Damian Barr Interview – #PandemicTales

This month Daastan had the wonderful opportunity to interview the British author, broadcaster and founder/host of the highly esteemed Literary Salon, Damian Barr. As part of their new campaign Tales From the Pandemic or #PandemicTales. We discussed his personal experiences of the pandemic and the affect that such an event has had on his multiple work projects and commitments.

Our interview was conducted by Intern, Jasmine Thorne. She begun by asking about the changes that Damian’s work had undergone over the past year and a half, here is how the interview played out.

Did you find that your work was affected during the pandemic and how did you adapt to these changes?

YES. We were due to host a Salon with Polly Samson, Pete Paphides and John Niven the week of lockdown. We did it in a very random fashion on facebook live. We now have a very smooth youtube platform thanks to the Salon team. The tech has shifted as the lockdown has drawn on and we have found Salons Online a great way of reaching out to marginalised communities and readers worldwide. We will always do Salons Online now when we return in person too. As a writer, my paperback of ‘You Will Be Safe Here’ was due out the month the lockdown happened and my paperback tour was cancelled entirely. I really miss meeting readers and having those conversations which so often complete the work.”

And on a larger scale how do you think the pandemic will affect the literary industry as a whole? 

In so many ways, it’s been terrible for those who make their money from live events as so many writers and illustrators do. The government needs to do more to help. The same goes for indie bookshops and small publishers. We have also seen troubling post Brexit ramifications: grabs for copyright, cuts to libraries and the attack on English Literature as a degree.”

Can you share with us whether as a creative you struggled for inspiration or motivation during this time or were you inspired to create any ‘quick response art’ about the pandemic?

Well, I did a tweet which you can find online that has gone global. “We are not all in the same boat but we are all in the same storm.” it’s been on Oprah’s podcast, in every newspaper and on the lips of leaders of many faiths. It’s strange having a thought resonate so widely and I have seen it featured in many books. I also made x3 TV series during lockdown: Shelf Isolation and The Big Scottish Book Club, as well as many salons, with guests including Garth Greenwell, Douglas Stuart and Maggie O’Farrell. This creative output was possible when writing felt hard.”

One of the poetry categories for the competition is nature, have you found that your relationship with nature altered during lockdown? 

At this point Damian referred Jasmine to an episode of Guide Books on BBC Sounds entitled “On Nature with Helen Macdonald and Mellissa Harrison”, where he discussed this shift in greater detail. He says: “one of the things that has been interesting in lockdown has been seeing people finding more to see in the natural world because they have been still for longer than they have been…a product of being forced to be still and crucially being forced to be quiet”.

We would like to give thanks to Damian Barr for taking time out of his busy schedule to conduct an interview with us at Daastan. We would like to thank everyone who has been getting on board with Tales From the Pandemic. If you haven’t already and you would like to please don’t hesitate to enter our poetry competition. Follow this link for more info.

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