While the Covid-19 pandemic posed worldwide challenges, it also provided new opportunities for arts and cultural organisations to look for partners beyond their borders to collaborate across several projects and art forms digitally while providing an opportunity to artists to have greater engagement and connection with diverse international audiences.
Exploring the contemporary as well as historical links between the women of Pakistan and Glasgow, the British Council, PeaceNiche, and Glasgow Women’s Library came together to collaborate on a series of projects under the title of Literature Beyond Borders from April to September 2021 which included creative writing workshops, book readings and discussions and readers’ gatherings through a grant. This partnership driven by shared interests to encourage readers from across the globe to explore South Asian literature and literature linked by Empowered Women increased the international profile of Pakistani artists while at the same time providing a chance to writers and readers’ communities of both countries to exchange their ideas and views.
Under the project, there were workshops such as The Calm Slam Workshop, hosted in collaboration with and as part of Glasgow Women’s Library’s Open the Door Festival with the aim provide a safe space for poets ‘who are ready to step out of the shadows and take their writing to the next level’ and blended art with words to create the perfect place for all budding poets who had yet to find their audience. This workshop helped writers explore their creativity and free their imagination seeking inspiration from visual images related to three historic writers and artists, Wendy Wood, Zarina Hashmi and Edith Simon.
A digital book reading event, Book Picnic Day was held at the end of September 2021 featuring the book ‘A Match Made in Heaven’ edited by Claire Chambers, Nafhesa Ali, and Richard Phillips for discussion which involved the reader communities from both organisations huddled together over Zoom to share their experiences and views on the literary nuances of the book and its theme.
A series of creative writing workshops in collaboration with Glasgow Women’s Library and Stellar Quines Theatre Company for Muslim women were offered digitally which the Pakistani readers and writers were also able to attend through PeaceNiche’s outreach efforts to its reading circle. The goal of the workshop was to develop skills in writing for the stage and theatre performance. Through assisting exercises, participants explored various forms of creative writing.
A commemorative event highlighting the collaboration between Glasgow Women’s Library and PeaceNiche was Story Cafe Special which was an exclusive readers’ gathering themed around South Asian women writers. From printmaker Zarina Hashmi’s intimate memoir, to the poems of Imtiaz Dharker, whose works were explored in a mix of languages, it was hoped that the written experiences of these remarkable writers will be able to come to the fore.