a wonderful day of workshops


The wonderful children at Hiriya School for girls explored their ideas about the environment, and their passions and interests, during a workshop I gave on Sunday. They produced some great pieces of writing, and we’d love to share some of them with you on this blog.

Thoughts about the Environment:

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“My name is Fathmath Rooba. I am 14 years old. My passions include music and photography. I think the Environment is one of the major things we should talk about and discuss. As a human being it is our responsibility to take care of our environment. Even a small difference can change the world”

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“Hello! I am Shiran. I’m 14 years old. I think that the global environment should be taken care of. Unpredictable climate change and sea level rise are issues that can be a threat to humans. As well, I like music. All most everybody in the world likes music. The most beautiful thing is I like your name and the way you speak”.

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“Mostly, I like watching matches of football. Manchester United is my favourite club. I listen to MGMI, Oasis and Kate Perry. I listen to them while I study as well. I believe that small countries would submerge if we do not start to do our job as an individual to stop global warming and climate change. As an individual, you can do simple things like planting trees, switching off the lights when not needed and there are many other things you could do. One of the things I like to do is tell my friends and family members about how important it is to stop the climate change”.
– Riuman Mohammed Zahir, 13 years old.

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“My name is Aishath Mihna Mohammed and I’m almost 14 years old. I’ve always loved history and writing. I’ve been writing really short stories since I was five. I used to write comics but got bored of it and started to write fantasy and true life, mostly what I dream about. Most of my ideas come to my mind through dreams. I’ve always loved music. I play piano and guitar and also love to sing. I always dreamt of becoming an archaeologist.
About the environment, it’s been getting pretty worse. The last chemistry lesson we had, our teacher told us carbon dioxide is the gas which is increasing. So I guess there’s only one solution – planting trees and working together.
And I would really love to thank you for coming and spending your time here. Thank you again!”

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“I’m Aminath Hana, a grade 8 student. I’m 13 years old. I have a huge interest in football. I love the club Chelsea. I love to play netball. I have an interest in diving. I love animals, birds, and all living life. I would not miss a chance to go and explore in other countries. Mostly about the environment! We need to think about it seriously otherwise later in the our future we will have to suffer. We have many things we can do. Hold our hands together to help our environment”.

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Sunday was devoted to Workshops, from Monty Don gardening with students on Soneva Gill to Mark Lynas brainstorming on climate change.

I gave a workshop to these wonderful students, who, although in the midst of Exams this week, produced some funny and clever writing during the session, exploring their passions and interests, ranging from blogging to butterflies.

I shall be updating this workshop session further very shortly – so please call back soon!

on climate change: “I’m a member of the planet”


Climate change and environmental issues have been explored in a myriad of fascinating forms and settings during the festival: from fiction (Ian McEwan), to debate (Mark Lynas / Tim Smit), to gardening (Monty Don), to the school classroom (children thought about the issue during workshops held on the final day of the festival).

“I’m a member of the planet – and that’s why I’m here trying to make a difference to this country”, said Mark Lynas, a sentiment echoing throughout the festival, where young and old gathered to debate an issue affecting all. All agreed that action was needed, from the grassroots to the government.

During the debate with Mark Lynas and Simad Saeed, the President’s special advisor on Climate Change, a passionate voice in the crowd spoke up for the youth, asking, what hope is there for them? “The youth are going to waste. We need a grassroots movement”, he insisted.
Later, in the Vilu Hall, the British Council’s International Climate Champions gave young people aged 18 to 23 years old a voice on environmental issues, to “inspire positive action to mitigate the effects of climate change”. Their roles shall be developed over the coming year.
These voices of youth were a powerful reminder of the generation that shall inherit the earth.
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Monty Don


Ripe with inspiration

Audience members were transported deep into the heart of the South American rainforests and to Monty Don’s “fascinating and deeply inspirational time” in Cuba among other locations, during a talk ripe with anecdotes, including the sticky issue of ethics: should one accept fruit which has been washed in the Amazon in which a dead dog has just floated by?

Monty Don honed his fertile experience to explore important issues. He described the thousands of organic projects now in place in Cuba, and also made the important point that without skills and knowledge, enthusiasm alone will take a much longer time to gain practical results.

Monty Don cuts to the very quick of life and death and here in the Maldives, he made thought-provoking comments on survival, and the contrast between those who are on the brink of extinction and driven to do what they must to survive, compared to our modern world in which “we don’t have to do anything”. He quoted the Bob Dylan lyric, “It’s a wonder we can even feed ourselves”.

I saw Monty Don interviewed at Hay Festival, Wales earlier this year, and he reveals many welcome green shoots of wisdom (excuse the gardening metaphor).

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“the most beautiful island I have seen in my whole life”


Tsunami Stories

“I think this is the most beautiful island I have seen in my whole life”, says Ahmed Naseer, during a short talk on “Stories from the Tsunami”.
I sit on a patterned mat as a breeze blows through the trees and hear a short and powerful tribute to the crucial role played by Minivian Radio in connecting people during and after the tragedy.
Ahmed Naseer explains the ways in which he distracted himself from “the stark reality he was facing”. He parallels his return home to the home-coming of the Chilean miners. “As an exile I am fortunate enough to be given the chance of returning home and continuing with my life. It has been a long and winding road and I am still to feel a sense of arrival”, he says. He also gave a reminder of all that is still left to achieve: “We have a lot of work to do before we can declare ourselves mission accomplished”.

The event falls into silence and music after half an hour, which somehow seem fitting forms to commemorate the tragedy of the tsunami.
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Peter Godwin in conversation


An hour of tragedy and comedy

Peter Godwin sold every single one of his books on display here, following the event I chaired with him this afternoon, which moved audience members to tears of both sorrow and laughter.
It is little wonder since many of the themes he discussed chimed with issues at the heart of life in the Maldives. As well as exploring the concept of “transitional justice”, he detailed his sense of being an outsider, living between two worlds, and the concept of home, as also movingly explored in his award-winning memoirs, “When the Crocodile Eats the Sun” and “Mukiwa: a White Boy in Africa”, which won the George Orwell Prize and the Apple/Esquire/Waterstones Award.

He also gave insight into his creative processes of storytelling, from the intimacies of the first-person and the “cinematic metaphor” he feels best describes memoir-writing, to how his childhood has influenced not only the content but the very cadences of his language. He spoke of the importance of using detail to find the universal, how to write for two audiences, and the “thrill of recognition” that writing can spark, at the realization that you are not alone.

His new book, “The Fear: The Last Days of Robert Mugabe” has recently been published, and is described by Paul Theroux as “a chronicle of the mess that is Zimbabwe…an important book detailing the violent realities, the grotesque injustices, the hunger, the sadness, and a portrait of Mugabe, the tyrant who is the cause of it all”.

What has happened in Zimbabwe, he said, is a “tragedy in the true dramatic Greek sense of the word”.

Godwin described how dictators “live in a bubble”, in a “state of altered reality”. The session was filled with sparkling anecdotes, and he injected humour into grave themes, having the whole audience in laughter at his tips for coping if you ever find yourself next to a dictator, and how one particular dictator has been spotted looking for lipstick in Manhattan.

Music in the Maldives


Harubee / Bodu Beru

Debate by day, dancing by night is the flavour of the festival.

Silhouettes of dancing bodies fall upon the sand.
The palm trees are vivid green against the inky black sky, illuminated by the stage lighting.
Some dance before the stage, others sit on the patterned mats and enjoy watching the spectacle.

HARUBEE / Bodu Beru’s expressive dancing and drum beats won the MNBC One Bodu Beru Challenge 2010. Tonight, the hypnotic beat of their drums energizes the crowd who dance for hours, in impressive twists and turns.

Such is the exuberance of entertainment that it spills out to the very end of the evening.
I catch the last ferry back to Male (the others head back to their resort islands), and the drumming, the singing, the dancing continue, all the way until the speedboat reaches land.

All in all, a most atmospheric evening.

SHOBHAA DÉ in conversation


Starry, starry night

The hugely popular Shobhaa De turned sixty around the same time that India celebrated 60 years of Independence from British rule. This intertwining of her own life and her nation’s history is a theme throughout her work, which explores multifaceted urban India, from the struggles of the young attempting to break into Bollywood, to the institution of marriage as it has evolved over generations. The versatile writer explores storytelling in many genres, from the newspaper column to the novel to memoir. She is not afraid of controversy and speaking her mind, indeed believes it is the writer’s duty to do so, and among topics she has spoken out for include taking on Shah Rukh Khan for his views on the Mumbai terror attacks.

In her latest book, “Shobhaa at Sixty”, she urges women to embrace the ageing process and shake off the shackles of neurosis and low self-esteem.

The power of the Internet is a theme throughout the Festival, since the events will be streamed as online Videos, allowing many more people access then are currently here on this island. This indeed is something Shobhaa is passionate about. “If you don’t have a presence online these days, you don’t exist”, she commented. She has embraced the blogging and Twitter revolutions, and spoke about how, through the net, she has gained an intimate connection with her readers; never censors her negative comments; and love’s blogging ability to capture the concrete details of life.

You should check out her Twitter picture – which features her with a real lion. Indeed, this image defines her character as a risk-taker and always one to approach what others would fear: she discussed the various risks she has taken over her career; and how being a women is itself a risky business.

Her books (including the bestseller “Superstar India”) tackle the theme of stardom, asking – what is it really that makes a true star?

As we walked to the event, we stopped to admire the sun setting deep red over the Indian Ocean. By the end of the conversation, the stars were gleaming amongst the palm trees, and the moon hanging bright over the Maldives.

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just the ticket


Hay Festival Maldives tickets selling out...

The impressive sight of Hay Festival Maldives banners draped on the oldest theatre in Male caught my eye as I walked along the main shopping street, Majeedee Magu, today. An arrow pointed in the direction of “Hay Festival Maldives tickets” and there the friendly group of volunteers were pleased to reveal that all tickets that they have are now sold out. At the back of the theatre, I discovered some familiar faces – the Hay Festival team from the UK busy beavering away – though in this 30 degree heat, not decked out in wellies and woolies, as is customary in rainy Hay-on-Wye.

After some staple snacks (fish, understandably popular here), I got my first taste of Male, as Razzan, who works for the Festival from out here, kindly gave me a mini-tour around Male on his motorbike. As the afternoon sun blazed down, we passed everything from government buildings to the National Museum to the popular music shop Island Records, grand mosques, cemeteries, the MNBC offices, and the country’s green and red flag fluttering in a sudden breeze. We also passed a monument to victims of the tsunami and Razzan explained how he himself was playing cricket at the time, when a huge wave swamped the area and he had to dash to a top floor to escape – the vulnerability of the islands shall be one of the topics of discussion during the Festival this weekend.

Razzan then showed me one of his favourite places in town – the chocolate shop. The site of tonight’s first festival event soon came into view – a stage is set and gleaming white against the backdrop of blue sea and palm trees – certainly a sight to whet the appetite. The Festival kicks off tonight with the Celebration Launch at the ‘Artificial Beach’ on Male:


Event 1 • Thursday 14 October 2010, 8pm • Venue: Artificial Beach, Male
Savour the melodic tones of singer songwriter Appi in an intimate acoustic set with Fa’thu. The Dinba Family, a fresh collective of talent, showcase their reggae rhythms bristling with energy. FASYLIVE goes back to his roots with his unique blend of contemporary rock and traditional ‘Bodu Beru’ drumming from the acclaimed album FASYLIVE Silver. Finish the night with a sparkling retrospective from The Olympians, bringing us the best of their acclaimed hindi-inspired pop career spanning three decades, to include the classic hits ‘Dhauruvaa Mihandhaanthah’ and ‘Reyrey Mihen Khiaalu Kollan Aadhevey’.
Free entry (donations to charity)

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