At this year’s Nottingham Festival of Literature, set for November 8-13, poet and novelist Omar Hazek — who served more than a year in prison for contravening Egypt’s anti-protest laws — will be the “Virtual Writer in Residence”:
At a September 8 launch event, participants watched a video of Omar Hazek, whose poem “Kite” was read in translation by Matthew Welton. Everyone also got a tiny kite, some of which were photographed flying over Nottingham.
These small paper kites are particular moving as Hazek wrote letters from prison in which he talked about folding origami.
Hazek is the “virtual” writer in residence because, although he was released from his two-year sentence by a presidential pardon last September, the poet and novelist has been banned from traveling.
This came to light after his release, when Hazek was awarded the PEN International and Oxfam Novib Award for Freedom of Expression.
Hazek went to the airport to go accept the award, and then found he wasn’t allowed to travel to the Netherlands. He was detained at the airport and, while later released, banned from travelling. Yet Hazek didn’t let the focus be on his troubles. As he has so often done, Hazek dedicated his speech — or the speech he would’ve given, had he been at the ceremony — to the plights of other prisoners.
Now, the Nottingham Festival of Literature — set to open on November 8 — has chosen Hazek for their virtual writer-in-residence. They’re asking for support to make it possible.
All donations will help to secure several digital live events across the Festival. They will include one to one conversations with writers and a discussion with Tunisian activist and blogger Lina Ben Mehnni, who will also appear via videolink due to difficulties travelling to the UK.
Your money will go towards producing and marketing these events, and paying a fee to Omar and to all other artists involved. We are also hoping to commission a piece of work from Omar Hazek.
The fundraiser is set to end November 4. Donate here.