People turning to poetry and music for pleasure during lockdown, says Poet Laureate – Channel 4 News

Back in March lockdown brought an end to choir practice across the country with singing deemed a high risk hobby when it came to spreading the virus.

But inspired by the memory of the choral societies he knew growing up in Huddersfield, the poet Laureate Simon Armitage has created the lyrics for two new works that express some of the emotions and frustrations of the last few months.

Having rehearsed in groups of no more than fifteen as per government guidelines, next Saturday the Huddersfield choral society will premiere both works in videoed performances.

Earlier we spoke to Simon Armitage and asked him how he became involved with the choir.

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Belarus: Nobel Laureate Alexievich visited by diplomats amid ‘harassment’

image copyrightTwitter / @AnnLinde

image captionSvetlana Alexievich pictured at home in Minsk surrounded by European diplomats

European diplomats have been photographed at the home of a Nobel Prize-winning writer in Belarus after she said masked men tried to break in.

Svetlana Alexievich called journalists to her home on Wednesday after the incident.

She is the last leading member of the opposition Co-ordination Council still in Belarus who has not been detained.

The government has cracked down on dissent after protests swept the country following a disputed election.

Maria Kolesnikova, one of three women who joined forces to challenge authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko in August’s vote, is currently in detention after

she resisted attempts by the authorities to expel her to Ukraine earlier this week.

And on Wednesday witnesses reportedly saw Maxim Znak, a lawyer and another member of the Co-ordination Council, being led down a street in the capital Minsk by masked men in plain clothes.

Thousands of people have been arrested in the crackdown on the opposition and its supporters.

Authorities announced on Wednesday that 121 people had been detained at protests nationwide the day before. Hundreds more people were arrested on Sunday during the fourth consecutive weekend of anti-government demonstrations.

What’s the latest on Svetlana Alexievich?

Ms Alexievich, a Nobel Prize-winning writer and journalist, said she had asked supporters to come to her home after she was harassed with door knocks and phone calls. She said masked men had earlier attempted to break into her apartment.
Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde tweeted an image of the author at home in Minsk surrounded by European diplomats late on Wednesday morning.

“Harassments, arrests [and] forced exile of opposition… is a serious violation of peaceful protests,” she said. “Happy to share this photo taken a moment ago in Minsk.”

image copyrightEPA
image captionSvetlana Alexievich called journalists and supporters to her home, alleging masked men had tried to break in
In a statement posted on the website of the Belarusian PEN Centre, Ms Alexievich said the Co-ordination Council “wanted a dialogue to begin in society”.

The opposition set up the committee in the wake of the election calling for a peaceful transfer of power.

“We were not preparing a coup. We wanted to prevent a split in our country,” she wrote. “It was not the [council] that revolted. The country revolted.”

And what happened to Maxim Znak?

The 39-year-old, who previously worked as a lawyer for jailed presidential candidate Viktor Babaryko, was due to take part in a video call on Wednesday but failed to dial in.

When a colleague called him, Mr Znak said someone had arrived and then hung up.

He then texted the word “masks” to a group, one activist told local media. This is believed to be a reference to the face masks worn by the Belarusian security services.

media captionWhat lies behind the Belarus protests?

Witnesses then reported seeing Mr Znak being led down a street close to his offices by masked men in civilian clothes.

On Monday, Mr Znak had told the BBC he was concerned about his safety.

“I’m pretending to be relaxed,” he said. “It’s a professional habit – but actually I’m very concerned and scared.”

The police are yet to comment on reports of his detention.

What else is happening?

On Wednesday, the exiled opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya visited the Polish capital Warsaw where she delivered a speech at a university and called for the protests in Belarus to remain peaceful.

“I think it is impossible to fight violence and give violence,” she said.

She has also called for the immediate release of Mr Znak.

“The methods employed by the so-called authorities are outrageous,” she said in a statement. “It’s clear Lukashenko is afraid of negotiations and is trying… to paralyse the work of the Co-ordination Council and intimidate its members.”

media captionProtesters took to the streets of Minsk and demonstrated outside President Lukashenko’s palace

Ms Tikhanovskaya, the chief opposition rival to Mr Lukashenko in last month’s election, was forced to go into exile in neighbouring Lithuania shortly after the vote.

She entered the race after her husband Sergei Tikhanovsky and another candidate were jailed.

Mr Lukashenko, meanwhile, is set to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on 14 September. The pair will discuss energy co-operation, regional conflicts and many other topics, the RIA news agency reports.

Related Topics

  • Alexander Lukashenko

  • Belarus

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John Hume, Northern Irish Catholic leader and Nobel Peace laureate, dies at 83

John Hume, a key Roman Catholic architect of Northern Ireland’s 1998 Good Friday peace agreement who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in ending 30 years of sectarian violence, died on Monday at the age of 83, his SDLP party said.

Hume, a veteran civil rights campaigner credited with kick-starting peace negotiations in a British region convulsed by bloodshed in the early 1990s, shared the Peace Prize with Northern Ireland’s then-first minister, David Trimble of the Protestant Ulster Unionist Party.

He died in a care home in his native Londonderry in the early hours of Monday morning, his family said.

Former PMs pay tribute

“John Hume was a political titan; a visionary who refused to believe the future had to be the same as the past. His contribution to peace in Northern Ireland was epic,” former British prime minister Tony Blair, who was in office at the time of the Good Friday accord, said in a statement.

Another former British prime minister, John Major, also paid tribute to Hume, describing him as “one of the most fervent warriors for peace.”

“Few others invested such time and energy to this search, and few sought to change entrenched attitudes with such fierce determination,” Major said in a statement. 

“Those whose communities have been transformed into peaceful neighbourhoods may wish to pay tribute to one of the most fervent warriors for peace. He has earned himself an honoured place in Irish history.”

Fought discrimination

Hume in 1968 joined a movement to protect the civil rights of the province’s pro-Irish Roman Catholic minority, fighting against discrimination by the pro-British Protestant majority in everything from housing to education.

As leader of the moderate Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), Hume was an important advocate of non-violence as fighting erupted between Irish nationalists who wanted a united Ireland and pro-British forces, including the British Army, who wanted to maintain the region’s British status.

By 1998, more than 3,600 had died.

“Right from the outset of the Troubles, John was urging people to stick to their objective peacefully and was constantly critical of those who did not realize the importance of peace,” Trimble told BBC Radio Ulster on Monday, hailing Hume’s “major contribution” to the peace process.

Pioneering talks

In a pivotal breakthrough, Hume in 1993 took part in pioneering talks with Gerry Adams, who was at the time the leader of the Sinn Fein party that was then the political wing of the guerrilla Irish Republican Army (IRA).

The talks helped pave the way for a joint initiative by the British and Irish governments in 1993 that spawned a peace process and an IRA truce in 1994 — and ultimately paved the way for the watershed Good Friday accord four years later.

“When others were stuck in the ritual politics of condemnation, John Hume had the courage to take real risks for peace,” Adams said in a statement. “When others talked endlessly about peace John grasped the challenge and helped make peace happen.”

In this Dec. 10, 1998 photo, Hume, right, looks at the Nobel Peace Prize diploma that he received from Francis Sejersted, left, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize Committee during the award ceremony in Oslo Town Hall. (Bjoern Sigurdsoen/NTB/The Associated Press)

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