across Europe during the migrant crisis.

Rihab Azar was born in the Syrian city, Homs to a musical family. Her father, luthier Samir Azar made her first oud and started teaching her when she was 7 years old. She continued her musical quest later at the Conservatoire of Damascus.

Rihab Azar

In 2014, She became the first woman oudist to perform accompanied by the Syrian National Orchestra for Arabic Music. In 2015, Rihab was awarded a Chevening scholarship to study Music Education at masters level at UCL. In 2016, she was recognised by Arts Council England as a musician of exceptional promise which allowed her to continue her work in the UK as a “Migrant Talent”. She has since been involved in numerous projects varying between solo performances, orchestras, music education and composition.

A longer biography is on her website here.

Described by the American Record Guide as a player whose ‘fine tone and technique’ are coupled with ‘feeling and power’, Ibrahim Aziz specializes in the performance of baroque, renaissance and contemporary music for the viola da gamba.

Ibrahim Aziz (credit Andrew Mason)

Recent reviews of his début album, Risonanze, have included remarks such as ‘a musician with a distinctive voice’ and a ‘recording to be reckoned with’. Ibrahim has performed in many prestigious venues and festivals around the world, working and collaborating with other musicians, artists and groups. He is featured in over a dozen commercial CDs on the BIS, Delphian, Signum and Resonus Classics labels with several ensembles such as The Rose Consort of Viols and Chelys.

SOAR is the second album from Welsh harpist Catrin Finch and Senegalese kora player Seckou Keita and continues their celebration of the remarkable affinities between the Welsh harp and the West African kora. Impossible to pigeon-hole, their sublime music blurs the boundaries between world music, classical, folk and traditional genres, leaping over cultural barriers and roaming in border-less musical territory.

Catrin & Seckou (credit Elizabeth Jackson)

Catrin and Seckou were first introduced in March 2012 when a series of initially unfortunate circumstances unwittingly led to a most serendipitous meeting of musical talents, and a long-standing friendship and mutual respect was born. It was the first time Catrin, a classically trained harpist, had ever seen or heard a kora. Seckou, a kora master and Senegalese griot with Royal blood, didn’t read music.
There is much more on their musical partnership here.

Emily Barker is an Australian singer-songwriter, musician and composer. Emily is perhaps best known as the writer and performer of the award-winning theme to BBC crime drama Wallander starring Kenneth Branagh.

Emily Barker

She has released music as a solo artist as well as with various bands including The Red Clay Halo, Vena Portae and Applewood Road (with whom she released a remarkable album of original songs recorded live around a single microphone, which was dubbed “flawless” by The Sunday Times) and has written for film, including composing her first feature film soundtrack (for Jake Gavin’s lauded debut feature Hector starring Peter Mullan and Keith Allen).  He home page is here.

Born in Wales into a family with strong musical roots, Ian Shaw is a Welsh jazz singer, record producer, stand up comedian and radio presenter. After a music degree at the University of London, he began his career in performance on the Alternative Cabaret Circuit, alongside such performers as Julian Clary, Rory Bremner, and Jo Brand while also playing in piano bars and at festivals in London and throughout Europe.

Ian Shaw (credit Tim Francis)

In 1990 he toured Europe and recorded with fellow singer Carol Grimes. By the mid-1990s, he was regularly performing at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club and in 1995 released two albums: Ghosthouse and Taking It to Hart. In 1996, Shaw led his own ‘Very Big Band’ on a UK tour, and by the late 1990s he was performing regularly in the U.S.  In 1999, he released In a New York Minute, in 2001 Soho Stories and in 2003 A World Still Turning.

Shaw has continued to work regularly with singer Claire Martin, co-hosting the 2004 BBC Jazz Awards and appearing with her on the BBC Radio 2 show Big Band Special. He won in the Best Jazz Vocalist category at the BBC Jazz Awards in 2004 and 2007. A 2006 album on Linn Records saw him paying tribute to songwriter Joni Mitchell, Drawn to All Things was followed in 2008 by an autobiographical album, LifejacketSomewhere Towards Love from 2009 was an intimate album of voice and piano. In 2011, The Abbey Road Sessions, Shaw was again joined by a band, this time including bass player, Peter Ind. Shaw has continued to perform regularly at festivals and jazz clubs in the UK,  and his international appearances have included Canada, U.S., Dubai, Belarus, France, Italy, and Germany.

Shaw, the actor, performed in Jerry Springer: The Opera as the warm-up man/devil, which was created for him by Richard Thomas. In 2005, he appeared as Percy in the film Pierrepoint.

His most recent album is The Theory of Joy and his website is here.

Gerard McChrystal comes from Derry, N.Ireland and studied at the RNCM, Manchester, The Guildhall School, London and with Frederick Hemke, Northwestern University, Chicago.
Gerard has performed in 35 countries including USA, South Africa, Indonesia, China, Azerbaijan, Korea and Germany.


Gerard McChrystal

He has developed a repertoire of accessible new works, often with a celtic influence some of which have been published in his saxophone series by Reed Music, Australia and Camden Music, London.
His new programme Stand Up has won two awards from the Arts Council. Gerard is Professor of Saxophone at Trinity Laban, London. He is an ambassador for Derry-Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013. His album Aria was released by First Hand Records in October 2011. His website is here.

Angie Hobbs is Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield.

Angie Hobbs

Angie Hobbs

Angie Hobbs gained a First Class Honours Degree in Classics and a PhD in Ancient Philosophy at New Hall (now Murray Edwards College), University of Cambridge.  After a Research Fellowship at Christ’s College, Cambridge, she moved to the Philosophy Department at the University of Warwick; in 2012 she was appointed Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield, a position created for her.  Her chief interests are in ancient philosophy and literature, ethics (both theoretical and applied) and political theory, and she has published widely in these areas, including Plato and the Hero (Cambridge University Press).  She contributes regularly to radio and TV programmes (including 20 appearances on In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg), newspaper articles and philosophy websites; she lectures and gives talks around the world.  She also engages in a variety of public and political work in the U.K and abroad: in January 2016 she took part in three panel discussions at the World Economic Forum in Davos, and in recent years she has also spoken in Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, and the United States Air Force Training Academy (USAFA) in Colorado.  In September 2013 she was Michael Berkeley’s guest on Radio 3’s Private Passions, and in February 2015 was Kirsty Young’s guest on Desert Island Discs; in May 2016 she was Jonathan Agnew’s guest on View From the Boundary on Test Match Special.  She is currently producing a new translation of and commentary on Plato’s Symposium, a dialogue exploring the definition, aims, objects and origins of erotic love.

Angie is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Chair of the Institute of Art and Ideas Trust, an Honorary Patron of The Philosophy Foundation and Patron of the Philosophy in Education Project.

Outside academia, Angie has many interests: walking, travelling, music, the theatre and cinema and many sports, especially cricket!

Stephen Collis’s many books of poetry include The Commons (Talon Books 2008; 2014), On the Material (Talon Books 2010—awarded the BC Book Prize for Poetry), DECOMP (with Jordan Scott—Coach House 2013), and Once in Blockadia (Talon Books 2016—nominated for the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature). He has also written two books of literary criticism, a book of essays on the Occupy Movement, and a novel. Almost Islands is a forthcoming memoir, and a long poem, Sketch of a Poem I Will Not Have Written, is in progress.

Stephen Collis

Stephen Collis

He lives near Vancouver, on unceded Coast Salish Territory, and teaches poetry and poetics at Simon Fraser University.

Jonathan Wittenberg was born in Glasgow in 1957, to a family of German Jewish origin with rabbinic ancestors on both sides.
The family moved to London in 1963, where he attended University College School, specialising in classical and modern languages. He further developed his love of literature when reading English at King’s College Cambridge (1976-9). After two years teaching and social work in Israel and England he took a PGCE at Goldsmith’s College, London.

Jonathan Wittenberg

Already deeply involved in Jewish life, he trained for the rabbinate at Leo Baeck College London, receiving ordination in 1987, and continued his studies to gain a further rabbinic qualification from his teacher Dr. Aryeh Strikovsky in Israel.

Since then he has worked as rabbi of the New North London Synagogue and has taken a leading role in the development of the Masorti Movement for traditional non-fundamentalist Judaism in England. In 2008 he was appointed Senior Rabbi of Masorti Judaism in the UK.

Nadia Valman is Reader in English Literature at Queen Mary, University of London where she teaches nineteenth and twentieth-century literature, researches the history and culture of the East End of London and leads walking tours.

Nadia Valman

Will Pettigrew
Educated at Oxford and Yale, Will joined the School of History at Kent in September 2009. Before that he was Junior Research Fellow at Corpus Christi College, Oxford.


Will Pettigrew

He has written on the history of the transatlantic slave trade and on the history of trading companies. His 2013 monograph history of the Royal African Company, Freedom’s Debt won the Jamestown Prize. He is the lead investigator on a five-year Leverhulme Trust project that focusses on trading corporations as constitutional bridges between cultures. He is Director of the Centre for the Political Economies of International Commerce, which he founded at Kent in 2013.

Iain Sinclair is a British writer, documentarist, film maker, poet, flaneur, metropolitan prophet and urban shaman, keeper of lost cultures and futurologist.

Iain Sinclair (credit Belinda Lawley)

Iain Sinclair (credit Belinda Lawley)

His biography, can be found on Wikipedia, or on this profile on the Guardian.

Billy Bragg is a musician and political activist best known for his folk rock music and making several hit albums in Britain. His long career is difficult to summarise so go here or here to find out more.


Billy Bragg (credit Peter Dunwell)

Lukas Drinkwater is one of the most in-demand session musicians in the UK as principally a double-bass and electric-bass player, he has also featured on many highly acclaimed records as a singer, guitarist, mandolinist, cellist and drummer.

Lukas Drinkwater

Lukas has had his compositions played on radio stations around the world, including BBC Radio 2, as well as performing at some of the biggest festivals throughout Europe, featuring as a guest artist on stage with The Levellers on European tour, playing in Seth Lakeman’s band at Glastonbury Festival, guesting with Frank Turner at London’s Roundhouse, touring Australia, the UK and Europe, and playing in the US with Emily Barker, as well as folk club, venue and festival appearances as a solo artist around Europe.
Lukas is currently on tour with acclaimed acoustic duo ‘Jacob & Drinkwater’ and with UK Americana Artist of the Year ‘Emily Barker. He has performed live on BBC Radio 2 multiple times, and on national radio and TV shows worldwide. His home page is here.

Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar joined forces in 2011. Combining Russell’s powerful vocals and driving guitar style with Algar’s All-Ireland winning fiddle playing, the duo have become one of the most sought after acts on the British folk scene.

In 2013 the pair won the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award before going on to win the Horizon Award for best breakthrough act from the same source in 2014. In 2015, they were nominated in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award Best Duo category.
Having toured extensively in the UK for five years, as well as in Denmark, Germany and The Netherlands, Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar have released 3 studio albums.

Sheila Hancock is one of Britain’s most highly regarded and popular actors, and received an OBE for services to drama in 1974 and a CBE in 2011. Since the 1950s she has enjoyed a career across Film, Television, Theatre and Radio. Her first big television role was in the BBC sitcom The Rag Trade in the early 1960s. She has directed and acted for the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre.

Shiela Hancock

Following the death of her husband, John Thaw, she wrote a memoir of their marriage, The Two of Us, which was a no. 1 bestseller and won the British Book Award for Author of the Year. Her memoir of her widowhood, Just Me, also a bestseller, was published in 2007. She lives in London and France.

Oliver Double is now a lecturer, first at Liverpool John Moores University and now he is head of Drama at the University of Kent.



Ollie Double

He was a professional stand-up comic on the national comedy circuit, a member of Red Grape Cabaret and used to run the Last Laugh, Sheffield’s longest running comedy club. He says “ I only gave up professional stand-up when I became a dad and needed a more reliable income, and got fed up of the heartburn that inevitably followed eating service station cheese and onion pasties at 2am on the way back from a gig.”

He has returned to stand-up and has appeared in UK and the USA. You might have seen or heard him on such programmes as Fry’s English Delight (Radio 4), Little Howard’s Big Question (BBC1) and 100 Greatest Stand-Ups (C4).

Sorcha Cusack was born into an acting family in Co Dublin, Ireland in 1949. After reading English and French at Trinity College and doing a fair amount of playacting on the side, she started her professional career with Michael MacLiammoir’s company at the Gate Theatre, playing Juliet. She moved to London in 1978 to play Jane Eyre in a 5-part serial for the BBC.

Sorcha Cusack

In a career spanning half a century she has worked extensively in theatre, television, film and radio. Highlights have included The Three Sisters at the Royal Court with sisters, Sinead and Niamh as well as her father, Cyril; Frank McGuinness’ Baglady which won a Fringe first at the Edinburgh Festival and playing mother to Brad Pitt on film in Snatch and to Chewitel Ejiofor on stage in Peer Gynt at the Royal National Theatre.
She has recently filmed the sixth BBC series of Father Brown, based on GK Chesterton’s short stories.

Anita Sethi is an award-winning writer, journalist and broadcaster who has written for many national newspapers and has appeared as a guest panellist and commentator on BBC Radio, BBC World Service, and ABC Australia.

Anita Sethi

Anita was born in Manchester and has worked as a columnist, critic and feature writer across the national press, writing humour columns, investigative features, and reviewing artists ranging from Toni Morrison to Take That. She has written dispatches from around the world and was awarded a Travelling Fellowship and her travel writing can be found here.
She has been published in anthologies including From There to Here, Solstice Shorts, Roads Ahead, and The Book Club Bible and is currently completing a book. She has appeared at many literary festivals including the Latitude Festival, Southbank Centre, Edinburgh International Book Festival, Manchester Literature Festival, Cambridge Wordfest and Hay Festivals. She has been an International Writer-in-Residence and Ambassador for Journalism at the Emerging Writers’ Festival in Melbourne, Australia.

Tim Robertson is the Chief Executive of The Anne Frank Trust UK, which uses Anne Frank’s life and writing as the basis for education against all forms of prejudice, working in schools, prisons and communities across Britain.

Tim Robertson

Tim’s former roles have included Chief Executive of The Koestler Trust, the national charity for arts by offenders and immigration detainees, and Director of the Royal Society of Literature. He is an Elder in the Quaker Meeting at Friends House, Euston, and Chair of Governors of Regent High, a secondary school in a disadvantaged community in Camden. Tim and his husband Neil have to date walked 165 of the 214 Wainwright summits of the Lake District.

Sameena Zehra describes herself as an homicidal pacifist, comedian, storyteller, blues singer and extreme doodler. For 15 years Sameena was an actor with appearances with the National Theatre, Lyric Hammersmith, and the RSC in London and New York but wanting something “that gave me creative control, something that allowed me to express the idiosyncracies of my particular psychopathy in a socially acceptable way,” she decided to do stand up.

Sameena Zehra (credit Giada Garafalo)

Sameena Zehra (credit Giada Garafalo)

Since that decision in 2010 she appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2011 and since then has become “a sort of itinerant fringe-nomad” and been back to Edinburgh, and to fringes in Brighton, Camden, Dublin and Adelaide and done gigs in London, Brighton, Leicester, Manchester, Leeds, and more.

Sarah James is an academic at the University of Kent. She says that her research interests are centred around theological writing in the later Middle Ages, asking questions about the ways in which medieval writers engaged with the religious debates of the day, and how ordinary people, for the most part with very limited access to written texts, experienced religion. The visual culture of the Middle Ages, exemplified in illuminated manuscripts and church architecture and decoration, is an important influence on her thinking, as indeed it was for medieval writers themselves.


Sarah James

A historicist and close reader by instinct and training, she finds herself increasingly interested in exploring how far methodologies from other disciplines might illuminate her work. She is currently writing a book which draws upon sociological and anthropological theories of identity and boundaries to explore the ways in which people imagined religious identity in fifteenth-century East Anglia.
Sarah gave an eloquent introduction to Chaucer, his writing and his time on the first night of the Tales in Shepherdwell.

Shobu Kapoor describes herself as “Pint-sized quintessential Actress, Poet, Wild mum & Producer”
Shobu has worked as an actress in the UK for over 25 years. Some of her notable television characters are Gita in Eastenders (1992-98) and Mrs Khan in Citizen Khan (2012-Present). Her film work includes Bend It Like Beckam, Acts of Godfrey and Mischief Night.


Shobu Kapoor (credit Robin Savage)

Marina Warner is a writer of fiction and cultural history. Her books include Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary (1976), and From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and their Tellers (1994). The same year she gave the BBC Reith Lectures on the theme of Six Myths of Our Time. More recently she has published Stranger Magic: Charmed States and The Arabian Nights (2011) and Once upon a Time: a Short History of Fairytale. Her last novel, The Leto Bundle is about a refugee through time; her third collection of short stories, Fly Away Home came out last year. She is Professor of English and Creative Writing at Birkbeck College.

Marina Warner

Marina Warner

She is currently working on the theme of Sanctuary and a novel about her childhood in Egypt. She was awarded the Holberg Prize in the Arts and Humanities in 2015.

Sarah Turnbull is a postdoctoral research fellow with the Centre for Criminology at the University of Oxford. Her current research examines immigration detention and deportation in the United Kingdom, with specific focus on the experiences of confinement and removal in relation to affective issues of home, belonging, and identity in so-called postcolonial, multicultural Britain.


Sarah Turnbull

Sarah is an associate director and co-editor of Border Criminologies, an international research network focused broadly on border control.

Omran Belhadi studied Law at the University of Warwick and joined Reprieve in September 2013 as a part-time caseworker, At Reprieve, Omran assists with projects on targeted killings in Yemen and Pakistan, Guantanamo Bay and litigation in UK courts on behalf of victims of counter-terror abuses.

Omran Belhadi

Omran Belhadi

Prior to joining Reprieve, Omran volunteered for a year with sister organisation Justice Project Pakistan (JPP). His work focused almost exclusively on Pakistani citizens held by the U.S. military in Afghanistan. He authored a report on the matter, published in September 2013.
He continues to work part-time for JPP remotely and studies part-time for his Bar Professional training course. He speaks English, French, Urdu, Arabic, German and some Spanish.

Professor Cornelius Katona holds the degree of Doctor of Medicine from the University of Cambridge and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. He trained in general and old age psychiatry at Fulbourn Hospital, Cambridge and St George’s Hospital Medical School, London. Between 1998 and 2003 he served as Dean of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Cornelius Katona

Cornelius Katona

He is currently Hon Professor of Psychiatry of the Elderly at University College London and Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Kent. He works part-time as Medical Director of the Helen Bamber Foundation. Cornelius also works as an independent doctor, preparing expert psychiatric reports in the asylum and human rights context. His expertise is in old age psychiatry (including the assessment of capacity) and in mood disorders and he has extensive expert witness experience in assessing psychiatric consequences of medical negligence and in preparing reports on the mental health of asylum seekers and refugees.
Cornelius has published about 250 peer-reviewed papers and is first author of Psychiatry at a Glance, one of the standard undergraduate textbooks of psychiatry. He has recently led a Royal College of Psychiatrists working group which has developed guidance on the preparation of psychiatric reports in the immigration and asylum context.

Maurice Wren is the chief executive of the Refugee Council. He was Director of Asylum Aid and has previously held senior roles at Shelter and the Housing Associations Charitable Trust. Maurice led Asylum Aid’s advocacy work on improving access to legal representation for asylum seekers.

Maurice Wren

Maurice Wren

He has been a trustee of the Refugee Council, and was a co-founder of the Independent Asylum Commission, and of Detention Forum, a coalition of charities working on immigration detention since 2009. He is presently co-Chair of the National Asylum Stakeholder Forum at the Home Office, Chair of the Refugee Week Steering Group, and a Trustee of Migrant Voice; Every Casualty Worldwide; and the European Network on Statelessness.

Hugh Muir is Associate Editor, Opinion and a columnist at the Guardian. He also works as a freelance broadcaster and pundit on the BBC, LBC and Sky News. For seven years, he wrote the Diary column, also authoring the long running, pioneering series Hideously Diverse Britain on diversity in the UK.

Hugh Muir

A former BBC correspondent, he has also had prominent roles at the BBC, Daily Telegraph, Evening Standard and Mail on Sunday.

Patrick Kingsley is the Guardian’s first-ever migration correspondent, and was named foreign affairs journalist of the year at the British Journalism Awards. His book about the European refugee crisis, based on reportage from 17 countries along the migration trail, was published on 5 May 2016.

Patrick Kingsley

Patrick Kingsley

He is a former winner of the Frontline award for print journalism, and was previously the Guardian’s Egypt correspondent. Patrick, who read English at Cambridge University, has reported from 25 countries, including Denmark, where he wrote a travel book called How to be Danish.

Eiri Ohtani is European Regional Coordinator of the International Detention Coalition.

Eiri Othani

Eiri Othani

She has over 15 years of experience working with asylum seekers and migrants in the UK, including directorship of a specialist legal advice agency. Since 2009, she has managed the Detention Forum in the UK, co-ordinating its advocacy work. She also works as a consultant, mainly for migration NGOs and is currently Chair of Every Casualty Worldwide.
She has a degree from the London School of Economics and postgraduate degrees from the School of Oriental and African Studies and Birkbeck College, University of London, UK.

Jerome Phelps has been working with people in immigration detention since 2003. He has led Detention Action to take on a national role in challenging immigration detention. He has written or co-written Detention Action’s four influential reports. He has played a leading role in Detention Action’s national campaigns on indefinite detention and the Detained Fast Track asylum process.

Jerome Phelps

Jerome Phelps

He has also developed Detention Action’s innovative alternative to detention project for young ex-offenders at risk of long-term immigration detention. He is the Western Europe representative of the International Detention Coalition and sits on its Advisory Committee.

Lucy Williams a freelance researcher and Senior Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Kent and has been involved in community work and research with refugees and asylum seekers since 1998. Her current research focuses on migrants facing forced return to countries of origin.

Lucy Williams

Lucy Williams

Her previous work has involved ethnographic research on the social networks of asylum seekers and refugees and various studies on marriage migration.

Ben Okri has published 8 novels, including The Famished Road and Starbook, as well as collections of poetry, short stories and essays. His work has been translated into more than 20 languages. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and has been awarded the OBE as well as numerous international prizes, including the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Africa, the Aga Khan Prize for Fiction and the Chianti Rufino-Antico Fattore.

Ben Okri

Ben Okri

He is a Vice-President of the English Centre of International PEN and was presented with a Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum. He was born in Nigeria and lives in London.

Niamh Cusack was born in Ireland into an acting family of great repute: her father was the late Cyril Cusack and her mother was actress Maureen Keilty.
Initially, Niamh trained to be a flautist at the Royal College of Music and she worked as a freelance musician with the RTE National Symphony and Concert Orchestra before she followed her sisters Sinead and Sorcha into acting.

Niamh Cusack (credit Chris Orange)

Niamh became a household name in 1992 when she played Dr. Kate Rowan in the popular ITV drama Heartbeat opposite Nick Berry. However, after five series, Niamh decided to leave. She has appeared in numerous guest starring roles on television shows since leaving Heartbeat .
Early in her stage career, Niamh performed at the Gate Theatre, Dublin, and later at the Royal Exchange, Manchester. In 1985, She joined the Royal Shakespeare Company. After a couple of very successful seasons at the RSC, Niamh returned to The Gate stage in Dublin where she starred alongside numerous family members in a production of The Three Sisters. In 1993 she also played the leading role of Nora in a production of Ibsen’s The Doll’s House. Following a few years in television, in 1995 Niamh performed in a successful run of Tom Stoppard’s Indian Ink. Despite appearing relatively frequently on television, she continues to act on stage, most recently in the Royal National Theatre production: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, 2012 -2013 and at The Globe in The Winter’s Tale, 2016.

Shami Chakrabarti CBE is a highly prominent figure in the UK public sphere, leading campaigns on issues of human rights and civil liberties. She was born in London and studied Law at the London School of Economics. She was called to the Bar in 1994 and worked as a lawyer in the Home Office from 1996 until 2001 for Governments of both persuasions.
She was Director of Liberty (The National Council for Civil Liberties) from 2003 to March 2016

Shami Chakrabarti

Shami Chakrabarti

Shami first joined Liberty as In-House Counsel on 10 September 2001. She became heavily involved in its engagement with the ‘War on Terror’ and with the defence and promotion of human rights values in Parliament, the Courts and wider society. She is constantly recognisable from continuing high-profile campaigns, from anti-terror measures to privacy laws.
She is currently Chancellor of Oxford Brookes and Essex Universities, Honorary Professor of Law at the University of Manchester and a Master of the Bench of Middle Temple. She was an independent assessor on the 2011 Leveson Inquiry.
Her first book, On Liberty, was published by Allen Lane on October 2014.

Susannah Tresilian is a theatre director, founder of Ariadne, and a radio producer for The Guardian Books Podcast.  She founded Ariadne to find women whose work in theatre in conflict zones around the world is changing the society they live in. She has directed at theatres in the UK, Italy, Cyprus, Norway, France, Belarus and Croatia. As Associate Director of Nottingham European Arts and Theatre Festival 2011 and 2016 she works with artists from Kosovo, Serbia, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria.

Susannah Tresilian (credit Jack Ladenburg)

Susannah Tresilian (credit Jack Ladenburg)

She has worked for BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, World Service’s Arts Hour, has produced international arts documentaries for BBC Radio 4.

Sarah Wood works as an artist filmmaker and curator. Her film projects explore ideas of the archive using found footage.

Sarah Wood

Sarah Wood

Jonathan Freedland is an award-winning journalist, author and broadcaster. He writes for The Guardian and is a presenter of BBC Radio 4. He also writes for the Jewish Chronicle and is a regular contributor to a range of US publications. In 2008 he was awarded the David Watt Prize for Journalism.

Jonathan Freedland

Jonathan Freedland

He is the author of seven books. Bring Home the Revolution, was both acclaimed and controversial. It was later adapted into a TV series. In 2005, he published Jacob’s Gift a memoir. Since 2006 he has published five best-selling novels under the pseudonym Sam Bourne.
Before 1997, Jonathan served for four years as the Guardian’s Washington Correspondent and the US remains an area of specialist interest, along with the politics of Britain and the Middle East. He was educated at Wadham College, Oxford – where he studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE).

Axel Klein is a Social Anthropologist by training.  He got into the drugs field by accident some 20 years ago and has been grappling with some critical questions ever since.

Axel Klein

Axel Klein

His interests span across several dimensions – first the continuous fascination of people with mind-altering substances in their different shapes and guises and the cultures of consumption that arise; secondly, the efforts by governments to manage the risks inherent in the use of these substances and the control apparatus that has been built up over the past half century; thirdly, the dynamics of an underground market and the criminality that has emerged at local as well at international basis and the efforts to combat it.
Having worked on projects in over 30 countries he thinks that drug control is in crises and in urgent need of reform. He is currently lecturing at the University of Kent, is the editor of Drugs and Alcohol Today and has published inter alia Drugs and the World (2008), The Khat Nexus, Stimulating the Debate on Drugs (2007) and Caribbean Drugs: From Criminalisation to Harm Reduction (2004).

Deirdre Conlon is lecturer in critical human geography. Her work engages the tensions around migration and policies and practices designed to manage immigration.

Deirdre Conlon

Deirdre Conlon

This includes a focus on immigration detention, border enforcement, and local, everyday enforcement practices where carceral spaces proliferate; critical engagement with legal and governmental frameworks that gird citizenship and immigration; and examination of the everyday material and social consequences of ‘fortessing’ and ‘securitization’ as well as activism and advocacy aimed at contesting the inequalities and injustices that coincide with these policies and practices.

Maggie McCarthy was brought up in London and has worked extensively in Film, TV and Theatre. Film includes; Leap Year, Attack The Block and Hilary and Jackie. TV includes; ‘Dancing on the Edge’, ‘Prisoners Wives’ and ‘Call the Midwife’ for the BBC.

Maggie McCarthy

Maggie works regularly for the Royal National Theatre including ‘Major Barbara’, ‘Doctors Dilemma’ and ‘Children of The Sun’.

Professor Marie-Bénédicte Dembour leads the research of the Law subject group and research area at the University of Brighton. She brings to this role a vast and varied experience in conducting her own research but also in monitoring the research of others. She has been a visiting scholar and tutor at various European institutions, including the University of Oxford, the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.


Marie-Bénédicte Dembour

Marie-Bénédicte is a passionate advocate for migrant’s human rights. Her blog reflects her extensive research in this area and is of interest to anyone who wants to develop a deeper understanding of the different approaches to migrants’ human rights especially in Europe but also in Latin America.

Corinne Squire is Professor of Social Sciences and Codirector of the Centre for Narrative Research.

Her key areas of research interest are in narrative theory and methods, HIV and citizenship, and popular culture and subjectivity. Her publications include Living with HIV and ARVs: Three-Letter Lives (Palgrave 2013), Doing Narrative Research Edition 2 (edited with Molly Andrews and Maria Tamboukou, Sage, 2013) and What is Narrative Research? (co-authored with Mark Davis, Cigdem Esin, Molly Andrews, Barbara Harrison, Lars-Christer Hyden and Margareta Hyden, Bloomsbury, 2014).

Jonathan Bartley is joint Leader of the Green Party, which he joined shortly after encountering then Conservative Party leader David Cameron.

Jonathan Bartley (credit Chris Orange)

In the 2015 General Election, Jonathan was the Green candidate for Streatham. A dedicated local activist, he also played a pivotal role in getting the first green councillor elected in Streatham from a starting point of 4th place
A descendant of Irish farmers on one side and Quaker prison reformer Elizabeth Fry on the other, Jonathan has a passion for social justice and studied Social Policy at London School of Economics. He worked in Parliament on a cross-party basis from 1994-1998 and used that experience in his roles as vice chair of the Electoral Reform Society and vice chair of Yes to Fairer Votes campaign during the 2011 referendum. He has also served as chair of Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education and helped establish the Accord Coalition with British Humanist Association and teaching unions to reform faith schools.
He is a strong advocate of the need to limit immigration detention to 28 days and is a great supporter of Refugee Tales.
A father of three children, Jonathan spends whatever free time he has gigging with his band, the Mustangs, and was nominated for Blues Drummer of the Year Award in 2010.

Claire Armitstead is Associate Editor, Culture, for the Guardian.

Claire Armitstead

Over a twenty-five year career with the paper she has been a theatre critic, Arts Editor, Literary Editor and most recently Head of Books. She presents the Guardian books podcast and is a regular speaker at literary events nationally and around the world. She is a trustee of the writers’ charity English PEN, which campaigns for and supports freedom of expression

Bidisha is a British journalist, film-maker and broadcaster/presenter for the BBC, Channel 4 and Sky. She specialises in international human rights, social justice, gender and the arts and offers political analysis and cultural diplomacy tying these interests together, usually for the British Council.


She also does outreach work in UK prisons, refugee charities and detention centres. She is a trustee of the Booker Prize Foundation, looking after the UK’s most prestigious prizes for literature in English and in translation. Her most recent book, her fifth, is Asylum and Exile: Hidden Voices of London. Published in March 2015, it’s based on her outreach work, most recently with young asylum seeker mothers. Her poetry has been published by Wasafiri magazine, Seagull Books, Saqi Books, English PEN and Young MWA magazine.  She is currently part of the year-long City of Stories writers’ residency for London-based writers.

London based singer, Ranjana Ghatak grew up within classical Indian vocal music but has evolved a glorious style of her own.

Ranjana Ghatak (credit Maike Zimmerman)

Ranjana Ghatak (credit Maike Zimmerman)

She’s worked with Akram Khan and Nitin Sawhney and played with Seb Rochford from Polar Bear and beatboxer Jason Singh. As a composer, she was commissioned by the Commonwealth Games to write a piece for the Big Big Sing and is currently creating solo material alongside Liran Donin. She continues to perform and work at the Southbank and Barbican centre on a regular basis.

Israeli born bass player, producer and composer Liran Donin is currently touring his debut album ‘8 Songs’ to rave reviews. With Donin’s’ distinctive powerhouse groove, lyrical compositions and his virtuosic approach to electric and double bass, his innovative sound brings together his longstanding involvement in the music scene alongside his musical background.

Liran Donin (credit Alex Muller)

“Best 10 Jazz Albums of 2018” by **** The Guardian
“10 Best Releases of 2018” by **** Jazzwise mag

Featuring an exciting and high energy band comprised world class musicians, Josh Arcoleo (Mark Guiliana) tenor sax, Chris Williams (Let Spin) alto sax, Maria Chiara Argiro (These New Puritans) piano and Ben Brown (Waaju) on drums.
Donin has worked along side an array of cutting edge artists and bands spanning a wide musical spectrum such as Polar Bear, Shabaka Hutchins, Mulatu Astatke, Chrissie Hynde, to name but few. His band 1000 Boats were met with standing ovations at recent sold out gigs across the UK and Europe and currently is preparing couple of releases for 2020 due to see light later in the year.

Liran is a true friend to Refugee Tales and 2020 is his third involvement in the project.

Here is something special to whet your appetite:


Mike ‘Dr Blue’ has been described as ‘the bastard son of Tom Waites and Howlin’ Wolf’. A Brighton based Blues and Roots and Folk Man, who by his own admission has been around a long time he has his own site for details of his work and latest gigs.


Mike ‘Dr Blue’

Na-Mara “elegant and skilled musicians”, the folk duo (Rob Garcia and Paul McNamara) perform self-penned songs in traditional style as well as traditional songs and tunes from across the British Isles, their own translations of songs from the Breton, French and Quebecois traditions and a wide variety of tunes from Asturias, Galicia, Brittany and northern France.


na-mara (credit Trevor Burrows)

As close friends of the International Brigade Memorial Trust, they have performed their own songs about the Spanish Civil War at numerous events commemorating the commitment of Britons who went to fight fascism in Spain in the 1930s.

The Citizens of the World Choir was established in March 2017 by a group of humanitarian and musical professionals. In such a short time, the choir has brought together people from over 15 different nationalities in a musical project that has already had two very successful seasons!

Citizens of the World

The choir performed six concerts over six weeks in their first season, including the official launch in Parliament and a weekend trip to the Llangollen International Eisteddfod in Wales! And in their second season they sang at a wonderful variety of venues and events from Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club to Tedx at Covent Garden. There is more about this inspiring choir on their website.

Chorus of Dissent say of themselves “We are a friendly, sociable, non-audition, project-based choir that welcomes singers from the local area (Stoke Newington) and beyond.”

Chorus of Dissent

“Our sellout concerts feature innovative and eclectic programming. We think we are probably the only choir ever to perform Fauré and Freddie Mercury, and Bach and Elbow in the same concert. We aim to present the best music in our own inimitable and inclusive Dissenting style.
One of the cornerstones of our success is our collaboration with our very own orchestra of local professional musicians, The Elastic Band, which expands and contracts as the music dictates.”
Yet another inspiring choir supporting Refugee Tales whose website is HERE!

Don Kipper are a multi award-winning 7-piece ensemble playing and transforming a wide range of traditional musical forms reflecting the cultural diversity of North East London, from Turkish and Greek Folk Musics to Romani music and Klezmer. While we attempt to root ourselves deeply in the traditions that surround us, we seek to explore radical interpretations and taut arrangements full of complex harmonies, rhythms and imaginative improvisation. Since 2013, we have released our First and Second albums, been featured on BBC Introducing and the BBC World Service, played two European Tours, and won the titles of both the Moshe Beregovski Award for best Klezmer Newcomers and World Music Network’s Battle of the Bands. If you like the Amsterdam Klezmer Band, Taraf De Haïdouks, or Balkan Beat Box you’ll love Don Kipper!

Don Kipper

They have extensive experience playing at UK and European festivals, and venues such as King’s Place, The Southbank Centre and Rich Mix in London, and are acclaimed for high octane shows that will make your brain think and your feet dance!

St Michael & All Angels Steel Orchestra is considered to be amongst the best steel bands in Europe and performs regularly in the UK and internationally. St Michael & All Angels is also a household name amongst the black community in London and the South-East and rewarded for its valuable community work.

St Michael and All Angels Steel Orchestra

The Orchestra, based in North West London, performs at events, festivals and concerts across Britain and Europe. Benefitting from superb musical leadership and professional level attitude, it is indeed something special; The band has played at St Pauls Cathedral, The Houses of Parliament, and Wembley Stadium, the Caribbean and regularly performs at festivals, concerts, corporate events, weddings, private parties and schools.

Amadou Diagne is a musician who has the traditions of West Africa at his fingertips. Amadou comes from a Griot family line of percussionists and praise singers from the area around Dakar in Senegal. His talent as a percussionist led to him becoming for many years a professional full time member of l’Orchestre National du Senegal. He performed regularly with some of the top west African stars for concerts and television and was a busy session musician on the Dakar music scene.

Amadou Diagne

Though Amadou Diagne draws heavily on the traditional music and rhythms of West Africa, since moving to England he has been busy forging his own musical identity as a singer, songwriter, and multi instrumentalist. Amadou writes and performs most of his songs in Wolof the most widely spoken language in Senegal, with some French and English in the mix. His distinctive singing voice swoops from a deep, rich tone into a breathy falsetto, accompanied by guitar, traditional drumming, kora and several percussive instruments. As a guitarist he has developed a unique and intricate guitar style to accompany himself which draws on his skills as a percussionist. Amadou has a love of improvisation and draws on a colorful palette of eclectic musical inspiration when he plays. He explores the instruments and delights in the rhythmic possibilities within the melodies he composes.
Amadou’s music has attracted global airplay on radio stations from Australia to Israel, Denmark and the USA as well as on BBC Radio 3 Late Junction, BBC Focus on Africa TV/Radio and BBC World Service Radio.
In 2012, Amadou was signed by World Music Network, and he released his debut solo album Introducing Amadou Diagne . It went straight to no.16 in the European World Music charts. His follow up Yakar (Waulk Records 2013) recieved a four star review in Songlines Magazine and top pick playlist review fRoots. In 2015 Amadou released Ligéey (Long Tale Recordings 2015), produced by Mark Smulian who also plays bass and oud on the album. Ligéey received a four star review in, and Songlines praised Amadou’s ability to exel on numerous instruments: ‘Drums, Guitar, Kora, whistling.this guy does it all.’

ice&fire Theatre Company is a London-based charity with a mission to explore human rights stories through performance. The company creates performances in theatres, runs a ‘participation’ strand as well as Actors for Human Rights, a network of volunteer actors across the UK.


Ice&fire was founded in 2003 by playwright Sonja Linden inspired by her seven years as writer in residence at the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture (now Freedom from Torture).

Their first theatrical production was I Have Before Me a Remarkable Document Given to me by a Young Lady From Rwanda (2003), which opened in London and has since been performed across Europe and the United States of America.