My Mother Tongue

March 8th marks International Women’s Day. Leading to this day and throughout the month, cities around the world are galvanised to celebrate the accomplishments of women. One such event in Manchester was International Mother Language Day organised by CommonWord as part of the UNESCO City of Literature series; the first ever gathering of Manchester’s female writers courtesy of CommonWord. JS thought it was only right to be present given this month's issue is dedicated to women.
Mar 2018

By definition International Mother Language Day is a celebration of your mother tongue be it English, Urdu, Mandarin, Swahili - well you get the picture. The event took place on Wednesday 21st February where the CommonWord summonsed 10 of Manchester’s best female poets to Elizabeth Gaskell’s House.

There are roughly 200 hundred languages spoken across Manchester alone, which has the highest ratio of languages spoken in the UK.The Poets on the day were Fereshteh Mozafarri - mother tongue - Farsi and English,  Shirley May - Jamaican national language/patois and English, and Shamshad Khan - Urdu and English. Each poet read excerpts from their work in the splendid surroundings of Elizabeth Gaskell’s House to a captivated audience.

All languages have a story, Fereshteh Mozafarri talked about the meaning of some of the words in her mother tongue - Farsi; Shirley May recited some of her new, yet to be published, work from her Ipad. Shamshad Khan added a touch of drama to the final performance. The power of the written word brought to life on a sound wave, well - if you say it out loud! There was a sense of camaraderie in the Charles Darwin room at the basement of Elizabeth Gaskell House among the women who had gathered to celebrate their accomplishments.

After a brief Q&A following the performances the next destination was Chuck Gallery, a short stroll from Elizabeth Gaskell House, where they indulged in food and drink, pleasant chit-chat whilst surrounded by beautiful artwork. The ambience was relaxed, friendly, exciting and exploratory as thoughts and ideas circulated the venue of what had just taken place.

Peter Kalu,  award winning playwright, poet and novelist is CommonWord’s Artistic Director. Peter marked the event with a photo-shoot by renowned photographer Gbenga Afolabi. Watching the assembled poets take their place on the steps of Elizabeth Gaskell’s House, the former home of the 19th-century writer, you get a sense that this moment in itself is historic.
JS wonders what Elizabeth Gaskell would have made of their accomplishments.