I have had reason to be exceptionally proud of late. Dear friends have been achieving amazing feats. They're the sort of people you see in news stories and think 'I can't believe I know her'! I'm going to tell you about one of them today, Professor Alison Phipps.
I remember the first lecture of Alison's that I attended at Glasgow Uni. I sat aghast as she shared her ethnographic work with us about German tourists on the Scottish island of Skye. She was describing my experience on the island of Iona so perfectly I just couldn't believe it. It turned out there was good reason for this - Alison is a member of the Iona Community, a community that was my salvation as a lost teenager.
To my great joy, Alison and I became fast friends. At that point in time great concern was building in Glasgow about the rights of refugees living in our city. Alison took on this work with a degree of perseverance and passion that is rarely known. She is one of those people who always know what to say - who in your deepest hour of need, from halfway across the world, will send you a message that cuts to the core of what you're experiencing and helps you to make sense of it. She takes that spirit into her work with Gramnet, the Glasgow Refugee, Asylum and Migration network.
Ok, so you think I'm showing off? I haven't even begun yet! Recently, Alison became UNESCO Chairholder in Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts. You can read a proper, grown up article about it here. Here's a short excerpt from that article, a quote from Alison:
“The endowment of this Chair by UNESCO will allow us to extend our work significantly with a focus on the protection of living culture. It will allow us to develop multilingual and creative hubs of activity with a number of partners, including Glasgow Open Museums, Scottish Refugee Council, the Red Cross and the Iona Community to enable refugee integration through languages and the arts. In Ghana we shall be working with the University of Ghana and the Noyam African Dance Institute and in Gaza with the Islamic University of Gaza.”
Yep, I'm pretty darn proud.
Speaking of Glasgow and Ghana, I've been listening to this year's Reith Lectures while I drive between suppliers, our shops and our workshop, and play in my lovely spring garden. (The second and third lectures were delivered at Glasgow Uni and at the British Council in Accra.) This year's lecturer is Kwame Anthony Appiah. His lectures are superb, and he discusses issues of identity and belonging that are close to the hearts of all of us at Beloved. If you have the time, I'd highly recommend listening to them.