Launched in September 2020, My City, My Home was a creative writing competition open to women from, or with a connection to, Birmingham, Bangladesh or Pakistan.
“We want to give women and girls the chance to tell their story. We need to hear it from them.”Piali Ray, Director of Sampad
The identity and role of women is as diverse across the cities and countries as is 21st century society. Our cities are a melting pot of cosmopolitan cultures. Yet, there is distinctiveness and roots that connect to the past.
The aim of the project was to give women the chance to tell their own story, in their own voice. We wanted to hear about what made people feel that they belonged, and what made their city their home – from its people, buildings and arts, to their memories, journeys and emotions.
We encouraged participants to think about the following questions when writing:
- Who is telling my story?
- Where is home?
- Where do I belong?
- What are my memories?
- What are my dreams?
- Is this city mine? Why?
- Do I love my city?
- Have I made a home?
- What memories can we make for the future?
- Who are the faces of our cities?
- Where is the soul of the cities – people? Music? Arts? Money? Buildings?
- What are we learning from each other – who is in the dialogue ?
- What do we want to celebrate?
Participants submitted written pieces of up to 1000 words, written in English, Urdu or Bengali. Writing could take the form of poetry, prose, a short story, a letter, a diary entry, anything they liked – we encouraged people to be as creative as possible. The prize was £200.00 for each winner, along with publication of their work, both in print and online.
The competition closed on Wednesday 30 December 2020.
November 2021 Launch
My City, My Home, Sampad’s brand-new book featuring a collection of writings by women and girls in Birmingham (UK), Bangladesh and Pakistan was launched at a special event at Midlands Arts Centre hosted by writer and author Kavita Bhanot.
Published in English, Urdu and Bangla, MY CITY, MY HOME is a ground-breaking publication featuring 184 poems, short-stories and other prose from writers, and those new to writing, reflecting on the identity and the role of women in 21st century society.
How to purchase
The book is priced at £4.99 and can be purchased online at midlands-arts-centre.myshopify.com/ , purchased in person from MAC or if you are from overseas by emailing email@example.com, write ‘Purchase MCMH’ in the subject field.
It was greatly rewarding to receive 280 entries from the many unheard voices of women who shared their emotions, ambitions, joys, dreams, disappointments, resentment and pain. Their words resonate with each other towards a place of strength, identity and belonging. We connect in their personal journeys and treasured memories and it is a delight to be able to share them.”Piali Ray OBE, Director at Sampad
Out of the 184 entries selected by judges, three overall winners were chosen for their particular writing skills and themes and are featured in the book each representing their own location:
• English language: Ilika Chakravarty Mandal, Birmingham, UK. Title ‘Yellow Sweater’
• Bangla Language: Shahana Yasmin, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Title ‘Ek kichhui korena meyer golpo’
• Urdu language: Nadia Umer, Lahore, Pakistan. Title ‘Shehar Kay Dil’
Commenting on her work Bangladesh overall winner Shahana Yasmin said: “In Dhaka, the city I live in, you can see mothers of school children waiting outside the school for 5 to 6 hours every day. This city does not have any public toilets for women. So, these mothers cannot go to the toilet for a long time and develop urinary diseases. Their husbands don’t find them attractive, so they develop relationships with other women. I wanted to write about the plight of these mothers. ‘ My City, My Home’ inspired me to write this.”
Ilika Chakravarty Mandal, Birmingham (UK) overall winner added: “Having moved across cities and continents through study, marriage, work and motherhood, I have often questioned myself: What is home? Where is home? ‘My City, My Home’ was a topic to which my persona instantly connected. So much so, that I picked up my pen after almost thirty years to use the dying art of letter writing in a personal note for my ageing mum, who now seemed even more geographically distanced in a post-COVID world. To see my story published and shared is simply fabulous and I am inspired to try writing more regularly.”
My City, My Home is part of Transforming Narratives, a ground-breaking three- year project to establish Birmingham as a global centre for contemporary arts from Pakistan and Bangladesh
My City, My Home is also part of Sampad’s Sakshi (meaning “Witness” in Hindi) strand, which launched in 2018. Running until 2022, Sakshi will deliver a series of projects which focus on girls and women, to involve them in creative projects and to get their voices heard through the arts.