It’s the turn of the year, from 2015 to 2016.
2015 saw the mass movement of refugees of Syrians, fleeing violence in their homeland (and their adopted homeland, in the case of Palestinian refugees who had already been forced from their homes). The images of perilous sea journeys, dead children, barbed wire at borders, welcoming crowds at train stations, are etched on our minds.
Part-way through the year, I wrote this response to the situation in Calais’s ‘Jungle’, and of my own experience volunteering with young refugees and asylum seekers who had made it to the UK. Despite the manifold suffering of people of all ages, it’s perhaps no surprise that it’s the images of the children: dead, living on the street, at last reaching a place of safety, that are the most heart-rending.
One set of images intensified the focus on the refugee crisis – that of Alan [Aylan] Kurdi, washed up, face down on a Turkish beach. The author Patrick Ness was moved to action, setting up (and promoting via Twitter) a fundraiser for Save the Children. Match funding offers from authors, illustrators and publishers (mostly from among the children’s and young adult writing community) meant that within a week, more than $1 million was raised.
I was one of the many who donated to the fundraiser, and hit lucky. The comic artist and illustrator Sally Jane Thompson had decided on a draw to win a commission from her, from among those who had donated. I was delighted when Sally contacted me to say she’d picked me – I like the clear lines and liveliness of her style. I asked her if she would draw an author portrait with a difference. The characters of the book I’m writing spend much of their time on the rooftops of Glasgow buildings, so I thought it would be great to have me up there too!
After sending Sally some photos of me, and a Google image search of tenement rooftops, this is what she came up with:
I love the way she’s captured the wind and the movement of the birds and my hair on the rooftops.
The Patrick Ness/Syria fundraising page is still open, so I’m donating a little bit more as a thank you, as 2016 begins.