Read a wonderful blog by author Pippa Goodhart commemorating her event at Edinburgh Book Festival with illustrator Ehsan Abdollahi.
In my story of A Bottle of Happiness, a child, Pim, visits a new place. The people in the new place deny Pim a taste of their nice fruits because they assume that Pim is going to take from them and give nothing back. Pim then brings them a bottle that seems to be empty, but actually that bottle brings them a new fun spirit of everybody sharing and caring and laughing together; happy.
Ironically, when the Iranian illustrator of that book, Ehsan Abdollahi, applied for a visa in order to visit us in Britain, our Home Office treated him in much the same way that people in the story had treated Pim. Ehsan was told that he couldn’t visit Britain because the Home Office suspected that he wanted to take from our country rather than bring value to it. As in the story, that suspicion was proven very wrong when Ehsan arrived, bringing and sharing happiness and joy for a few days before returning to Tehran.
I’ll admit that I was a bit nervous of performing as a double act with somebody I’d not met in person and with whom I didn’t share any spoken language. But when I met Ehsan for the first time at Edinburgh, the mutual hugs and smiles made clear that the lack of spoken language between us was not going to be a problem, especially since we had Azita to translate when necessary. But I think that Ehsan and I both soon realised that we already had an understanding of each other, and, indeed, a friendship. How? Because we had met in creating that story. I’d thought it up and written it down, but Ehsan brought beauty and colour and more ideas to the book. He brought that creative magic to Edinburgh too, sharing it with children and adults alike at Edinburgh’s truly International Book Festival.
I now wish I could get an enormous spoon to stir the cultural world to mix its peoples and stories to bring ideas and colour and happiness to everyone.
Pippa Goodhart, Sept. ‘17
- Read Ehsan Abdollahi’s poem commemorating his journey to the UK
- Watch Ehsan Abdollahi’s BBC interview at Edinburgh Festival
- Read more about the visa refusal and the #visaforAbdollahi campaign
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