Library Voices

Event Review: August 2021

“Everywhere I go belongs to other people.”

from “Somewhere borrowed, somewhere blue” by Ayesha Chatterjee

Roots, Identity, and Belonging

Andreas and Kirti welcomed everyone to our event. It is our aim to make each Library Voices event a discussion and an opportunity to meet new people. We then met in randomly arranged small zoom groups to gather ideas about what exactly the word ROOTS means to us.

ROOTS - a feeling - a silent, stabilizing confidence-builder - a way to make sense of the world we interact with.

ROOTS - burst into our awareness when we transplant ourselves.

Words like ‘uprooted,’ ‘putting down roots’, and ‘fertile soil’ suddenly resonate explosively. Muddling along, consumed by these eruptions of emotional turmoil, we test the new soil. Can roots be put down here? We try a tentative downward shoot - all the while sending out frantic side-runners - to reach across the divide and keep us connected - however tenuously - with our primary soil. Is this ‘just me’? - What a relief to find it isn’t! How nice to chat with others who feel the same way.

Its complexity - ROOTS - was vibrantly brought together in an electrifying performance by three collaborators who have found fertile soil (in Canada) and intertwined the roots of their individual disciplines. (their biographies follow)

Ayesha read from her work - including poems written during her years in Germany when she was a part of the International Library. These poems evoke the turmoil of roots - or is that, perhaps, the turmoil of feeling root-less.

David heard music in these poems. He captured their explosive complexity in a series of musical compositions - tone poems.

Karen sang in soaring soprano the intensity of what we often feel, but seldom say out loud.

Videos of the performances can be viewed on the library’s Youtube channel.

Small-group discussions provided a chance to react and reflect. This was followed by a plenary multique and a final closing performance:

“We carry our umbilical cords with us, coiled in our pockets for comfort.”

(From: The Clarity of Distance by Ayesha Chatterjee)

It was a wonderful afternoon.

Author: Marjorie Weiss

Event Review: June 2021

“To be or not to be…”

“To be” announced Astrid Schenka, the ‘Kulturreferentin Neuss, in charge of the Shakespeare Festival at the Globe. Shakespeare will be performed at the Globe this summer season.

This was exciting news at Library Voices - a bimonthly-ish event of the International English Library. This potpourri of issues, events, and goings-on around town in Düsseldorf, is a video zoom that includes small group chats, as well as full-group discussions with special guests. A chance to hear about upcoming things of interest. Everything is in English and everyone is welcome and registration is so easy. Our next event will be on August 21st.

June’s topic was live theatre in Düsseldorf. Along with the Globe, the English Theatre Group of Düsseldorf was represented by Rosie Thorpe and Ilya Parenteau. Both groups have suffered trials, tribulations, and uncertainty through this pandemic year. As public officials sought to keep us safe, making weighty decisions with far-reaching consequences and no certainty those measures would work, we have all scrambled to keep ahead of the pandemic.

Live theatre has been especially hard hit though, with the ever-changing attempts to find working solutions - bravely implementing restrictions, reducing audiences, reducing the number of performers, reducing prices, and finally having to close altogether. Then re-opening briefly only to close again.

“If it be now, ’tis not to come:

if it be not to come, it will be now:

if it be not now yet it will come:

the readiness is all.”


How to survive... How to fill the void… How to keep their loyal audiences… How to navigate this strange new virtual world… How to bend and shape this new digital media. And since giving their presentations, things have continued to change as numbers thankfully go down and restrictions are lifted. Best to check the websites directly for current news on productions, dates, times, and how to get tickets. There’re a lot of exciting and audacious things to look forward to.

Bravo to truly inspiring tenacity, innovation, and creativity - with the happy outcome that - the show will go on!

Author: Marjorie Weiss

Event Review: May 2021

At the time of writing, I‘m fresh off a Zoom Session, the International English Library’s inaugural “Library Voices” event and it’s a pleasure to report back on an event that I found utterly enjoyable and which gave me the first true belly-laughs I’ve had in weeks.

The inaugural guest was Dr. Britta Zangen, literary scholar (and former librarian of the IEL back it was still in the hands of the city) in conversation with the delightful Andreas Giesen about the subject of her latest book: “Ageing is Great – You Just Have to Know How” (translated title of the original German).

We got off to a shaky start, besieged by some tech-interrupting gremlins (those cheeky little buggers seem to get around in these online days!). Britta was unable to hear on the Zoom, and Andrea had to do some fast-moving MacGyvering, calm under pressure, eventually taping an extension ear-piece from his phone to his headset to link Britta in so the interview-proper could start - but in the interim, a delightful conversation ensued where the participants were frankly asked how old they were, and how old they felt, and every single one of the 14 participants everyone shared something meaningful.

Without meaning to sound evangelistic - it was truly enlightening to hear how people feel about aging. We all know it’s far better than the alternative, yet the focus remained profoundly positive. The importance of positive role models, friendships, meaning, civil courage, curiosity, and purpose were all explored, and I’m sure I’ll be adding Britta’s book to ever-growing pile on my bedside table. The atmosphere was warm, supportive, utterly honest, and hilarious, with Britta candidly sharing some of her more personal stories and some opinions. Thought-provoking and frank, touching on issues of gender, patriarchy, power, and politics - I can but hope all future Library Voices sessions will be just as enthralling!

Dr. Britta Zangen has a website on which one will also find a link to her YouTube channel – where she’s now uploading pearls of her wisdom (in English) each month.

Author: Melanie Schuth