Kathleen Jones

I was born and brought up on a small hill farm in the English Lake District, which was an isolated and unique life.  My teenage years were quite turbulent - I abandoned school and went to London to find out how to become a writer, failed miserably and got married instead.  My twenties and early thirties were spent travelling the world with my husband, living mainly in Africa and the Middle East, where I began to work in broadcast journalism. Africa schooled me in political corruption and three violent coups made me realise how most people in what we call the 'third' world actually live - not knowing where the next meal is coming from and whether they will actually survive to eat it.

The Middle East brought me face to face with women's rights - not just the question of a vote, but the reality of being owned as a chattel and confined like a prisoner.  I attended the marriage of one of the ruling family to an 8 year old girl.  One of the first embassy dinners I went to found me sitting next to a Lebanese female doctor who arrived late and apologised as she slid into her seat, explaining that she had had to attend a young girl who was bleeding to death after a genital mutilation ritual had gone very wrong.  The Middle East also brought me my first experience of censorship. All broadcasts were made from a studio in the presence of a representative from the Ministry of Information who had his hand on the 'off' switch.  Our scripts had to be approved by them before we even got into the studio. No politics, no religion, no mention of Israel, no sex -  it's a wonder we wrote anything!

Those years in Africa, Arabia and Asia have left a deep mark and have affected the way I view western politics and economics.  I came back with four children and a broken marriage, went through university as a single parent and published my first book.  Since then I've written seventeen of them, novels, biographies and collections of poetry. I've worked as a creative writing tutor and I'm currently a Royal Literary Fund Fellow. Life is very different, but I have never forgotten those years.

My time abroad also forced me to confront the legacy of British Colonialism, which is still a poisonous source of conflict in the world.  Recently I visited remote islands in British Columbia and heard first hand the atrocities (now publicly admitted to be cultural genocide) committed against the First Nation people who lived there.  It made me vow that I would never stand back and watch my government doing such inhumane and cruel acts in my name without protesting as loudly as I can.

The time has arrived when we all have to stand up and be counted.  I'm a writer, not a politician or a soldier, so the written word is the only weapon I have.  Will you join me?


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