Home: Brave New Voices at the BBC Proms

On Sunday 29 July 2018, a group of participants in English PEN’s Brave New Voices outreach project, all pupils at the Capital City Academy in Willesden, were invited to perform at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall. Their poem ‘Home’ was written in collaboration with writer and Brave New Voices co-ordinator Rosemary Harris, and translator Alice Guthrie, in partnership with Salusbury World.

The poem was written in response to Dvořák’s ‘New World Symphony’ which was performed at the Ten Pieces Prom by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Rafael Payare.

You can listen to their performance via the player below or on SoundCloud and watch a BBC 6 o’clock news report about their preparations on YouTube. The entire Ten Pieces Prom will be available to listen to on the BBC iPlayer until 29 August 2018. The full text of the poem is below.

HOME

PART ONE

We did not all write these brave new words.
The words we speak are the thoughts
Of children who’ve come from far away.
Their names are:

Maryam, Sajeda, Nermen, Rawan,
Mohammed and Mohamad,
Sayeda, Ruba, Heba, Anwar, Noor.

The words travelled from the pages they wrote
Into our mouths.

Our friends’ words are searching
For a safe home
In your thoughts.
In your hearts.

Their words say:
There are so many of you here, and so few of us.
They say:

To speak in front of all these people
I would feel crazy.
Heat would rise in my ears,
My face on fire.
People think about my languages and they think
What am I speaking about?

‘Is this girl crazy or is something wrong with her?’

PART TWO

People didn’t understand us when we came
And it was hard to learn
And people told us we can’t speak in Arabic.
They were thinking that we spoke about them.

When I came here I didn’t know any English
Only numbers and letters, that have no feelings.

I used to get bullied in school,
But some people understood.
The teachers were kind.

Some people just speak one language.
I am clever.
I feel confident and proud.
I have another language.

Now I can answer any question you ask me.

شو, نسيتي لغتك؟ نسيتي انتي من وين؟ / نسيتي من وين انتي؟
What, did you forget your language?
Did you forget where you come from?

.مستحيل
.بحياتي شي اهلى البلدي
Impossible.
My homeland is the most beautiful thing in my life.
I remember Somalia.

I remember Saudi Arabia.
I remember Bangladesh.
I remember Iraq.
I remember Syria.

PART THREE

This song makes my heart get more scared.
It makes me feel nervous,
It sounds so grand,
Like the Royal Family, like church or a funeral
When soldiers have died.

It makes me feel like going to bed!
It’s sympathetic like a lullaby.
It gives me the feeling of when you lose someone.

It makes me feel I am in Syria,
Eating falafel for breakfast
With my family.

The weather is a kind of feeling in your heart.
You are lonely
Thinking about war.

This music is like old material,
Like old fashion.
We need exciting music to dance to!
This is not music from home!

PART FOUR

Souq Al-Hamidiyah in Damascus is a noisy, busy, famous market!
We feel joyful because everyone can understand us!

Traditional clothes, great pyramids of sweets,
Fresh tropical fruits, watermelon,
Pineapple, tamarind, green plum

And delicious ice cream.
If you are angry and you eat this ice cream,
It will calm you down.
I used to go to the funfair at Eid.

Ten turns on the Ferris wheel, I’m excited to get to the top.
I see the lights of the city, the green lights of the mosques.

I’m like an eagle, riding the sky.
We call the roller coaster –
the Death Train!
My friends and I think we’re going to die!
We scream until we lose our voices.
Sometimes we vomit!

The ghost train is called the City of Fear.
When you start to travel through it,
They throw scary things at you, they seem so real!
Bodies, ghosts. The lights go out then glow
In red and green, like you’re haunted.
You’re terrified but still it’s fun, you’re living
A new reality.
Then you come out the other side.

You’re living a new reality.

PART FIVE

On special occasions, we have special sweets
To welcome everyone home.
We all come back together again.
Reunited.
Lamma – shamil.

My grandma cries when she sees our pictures
Because we are growing up without her.
She would hug me. She would look the same.
My grandmother misses us.

We used to have a big home with space for all of us.
I have so many cousins!
I would faint if I saw them all!
In our home there was lots of room
For everyone to be together.
Love and safety.
Thinking about the times I used to be with my mother,
When she used to kiss me.
In London, everyone is bottled up.
We feel lonely when we think too much about war.
We feel like we cannot tell people not to speak English.
It’s hard when we don’t understand what you’re saying.

شو, نسيتي لغتك؟ نسيتي انتي من وين؟ / نسيتي من وين انتي؟
What, did you forget your language?
Did you forget where you come from?

.مستحيل
.بحياتي شي اهلى البلدي
Impossible.
My homeland is the most beautiful thing in my life.

We remember Somalia.
We remember Saudi Arabia.
We remember Bangladesh.
We remember Iraq.
We remember Syria.

My heart would do cartwheels of joy if we were all together.
There are special songs to welcome everyone home.


Written by Capital City Brave New Voices, Rosemary Harris and Alice Guthrie. Arabic translation by Alice Guthrie

We were thrilled to have been invited by the BBC to showcase the work of our Brave New Voices project, and to collaborate with Capital City Academy, and Salusbury World in creating this new, culturally significant work. We are also extremely grateful to the John Lyon’s Charity and the Limbourne Trust for funding the Brave New Voices project.

About English PEN staff

This content is published by the English PEN staff.

View all posts by English PEN staff →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *