Friday, 4 December 2009

Aduunyadu way qiiro badan tahay

I think the title to this post means 'The world is a wondrous place' in Somali. So far as I can tell that's the case, anyway, from the only Somali-language book I own: Shells on a woven cord, published by MAMA East African Women's Group and Yorkshire Arts Circus, 1995. It is an insight into the often inaccessible world of Somali immigrants, especially the women. Inaccessible, I should say, for a white male in particular. One of my sisters, who teaches English as a foreign language in Bradford, has made many good friends from an extraordinarily wide range of communities. The book describes life in both Somalia and Sheffield in a clear-eyed but ultimately optimistic way. Meanwhile, the latest edition of the Thoresby Society's Miscellany has arrived, with an interesting article on Italian immigration in Leeds. The society is an invaluable source of detailed information about the history of Leeds and always welcomes new members or purchasers of its books - 23 Clarendon Road, Leeds LS2 9NZ. 0113 247 0704.
An excellent new feature they've introduced this year is the first of a proposed series called Notes from the Library, highlighting items in the society's impressive archive. They kick off with a piece about the exceptionally generous gift of Kirkstall Abbey to Leeds by Colonel North, the 'Chile Nitrate King', who bought it from the seedy descendants of the Cardigan family and just handed it over to the city. Business entrepreneurs get a lot of flack - witness the current banking furore - but in my experience they are much more generous benefactors than, for example, the arts or sports world. When will Alan Bennett premier a play at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, which would be a huge fillip for his native city? When will Damien Hirst curate an exhibition at the fabulous little museum in Horsforth where he grew up?

On that score, here's another good book: How it all began in Yorkshire by Maurice Baren, pubished by the Dalesman in 1997 - one of a host of similar books covering various parts of the country and an object lesson in the trials of starting great business, as well as the rewards which can follow.

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