Julia Copus
Blackburn - Apna Ghar
Age Concern Poetry Place

Julia Copus's first collection The Shuttered Eye, published by Bloodaxe, was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation.

 

Background

 

Julia Copus was appointed to work in the Apna Ghar Age Concern day-care centre in Blackburn in spring 1998. The centre provides support for Asian elders, many of whom have very basic English language skills

Clients were guided towards producing their own creative work and encouraged to record the reminiscences and creative work of those unable to write themselves.

"At the start of the project we discussed the possibility of bringing in a translator to help overcome difficulties imposed by the language barrier. In the end, largely because of funding restraints, the project went ahead without this support. The Apna Ghar clients in fact spoke a range of languages, and by enlisting the help of bi-lingual speakers from within the group, I was able to work with clients to encourage and record reminiscences of their widely diverse life experiences and to help them produce some of their own creative writing. My own background in teaching English as a foreign language also helped greatly with this aspect of the project. On reflection, I think the absence of outside help worked in our favour: making use of the clients' own communication skills engendered a feeling of self-sufficency and unity within the group, and proved a rewarding activity in its own right.

Looking at the work of contemporary Asian poets writing in English - like Imtiaz Dharker (born in Lahore and brought up in Glasgow) - was very successful in bridging the psychological split between the Asian and English languages and cultures, and helped raise awareness of the fact that there are some (albeit too few) really excellent Asian writers being published in Britain today.

The project was a great success and led to some fascinating tales and many lively discussions and, I hope, encouraged further discussion and interaction outside of the writing sessions. At the end of the project, writing produced by the clients at Apna Ghar appeared in an anthology which is currently on sale in Blackburn."

- Julia Copus

Young Poets Network