I COMMISSIONED OLUMIDE POPOOLA AND ANNIE HOLMES TO GO TO THE CALAIS REFUGEE CAMPS TO DISTIL STORIES INTO A WORK OF FICTION ABOUT ESCAPE, HOPE AND ASPIRATION. ON ANOTHER LEVEL, HOWEVER, THESE STORIES ALSO TAKE SERIOUSLY THE FEARS OF PEOPLE WHO WANT TO CLOSE THEIR BORDERS. IT’S THAT DIALOGUE THAT ISN’T HAPPENING IN REAL LIFE. A WORK OF ART CAN HELP TO BRIDGE THE GAP.
In the summer of 2015 we put out a call asking for book proposals on the subject of the refugee crisis. We wanted something that would take seriously the fears and concerns of people on all sides of the argument. The stand-out proposal came from a writing duo: Olumide Popoola and Annie Holmes. In the winter 2015/2016 they visited Calais and collected testimonies and stories from refugees living in the camp. Using this experience, and in close collaboration with Peirene publisher Meike Ziervogel, they put together the first Peirene Now! book, breach, which was published in August 2016.
breach was a critical success, called ‘fine, suspenseful fiction springing from human lives in extremis’ in The Guardian and ‘An essential book for our time…fiction as an act of witness, generosity, and yes, love’ by the writer Peter Orner. The reception of the book, and the experience of working on it closely with the authors, confirmed to us at Peirene that this project can do something really interesting, important and different.