What Steven asked The Flowers of Srebrenica creators Aidan Hehir and David Frankum
How did two Medway based creators who had never met end up releasing a book on a massacre in Bosnia?
Having done a series of political interviews, it was time for something a bit different. Luckily two Medway-based creators had recently realised a book, so it seemed a perfect time to meet up to not only discuss the book but to get my copy signed.
Aidan Hehir is a Reader in International Relations and Director of the Security and International Relations Programme at the University of Westminster, UK. David Frankum is an illustrator whose artwork can be found in a variety of publications including books, magazines, comic books and album covers.
The Flowers of Srebrenica is an account of a journey to the scene of a massacre by Serbians during the war in Bosnia, a reflection on the necessity of remembering those atrocities.
Where were you born?
Aidan Hehir: Limerick, in Ireland.
David Frankum: I was born in Gillingham, not in Ireland.
What jobs did your parents do growing up?
AH: My father was a civil servant. He worked in The Met Office, like a weatherman. My mother was a receptionist.
DF: My father is a retired head teacher and my mother is a retired primary school teacher. My father worked here in Medway and in Sittingbourne, and my mum worked at Featherby for most of her career.
How did you find school and university?
AH: I was a shit pupil in school really. I was bored easily and I didn’t have much tolerance for subjects I didn’t like. I was interested in History, English and Geography. Stuff like that. I couldn’t be arsed, I just wanted to play football. I scraped into university. I did an arts degree. Sociology, Politics and Archaeology. I was a fucking terrible student, really awful. I nearly failed. That’s a different story. Scraped a 2:2. Then I managed to talk my way onto a Masters programme that was more specific to international relations. Which I did enjoy, but I was drinking a lot. I managed to do okay. When I was doing my Masters, the war in Kosovo happened. I was a member of a political party back then. So we were on the streets campaigning about the war. It was in my head as something I wanted to know more about. I was in America, walking in the park, just doing fuck all. I thought I have to do something. I came back to Limerick and I started a PhD, but then I went over to Manchester for a weekend, and I met a woman, and fell in love with her, and moved to Manchester straight away, which fucked up the PhD. So we went back to Limerick and finished the PhD. We had a kid pretty much straight away, which isn’t the ideal way of doing it. It wasn’t until the PhD that I was any good at it. A really narrow focus on a thing I was interested in.
DF: Yeah, almost a little bit similar in a sense. I mean, to be honest, I’d love school, especially primary school. Enjoyed the social aspect, enjoyed the learning aspect of it. But when it came to the more academic side, writing and things, I just didn’t have much interest, very much a daydreamer. It was evident from the very early years that my love and passion would be in art. Everything else was interesting, but not too bothered about it. My parents are awesome as parents because despite them being teachers, they didn’t really teach us as such academically, but they would take us to wonderful experiences. Going to galleries and museums and places of cultural interest. So secondary school was all about music and football. I was very fortunate. I knew that I liked drawing, but had no idea what to do with it. I was very fortunate and a man called Curtis Tappenden gave a careers talk. I believe that he spotted something in me, and at the time he was just starting to teach at the art college in Rochester and he basically said ‘look, if you can get yourself to Canterbury, get yourself on a foundation course, then apply to Rochester, I would pretty much get you on the course and support you on that course.’ So yes, 16 at Canterbury art college, without any A-levels. Which, without sounding big-headed, was quite a feat at the time. Life changes dramatically, tutors give you mushrooms (laughs) and you grow quite quickly at 16. I absolutely loved it. The promise was kept, I went to art college at Rochester and Curtis took me under his wing. Still didn’t know what I wanted to do. He was my mentor, and he still is to this day. I wouldn’t be half the person I am without him.
What was your first full-time job?
AH: I think it was that I worked in a supermarket in Ireland, summer of 93.
DF: I think it was a butcher in Canterbury Street. It’s not there any longer, but one of the best jobs I ever had. I learnt more from working there about people, characters, and life.
Where have you lived outside of Medway?
DF: I lived in Wiltshire for a few years, whilst studying. Loved it.
AH: Lived in Limerick obviously, and lived in Galway. I lived in Cologne, Germany. I lived in New York, New Jersey, Manchester, Sheffield, and Scunthorpe.
How did you end up in the Medway towns?
AH: I moved from Ireland to England because I got a job in Sheffield. Higher Education in England has more scope for what I do. There aren’t as many universities in Ireland. But it was only a one-year position, and we had the kid, and another kid and they gave me another one-year contract. I thought sweet Jesus, can’t keep doing one-year contracts. I had to get a permanent position, and a mate said there was a job coming up at the University of Westminster. I got it. There was no fucking chance we could live in London. He said he lived in Rochester, and I remember texting my wife and spelling it Rotch, I’d never heard of it. I’d never heard of Medway until we came to Rochester. Thought this is great, and so much cheaper than London. So that was how I ended up here. Of course the Dickens thing. (pauses) Maybe I should have said ‘it had always been my dream.’
What political parties have you been a member of?
DF: I’m not, and have never been, a member of a party.
AH: Okay, I was a member of the Socialist Party. And I was a member of the Green Party in Ireland. I was a member of Left Unity. But then Corbyn happened.
I’ve never met a member of Left Unity in the flesh.
AH: Well my membership has lapsed.
Who has been the best UK Prime Minister of your lifetime?
AH: Jeez. (long pause)
DF: I’m not sure I can answer that, to be honest.
AH: If I had to pick one it would be Gordon Brown.
DF: I can see that, yeah.
AH: Blair is the worst Prime Minster of the modern era. In terms of the amount of people he killed. Brown is the best of a shit lot. He was very competent, in a specific area.
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