At our programme launch event on the 8th of September we introduced Nottingham to our Virtual Writer in Residence Omar Hazek. It was an incredible moment for us, the Indian Summer sun that we’ve been blessed with was shining through into the grand Ballroom of Nottingham Council House as Omar appeared on the screen all the way from Alexandria, Egypt. Whilst Omar was in prison, a sentence given for protesting in solidarity with the family of a man killed in police custody, he bravely directed all of his positivity into his writing, and found solace in learning the art of origami.

In a moving letter to his family from prison, which has been translated into English and published by Arabic Literature (In English) with permission from his family, Omar wrote:

By the time I saw those colored pieces of paper, though, I had spent enough time in prison to know that much of what we thought impossible becomes easy if we just believe in ourselves a little. The capabilities of a person, any person, are boundless.

To show our support to Omar and his friends we handed out tiny paper kites at the launch which were flown in Market Square; in the same way the kites in Omar’s poem ‘fly so that you can see it from Cairo’, we wanted to make ours fly so that Omar could see them from Nottingham (or rather less romantically, through our Twitter hashtag #NFOL2016)!

Matthew Welton, acclaimed poet of three collections and Chair of our Board introduced Omar and read a translated version of his new poem ‘A Kite’, dedicated to his friends Ahmed Ziada and Nihal Abdullah. This moving poem can be heard in Omar’s beautiful native language Arabic in the video below. We are so grateful to be able to represent Omar and publish ‘A Kite’ here. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do, and please support our crowdfunding campaign, even a small donation will really make a difference, helping to pay Omar and secure several live digital events across the Festival:

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