Bluebird has pre-empted the memoir of Bafta-winning filmmaker, Syrian refugee, NHS cleaner and activist Hassan Akkad.
Publisher Carole Tonkinson acquired UK Commonwealth rights from Rachel Mills at Rachel Mills Literary. The book, as yet untitled, will be published in 2021.
Hassan has made headlines during the Covid-19 crisis by signing up as a cleaner at his local hosiptal (Whipps Cross) al in a bid to help the community. Vogue has described him as a “lightning rod for change” while he has been credited with helping force a government U-turn on a bereavement package initially drafted to benefit doctors, nurses and registrars but which now also extends to hospital cleaners, porters and the other key, low-paid frontline workers.
Hassan's hospital experience was also a painful reminder of the physical and mental torture he was subjected to under president Assad's regime in Syria.
The synopsis of the book explains: “Beyond sharing his experience as a unique eye-witness to the pandemic, Hassan will deliver a message of solidarity with the globally-sourced workforce that makes up the NHS, and call for stronger and broader coalitions of support for migrant and working-class individuals, both in Britain and around the world. He will also describe both his perilous journey to the UK – the subject of his BAFTA award-winning film 'Exodus' – and his life in Syria before the war. Hassan will reveal the normality of that life – driving to McDonald's in Lebanon on a Thursday night with his friends, posting selfies on Facebook and sneaking into bars – and the shock of that normality being turned utterly upside-down by the war.”
Hassan started out as a teacher and a photographer in Damascus and was later tortured as an activist and undertook a perilous 3,000-mile journey across the Middle East and Europe to the UK where he sought asylum.
He said: “My story is one of hope, not fear. It is a demonstration of the fact that if we come together in kindness and love, wherever we’re from, whatever we look like, and no matter how much we make, we can get through the darkest of days and fundamentally transform how this world is experienced by historically marginalized and disenfranchised populations. By telling my story, and the story of other frontline key workers, currently doing everything they can to save lives in the crisis, I want to show that our nationality doesn’t dictate our kindness, that we can, and must, stand up united in the face of adversity and make a difference.”
Tonkinson added: “Hassan’s deep compassion and fearless activism are simply awe-inspiring. Hassan has reached across national and political divides and his humanity, sense of service and ideals have brought people together. Of the many inspirational figures to emerge during the Covid-19 crisis, Hassan and his work have touched me most of all. We feel privileged to be publishing his story and throwing the full weight of the Bluebird team behind his unifying message.”