Alinah Azadeh: We See You Now

Writing the global imaginary of the South Downs coastal landscape

Alinah Azadeh is an interdisciplinary artist, writer and cultural activist of British-Iranian heritage.

In the last 5 years she has moved more directly from 20 years of visual art into writing and had poetry, short stories and articles published. Listen to her new urban/nature writing piece, ‘The Hidden Valley’, for BBC Radio 3’s The Essay, Into the Wild to get an immediate flavour of her work and creative mission. 

Alinah is inaugural writer-in-residence for the South Downs National Park, at Seven Sisters Country Park and along the Sussex Heritage Coast (Seaford to Eastbourne), and lead writer/ curator on We See You Now, a literature and landscape programme funded by Arts Council England, with multiple partners across cultural, heritage and community sectors, including ONCA, New Writing South, Writing Our Legacy, and Enthum Foundation.

Alinah will feature in Glimpse, the first anthology of Black British speculative fiction published in September 2022 by Inscribe/Peepal Tree Press, edited by Leone Ross. You can read about her first book and preview an extract here, showcased by The Literary Consultancy

Alinah is using her writer residency to produce a new body of mythopoetic, speculative writing for the Seven Sisters/Sussex coastal landscape, following on from her 2020 prologue audio story, We See You Now, which sparked the project. As part of and alongside this, she has been creating the collective context for further writing – by others – to be produced across digital, live and print platforms, which also interweaves decolonised perspectives on the multiple identities of this coastal landscape / border, connection with the more-than-human, reflections on ecological loss, and future, collective dreaming. 

The foundations for this began in May 2020 and are ongoing through a series of writing/walking retreats with a growing cohort of writers of global majority heritage in the south east (produced by Writing our Legacy, through whom Alinah first met many of the writers). The creative refuge offered by the landscape and a sense of solidarity and kinship, fostered with each other through what has been an intense time of societal change, has been a key driver for the evolution of the project.

‘Seeing and writing ourselves as an intrinsic part of nature, in a constant state of change, whilst the metaphors of the rapidly disappearing chalk coast and its status as hardening border also provide an opportunity to use our lived experiences of loss, renewal and resilience to show creative solidarity with those being most affected by life changes through migration, the climate emergency, hostile environment policies and intersectional forms of discrimination and marginalisation.’ 

 You can read more about this process and the influence of commoning on her work with writers in the landscape in her entry on the Crafting the Commons network blog. 

The We See You Now programme includes: 

  • Dialogues with other writers/activists across the landscape through her residency podcast, The Colour of Chalk (intro episode out now).
  • New writing commissioned and embedded across the landscape & online in audio work & live forms from next September (Seven Sisters Country Park).
  • Writers retreats and follow-up writer days across the landscape & online throughout 2022 (including with ONCA). Ongoing. 
  • A We See You Now anthology for the area, whose submissions have been nurtured through the programme and via a self-access, downloadable writing prompts and walking guide supplied through SDNPA channels from next summer, for a wider public. 
  • Talks, dialogues, writing workshops and broadcasts in different cultural contexts across the region, including with ONCA.