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Stories of the Stranger show in Scotland this month

23 August 2016:

The Beyond Borders International Festival of Literature and Thought in Peebles, Scotland this month is featuring an exhibition of drawings from ARC's groundbreaking Stories of the Stranger exhibition.

The black and white ink and wash drawings by Scottish artist Sylvia Woodcock-Clarke, will be shown alongside photographs of India by writer William Dalrymple, as well as photos of women in Yemen and paintings by Scotland-based Palestinian artist Leena Nammari. They were commissioned by ARC to illustrate Stories of the Stranger, retelling some of the world’s most culturally defining tales about strangers from a contemporary perspective, as well as telling contemporary stories describing the experience of exile, of losing everything, of being thrown out, of being dispossessed, and of relying on the generosity, or not, of foreigners.

As the exhibition organisers write: "Of huge relevance today this is a fundamental and recurring theme in many world cultures. Sylvia's drawings capture the spirit of the stories with poignancy, humour and wit."

The exhibition was commissioned by the Scottish Storytelling Centre as the Scottish International Storytelling Festival Exhibition shown in Edinburgh during October and November 2015. Link here for more details.

The End of the World

That’s Just My Laundry

Even Kings Know The Fear of Death

Introduction to Stories of the Stranger

Three more Stories of the Stranger including St Martin

In the preface to this poignant book, former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown relates his childhood story of how, as the son of a Christian minister, he was encouraged to welcome strangers into the family home and how he “once invited a man in for a cup of tea… he turned out to be the most notorious local burglar.”

These days, it is common to hear mistrustful talk about strangers - people are often afraid. Climate change and violent conflict are driving increasing numbers from their homes. Stripped of almost everything, these refugees become dependent on the generosity of others.

Yet all faiths and traditions, from across the global, have stories of being the stranger in their history, stories of being the people whose survival relied upon such charity. This touching new collection brings these ancient narratives to life for a contemporary audience, as the newest face of a story as old as story-telling itself. In doing so, it is a powerful reminder to look beyond fear and mistrust to recognize the compassion we owe our fellow humans. And that, as Gordon Brown says, “More often than not, our world can be enriched by strangers – even if we always have to be careful when the local burglar calls!” Stories of the Stranger is a remarkable anthology which draws together 20 short stories from a vibrant range of story-telling traditions; including: African, Indian, Buddhist, Christian, Turkish, Korean.

Each story describes 'an encounter with exiles and outsiders' and, despite the enormous diversity of time, place and religious context, they show how caring for these strangers is both a mortal duty and a blessing. They also manage to be entertaining, sometimes funny, always readable. Here are three of the stories.

Taken from original oral versions the stories have been revitalized by 12 exciting contemporary writers, including; Benaifer Bhandari, a Zoroastrian storyteller and poet; Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister; established journalist and author Victoria Finlay; young novelist, Emma Geen, whose debut will be published by Bloomsbury in June 2016r; Penguin novelist, Dr. Vayu Naidu; and Sef Townsend, an oral storyteller who works with refugees.

Many traditions, similar stories

Some of the stories were collected for ARC by Martin Palmer and Katriana Hazell from oral story-telling sessions at some of ARC's international meetings. Whether poignant, grave, funny or heart-warming, each tells of an encounter with the unknown; highlighting the dire consequences of uncharitable attitudes and the potential riches that flow from generosity.

Link here to read about the storytelling sessions

As former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown says in his foreword: "we may be more likely to find something profound in the poor exile than the all-powerful seeming priest. [This book] is an effective and subtle way to show how strangers could be neighbours and how we could all live by the golden rule common to all religions."

Publishing information

Stories of the Stranger Collected by Martin Palmer & Katriana Hazell
Illustrations by Sylvia Woodcock-Clarke
Published 2014 by Bene Factum Publishing Ltd, London
ISBN: 978-1-909657-44-1

Copies can be bought direct from Bene Factum Publishing

The book is also available through

For further information please contact Katriana Hazell, co-editor, via:


Sample stories from Stories of the Stranger

The End of the World

That’s Just My Laundry

Even Kings Know The Fear of Death

Introduction to Stories of the Stranger

Three more Stories of the Stranger including St Martin

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