Hafan Books: Transforming Refugee Awareness and Integration in Wales
Submitting InstitutionSwansea University
Unit of AssessmentModern Languages and Linguistics
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration, Sociology
Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Other Studies In Creative Arts and Writing
Summary of the impact
The Hafan Books project publishes creative writing by asylum-seekers and
refugees [henceforth simply: `refugees'] in South Wales. The project
promotes a civic culture of hospitality, compassion and respect through
the publications, large-scale festive launch events, and further creative
outputs. Beneficiaries include contributors and other refugees, charity
workers and volunteers, and arts organisations. The publications are
widely used in professional refugee awareness training. The project has
been recognised as exemplary for refugee awareness and integration though
the arts and has been emulated in the UK and overseas.
Dr Tom Cheesman: appointed Lecturer in German at Swansea 1990; Senior
Lecturer 2003; Reader since 2009.
The Hafan Books project applies insights from Cheesman's research since
1995 on migrant literatures, and develops collaborations with arts and
charity organisations in Wales founded in that research process. It is
underpinned by the findings of a multidisciplinary British/German
comparative project: `Axial Writing: Transnational Literatures, Cultural
Politics and State Policies', within the ESRC's `Transnational
Communities' Research Programme (1998-2002); see Section 3, output [R1].
As PI, with Co-Is in English and Sociology, Cheesman undertook `action
research' in Germany and the UK, participating in transethnic projects
initiated by migrant writers and engaging with funding and policy
agencies (e.g. [R4]). Exiled/refugee writers emerged as an under-recognised
group, amidst celebrations of postmigrant hybridity.
Cheesman and Co-Is organised the `Writing Diasporas' conference
(Swansea, 2000, c.150 attenders) co-funded by the ESRC, British Council
(`Re-inventing Britain'), Arts Council Wales and Literature Wales (was:
`Academi'), which many writer-activists attended. Cheesman convened a
panel to discuss support for exiled/refugee writers by Welsh arts
organisations, introducing officials from the Welsh Assembly Government,
Arts Council Wales and Academi to representatives of English PEN, PEN
International, the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN), and
Exiled Writers Ink. A key conference output was the special issue of Index
on Censorship co-edited by Cheeseman (2002, [R2]), presenting 50
UK-based writers from 5 continents, thematising transcultural
communication barriers. He also published in Planet (2001, [R3])
an article advocating Welsh engagement in PEN's and ICORN's exiled
writers programmes (and later advised the group which took Norwich into
ICORN in 2007). Another research-based policy intervention in Wales was
a paper ([R5]) on `non-European' language communities as a challenge and
opportunity for European minority language activists.
Research findings in Cheesman's final report on the project included:
- socio-economic and cultural-linguistic factors inhibit most
cross-language migrant writers' communicative participation in host
- these factors particularly exclude exiled/refugee writers, despite
programmes supporting some individuals;
- developing arts `diversity policy' offers opportunities for projects
promoting refugee participation, particularly at local levels.
Over the past decade, with Hafan Books (e.g. [R6]) Cheesman has pursued
a practice of local cosmopolitan cultural political intervention,
applying his comparative research insights to discover, support and
promote exiled/refugee writers locally, to benefit them, fellow
refugees, professionals and volunteers working to support refugees, and
local civic culture.
References to the research
• The project was graded `Excellent' by ESRC. Award: £140,149.51.
Period: 11/1998 to 03/2002. PI: Cheesman. Co-Is: Marie Gillespie
(Sociology, Open University), Deniz Göktürk (Modern Languages,
Southampton [now: Berkeley]), John Goodby (English, Swansea), John
McLeod (English, Leeds), Sujala Singh (English, Southampton).
[R2]. Tom Cheesman and Marie Gillespie (guest editors). Index
on Censorship 31/3 (July 2002): `Home and Away: Diaspora
Voices'. ISBN 9780904286892.
• Journal special issue. DOI:10.1080/03064220208537071.
• Index on Censorship has world-wide distribution among
scholars, writers, and activists.
• Introduction by Cheesman and Gillespie, who commissioned texts from
10 of the 50 writers represented. The special issue arose from the
`Writing Diasporas' conference at Swansea University, 2000.
[R3]. Tom Cheesman. `The Price of Welsh Internationalism: A Safe
Haven for Exiled Writers', Planet:
The Welsh Internationalist 147 (June-July
2001), 87-94. ISSN 0048-4288.
• Journal article (research-based, campaigning for cultural policy and
attitudinal change). Planet was Wales's leading
literary-political journal at the time.
• Available on demand. Contents:
[R4]. Tom Cheesman. `Polyglot Politics: Hip Hop in Germany', Debatte:
Review of Contemporary German Affairs 6/2
(November 1998), 191-214.
• Peer-reviewed journal article. DOI:10.1080/09651569808454589.
• On multi-ethnic youth culture and the transformation of German
national identity, based on participatory fieldwork among rappers and
local arts activists. Submitted to RAE2001: Swansea's German Department
was rated 5A. 19 citations (Google Scholar, July 2013). Danish
translation: Henrik Houmark, `En mangetunget politik. Rap og unge tyske
tyrkere', Social Kritik [Copenhagen] 13/74 (June 2001), 102-20.
[R5]. Tom Cheesman, `"Old" and "New" Lesser Used Languages of
Europe: Common Cause?' in Language, Ethnicity and the State.
Volume One: Minority Languages in the European Union,
ed. Camille O'Reilly (Basingstoke: Palgrave; New York: St. Martin's
Press, 2001), pp 147-168. ISBN 033392925X.
• Chapter in a peer-reviewed edited volume. DOI: 10.1057/9780230504639.
• Developed from a 1998 paper, `New and Old Lesser-Used Languages of
Europe: A Case for Reviewing Cultural Policy', presented at `Mosaic:
Promoting Literature Across Frontiers' (Mercator Media, Welsh Literature
Abroad, Mosaic Publishers Network), Aberystwyth, November 1998, and
published in the proceedings circulated among participant organisations,
[R6]. One indicative Hafan Books title is cited here. All titles
after 2008 are accessible at lulu.com/hafan.
Hafan's list includes: (a) 6 anthologies of `refugee writing' (5
ed./co-ed. Cheesman, 2003-13), some co-funded by the Welsh Books Council
(b) 6 volumes of poetry, stories or drama by individual refugee
writers (2009-13); (c) a volume of `poeticised transcripts' of
Wales- based Holocaust survivors' testimony, Fragments: Transcribing
the Holocaust, by Professor Frances Rapport (2013); (d) Life
Stories, a resource for Keystage 2 oracy classes in the Welsh
national curriculum based on refugees' stories (2012, also on https://hwb.wales.gov.uk/cms/hwbcontent/_layouts/NGFLSolution/MaterialDescription.aspx?LearningMaterialId=52098&lang=en);
(e) non-refugee titles: experimental poetry from Wales,
translations of German fiction and poetry.
Tom Cheesman (ed), 2013, Are You Happy With That?
Refugees Writing in Wales 6 (Swansea: Hafan Books). ISBN
• Edited volume: poetry, short stories, testimony and essays by 35
refugee writers (from 26 countries, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe) and 10
others (writers in solidarity), all associated with Wales.
• Cheesman's contribution: publisher, series editor, commissioning
editor, co-translations from Arabic, French, Persian and Spanish, copy
editor, typesetting, design.
• Reviews of previous (2008) volume in the series: (a) Jane Aaron, Journal
of Gender Studies 19/2 (2010), 215f.; (b) David Constantine, Modern
Poetry in Translation 3/10 (2008), 185f.; (c) Lenka Šafránková
Pavlíčková (Multikulturní centrum Praha / Multicultural
Centre Prague), at: migraceonline.cz/e-knihovna/?x=2117655
(2008); (d) Zoe Thompson, New Welsh Review 81 (2008), 84-6; (e)
Debi Withers, the f-word: contemporary UK feminism, at: thefword.org.uk/reviews/2008/06/fragments_from
(2008); (f) Launch blog post: elizabethbaines.blogspot.co.uk/2008/03/fragments-from-dark-edited-by-jeni.html
Details of the impact
Beneficiary quotations were collected 09/2012-07/2013.
Hafan Books raises funds and awareness for Swansea Bay Asylum Seekers
Support Group (SBASSG: swanseabassgroup.org).
16 titles since 2008 (22 since 2003). Small runs: c.4,500 combined since
2008 (c.9,500 since 2003). 95% self-distributed; c.40% sold at cost to
charities, c. 30% given away. Over 80 refugee writers published; 35 in
the 2013 anthology. SBASSG's Hafan- related grant income: c. £12k.
Proceeds from sales: c. £3k since 2008 (c. £6k since 2003).
Books shift chiefly at Hafan events. Total attendance since 2008: c.
3,000 (since 2003: c. 5,000). Large events: c. 350 attend each, c. 250
being refugees. NB: Swansea's total refugee population is c. 2,500. `[U]nique
large-scale meetings of service users, workers, volunteers, and
political supporters across South Wales, forging new relationships and
networks' (Chief Officer, Displaced People in Action [DPIA]).
Since 2008, 3 large and 12 smaller events (50-150 attend) in museums,
cafés, community centres.
In 2005/6 several UK-wide, third-sector publications presented Hafan as
an arts-for- integration model (C1). Evidence of direct impact is
emulation in Oxford (2005, 2009), Würzburg (2009), Prague (ongoing).
(See Section 5a, C2.)
Chief beneficiary constituencies:
4.1. Refugees: integration, self-confidence and mutual awareness
Hafan has `made a big difference to building self-confidence and a
sense of being welcomed, for those who have been published, and others
as well' (DPIA). Many writers discovered and promoted by
Hafan go on to other projects: theatre performances, writing
competitions, workshops, exhibitions, festivals: marking sociocultural
integration. Four have joined Literature Wales's online writers
database. Two had work selected by Jackie Kay for Out of Bounds:
British Black & Asian Poets (Bloodaxe, 2012). One, Adel
Guémar, won an English PEN award for his poetry volume, has published in
Modern Poetry in Translation (lately: 3/17, 2012) and appeared at
the South Bank `Poetry Parnassus' (Cultural Olympiad) 2012. The project
has wider impact as `a compassionate link among refugees and
political exiles with the Swansea and Welsh community, [...] a
necessary part of an equation to bring back our sense of humanity and
build a sense of hope. Hafan Books opened a door for our expression
and gave us an audience to whom to speak' (writer,
Chile/Swansea). `Not only I read works of talented asylum seekers
and refugee writers, but also I got the opportunity to meet with other
settled one' (writer, D.R.Congo/Newport). `The books
help us asylum seekers to understand each other, and to put our own
stories in a different perspective' (writer, Iran/Swansea).
`Asylum seekers gain significant therapeutic value in being able to
articulate their experiences in an artistic context and being
appreciated by a wider audience' (Director, Wales Migration
4.2. Charities and public bodies: internal and external awareness
The publications make `a very significant difference to the way
staff think about the experiences of refugees [and] enable our
trainers to transform understanding among professionals in health,
social services and education' (Chief Executive, Welsh Refugee
Council). `The project is unique and incredibly valuable for
organisations such as ours, in making visible voices that are very
seldom heard' (WMP). The books help train service
providers, win politicians' and donors' support, and make `a major
contribution to informing the public in Wales about asylum seekers and
refugees' (DPIA). Local media coverage of launch events has
helped alter perceptions of asylum seekers from `scroungers' or victims
to `people of remarkable talent, imagination and creative energy'
(DPIA). With all-party support and Lottery funding, Swansea
City of Sanctuary launched in 2010, using a mobile exhibition of
Hafan poems and poem-videos to mark its presence and showing poem-videos
periodically on a city-centre public screen. By `providing the many
refugee communities with a public voice', Hafan helps build `a
mature and tolerant civic society' (Chair, Welsh Books Council).
The Chief Executive of Race Council Cymru, also Principal
Equality and Diversity Officer at South Wales Police, describes
Hafan Books as `an important example of how academic work should be
translated into a catalyst for social change', as `instrumental
in raising the awareness of organisations that work with refugees and
asylum seekers in South Wales', and as having `galvanised those
individuals who engage with asylum seekers and refugees into a
cohesive group that is better able to effect change'.
4.3. Arts organisations: connecting with refugee communities
Collaborations with Hafan have `significantly informed our
development of policy and practice in relation to cultural diversity'
(Project Manager, Literature Wales), made an `immeasurable
contribution to our Literature Programme, breaking down barriers
between communities' (Literature Officer, Dylan Thomas Centre),
and `allowed us to build successful relationships with asylum
seekers and refugees as well as increasing understanding about [their]
experiences amongst museum staff and members of the public'
(Exhibitions/Events Officer, Swansea Museum; the 2012
Hafan-assisted exhibition `Home from Home?' had c.12,000 visitors). `The
Museum's experience of working with Hafan Books [on the 2010-13
`Belonging' gallery] has fed into current plans for redevelopment
[...] to reflect more of the diversity in Wales today, and allow more
people to participate' (Keeper, St Fagans National History
Museum; 500,000 visitors p.a.)
Sources to corroborate the impact
(a) Reports, reviews, web links, other information in the public domain
(C1) Hafan Books project presented in third-sector UK-wide
The Story of My Life: Refugees Writing in Oxford (2005, ISBN:
9780954634247) and See how I Land: Oxford Poets and Exiled Writers
(2009, ISBN: 9781906038380), both edited by Carole Angier, inspired by
- Lenka Šafránková Pavlíčková, Multikulturní centrum Praha / Multicultural
Centre Prague (www.mkc.cz), is preparing a publication modelled
on Fragments from the Dark
- Würzburg: Heimfocus. A Voice for Refugees, www.heimfocus.net,
(b) Factual statements available on demand (*named in notes)
- Benefits to refugees: 6 contributing refugees; 3 other refugees
- Benefits to charities: *Chief Executive of Welsh Refugee Council;
*Chief Officer of Displaced People in Action; *Director of Wales
Migration Partnership; *Chief Executive of Race Council Cymru (and
Principal Equality and Diversity Officer, South Wales Police); Chair
of City of Sanctuary UK; Chair of Swansea Bay Asylum Seekers Support
- Benefits to arts organisations: *Keeper of Social and Cultural
History at St Fagans National History Museum; Exhibitions and Events
Officer at Swansea Museum; Project Manager at Literature Wales; Chair
of Welsh Books Council