Bread and Salt published

Bread and Salt, Stories of Art and Migration, was published by Vrede van Utrecht on Friday evening, a part of its final community arts festival. Launch and festival were both wonderful, and I’ll write more about them as soon as I have time. The main thing for now is that that book is available for download here, or in print from Vrede van Utrecht.

I’ve also added all Bill Ming’s images from the book here, with some of his reflections as captions: just click on the images to open up a slide presentation and you can read Bill’s words.

You’ve got to laugh

It’s an old-fashioned ladies hairdressers’, on a down-at-heel high road in the West Midlands. The owner – let’s call her Linda – has worked there for decades, cutting, washing and perming the hair of countless women she’s grown old with.

Chairs line both walls in front of mirrors, hair-dryers to one side. There’s a poster of a young Elvis and the price board has those press-in plastic letters that once seemed so modern.

Linda’s is what it has always been – a community space where women pop in as much for a chat as for a tidy up. Last year, one of the customers turned 100—she wasn’t the first—and there was sherry and cake at 9.30am, when she came in to get her hair done.

A week ago, that lady died. Many old friends have been lost in the past year or two. Linda says you can see it in how the takings are down. So now she’s had a letter from the Tax Office. They’re coming to interview her—to make sure the business is not a front for money laundering.

You’d laugh, if it weren’t so sad.

Is this really the best we can do in thinking about the needs of an ageing society?

Against Frankenstein

‘Hope today is a contraband passed from hand to hand and from story to story.’

John Berger, Bento’s Sketchbook, 2011

Bread and Salt tells the stories of 18 European artists who were born in other parts of the world. Those people have nothing in common except the practice of art and the experience of migration.

They are men and women, aged between under 30 to over 70. They came to Europe from Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, India and East Asia, from cities, islands and deserts. They live today in the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Denmark and the UK. They arrived as long ago as 1963 and as recently as 2005. They came as students, refugees and adventurers. They are musicians, sculptors, writers, actors, designers, photographers and more.


They have nothing in common, except the experience of moving from one home, one state, one culture, to Europe, where they have made new homes, art, families and reputations. They have overcome violence and detention, isolation and fear, poverty and hostility. They have remade their lives in courage, rewritten their stories in hope.

Abdoul, Aziz, Bill, Bright, Chien-Wei, Cleverson, Eduardo, Elina, Isabel, Maher, Kaoru, Mahmoud, Mizgin, Mohan, Said, Sardul, Seiko and Zeliha.

They have nothing in common, except their humanity—the common rights and particular gifts that makes each person, each citizen of the European Union, each human being equal before Law and God, whatever we take them to be.

Bread and Salt is an essay. Its methods are literary and artistic; its resources are listening and seeing, reading and thinking. It advances no thesis; it proposes no solutions.

Instead, it sets the irreducible particularity of actual lives against the self-serving simplifications now proliferating in the European public space. Demagogues of every stripe are busy shooting electricity through the butchered corpse of ideologies that some had hoped permanently buried after 1945. Monsters are twitching.

Clive, Colin (Frankenstein)_02Whatever challenges Europeans now face—and they are many and serious—hatred, fear and blame will never help us come through.

Bread and Salt will be published in Utrecht on 21 June 2013 and will be available to download from this site from that date. English and Dutch editions will also be available from Vrede van Utrecht.