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Launch of Arts Council anthology of women writers from migrant backgrounds

Headshots of contributors to What The Water Gave Us, an anthology about migration by women and non-binary writers

The Open University’s Creative Writing Lecturer, Dr Emma Claire Sweeney, is celebrating the launch of an anthology by women from migrant backgrounds produced during a year-long Arts Council-funded mentoring programme.

What the Water Gave Us celebrates the stories and voices of women and non-binary writers from migrant backgrounds. The anthology features personal essays and poems produced during a year-long Arts Council-funded mentoring programme run by The Ruppin Agency Writers’ Studio, which Dr Sweeney directs, in collaboration with Lucy Writers’ Platform, an inclusive online platform devoted to uplifting the critical and creative voices of women and non-binary writers.

Dr Sweeney said: “The children of migrants, with one foot in their present and another in the world of their parents, offer unique perspectives, especially the women and non-binary voices who remain poorly represented.”

The anthology brings together the experiences of mentors and mentees alike. What the Water Gave Us spans seas and oceans, cities and countries – it traverses borders and forges new geographies of feeling, as its writers explore what it’s like to be of migrant heritage in a para-pandemic, post-Brexit Britain. Featuring original writing from Shirley Ahura, Susan Barker, Jenny Chamarette, Yvonne Battle-Felton, Selin Genc, Denise Rose Hansen, Emma Korantema Hanson, Claire Hynes, So Mayer, Emily Midorikawa, Yen Ooi, Shamini Sriskandarajah and Rojbîn Arjen Yiğit, What the Water Gave Us plumbs the depths of migrant identity and positionality today.

Hannah Hutchings-Georgiou, Founding Editor-in-Chief and General Arts Editor of Lucy Writers, Project Manager, and co-editor of What the Water Gave Us, said of the book: “Loosely inspired by Frida Kahlo’s painting of a similar title, What the Water Gave Us revels in the multitude of migrant experience. This powerful collection invites the reader to ponder their own involvement in Britain’s continuing history of migration.”

Jonathan Ruppin, Literary Agent and Director of The Ruppin Agency, and writer of the anthology afterword, has said of the project and book as whole: “The Ruppin Agency Writers’ Studio was founded by Dr Emma Claire Sweeney and me with the intention of supporting a broader range of voices in publishing and, as the son of a child refugee who came to Britain on the Kindertransport, I’m especially proud that we’re supporting a new generation of talent to make the leap to publication.”

Dr Isobel Maddison, Fellow Emerita of Lucy Cavendish College, responded to the anthology’s publication by saying: “A ground-breaking, topical book introducing fresh voices alongside established authors. A wonderful, collaborative project raising important and current questions.”

It was launched at a readings event at the award-winning independent bookshop Burley Fisher on Thursday 29 June.

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