Author Bali Rai visit 2023

Posted on: February 22nd 2023School News

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Year 7 pupils welcomed author Bali Rai to the school for a day of discussions about history and what we can learn from the sources that still exist today. 

Bali spoke in detail about his book "Now or Never: A Dunkirk Story" which focuses on the massive military campaign during World War II. This story brings a young soldier, Private Fazal Khan, from his home in India to the battlefields of the Second World War, and displays one of the many unsung stories of the past. 

About 338,000 British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and other Allied troops were evacuated from Dunkirk to England as German forces closed in. The massive operation, involving hundreds of naval and civilian vessels, became known as the “Miracle of Dunkirk” and served as a turning point for the Allied war effort. 

Year 7 pupil Tom spoke about his experiences: "Author Bali Rai talked about his incredible book 'Now or Never' which is focused on untold stories; this book's narration focuses on the perspective of a young Indian boy who is really devoted about following his grandfathers footsteps by fighting in the war. He told stories about the people from other backgrounds who fought in the war which aren't heavily recognized in the modern day world. It was really interesting to hear about how he worked with Captain John Ashdown who helped him create the story as he was someone who was there worked with to help tell the stories of these Indian and other background's stories. He was an incredible public speaker who answered the questions really deeply and thoroughly!"

English teacher Elizabeth Appleton commented: "Today, MGS was pleased to welcome Bali Rai once again. He spent the day with Year 7 students, answering their questions about his books and telling them a little bit about the side of European history that doesn’t often make it into the textbooks. His novel ‘Now or Never’ is about a young Indian boy who runs away from home to serve with the British Army in World War II, and is based on the true stories of the many young soldiers who did just that. The pupils had the chance to buy a signed copy of the book, and they had lots of questions for Bali too!"

Bali said: "It was an absolute pleasure to revisit MGS and work with the staff and pupils. I had another great day. Exploring British history in a more rounded way is vital. So many of the stories from our past, particularly those of colonial British subjects, have been ignored or lost. Without those missing voices, we can never truly understand eras such as the world wars, post-1945 immigration, or the way that cities such as Manchester were founded and have grown. To do that, we must use a wider range of sources, digging deeper, beyond our usual understanding. We must learn to think of Britishness as one long process of migration, integration, and multiculturalism - because that is how Britain came into being and has developed since. Those missing voices existed, and they are out there. We just have to search for them."

Thank you to Bali for his visit and we look forward to welcoming him back to MGS in the future! 

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