Brixton, London

Burning The Books (trailer still)







The Book of Debts in Brixton  – schedule :

12th March 2015 6.30- 9pm

Launch of the Book of Debts with Q&A

12th-20th March Gallery Open Mon-Fri 11-5pm
Book Open for entries at 198 Contemporary Arts and Learning and online here

Sunday 15th March 2015 12-4pm: Readers and Writers Workshop- An introduction to readings on debt and alternative economies  with Brixton Pound and writing workshop lead by writers from Malika’s Kitchen.
20th March –27th March 2015: Book tour around Brixton, venues include Karibu Centre, Brixton FoodBank, A+C Deli,  Circus Brixton, The Lounge and other places.

28th March 2015 Stall on Brixton Station Market 10.30-4pm
29th March 2015 2pm – 3.30pm: Book Recital and Burning- St Matthews Peace Garden. Free

Burning the Books Brixton is produced by Barby Asante (Associate Curator at 198) and supported by Arts Council England, Lambeth Events, Brixton Pound, Brixton Blog.

Salford/ Manchester


Photo 23-09-2014 17 31 34









The Book of Debts  VIII opened on September 27th and is in residence as part of  Asia Triennial Manchester (ATM14) at Imperial War Museum North until Nov 20th, when it will be recited and burnt at 5.30pm outside the Museum at the end of the symposium ‘Conflict, Compassion, Resolution’. Open and free to the public, meet in the Main Exhibition Space.

Contribute to The Book anytime here until November 20th or visit the Museum.

Alinah will be at the Museum on November 17th/18th  11.30-12.30 and 2-4pm preparing, editing and taking any contributions to The Book in the lead up to the finale.



Urban Dialogues, London

Burning the Books (Urban Dialogues). Photo: Sogand Bahram

Burning the Books (Urban Dialogues). Photo: Sogand Bahram




The Book of Debts Vol VII launched at Red Gallery, London on September 3rd, 7pm as part of Navigations  a group show examining belief, part of the Urban Dialogues  arts programme, organised by the Three Faiths Forum and curated by artist Barby Asante.

It ran for two weeks and burnt on Sunday September 21st as part of the closing Festival , in collaboration with contributors from 3FF’s choir, the Mixed Up Chorus

Lewes, East Sussex

The Book of Debts VI (Lewes – the artists hometown)

On Friday May 30th, at 7.30pm, Alinah  introduced and opened The Book itself at the preview (7-9pm) of Future Dreaming,  at the Foundry Gallery, Phoenix Estate, Lewes. A touring group exhibition initiated by artist Guyan Porter, it explores systems for imagining and creating the future. The project features work by Guyan, Hollington and Kyprianou, Mark C Hewitt and Xelis de Toro.

Contributions came in thick and fast, and The Book began its life  at a Death Cafe run  by Living Well, Dying Well and three writers groups run by Bourne to Write 

The Book of Debts VI, was recited and burned on Sunday June 8th 2014 at the back of the Foundry Gallery on the site of the former Lewes Phoenix Theatre, including the studios of many local artists, which was recently completely destroyed by fire.

I was joined  for the first time by 10 co-reciters from the community, whose powerful and moving entries to The Book brought a whole new dimension to the project. Around 120 people stood on the land to listen to the 92 stories contained in The Book, which is at the centre of a conflicted vision for its future, between corporate and sanitised development plans and the preservation of its existing cultural capital , built up over 7 years by cultural, educational and community workers and groups of all kinds.

Brighton and Hove

The Book of Debts (V), launched at Fabrica Gallery in Brighton on Sunday April 6th 2014.  The Book already contained a number of entries from Alinah’s recent participation in Life Before Debt at SOAS, London and is filling steadily with contributions from Brighton and Hove  – read them here, and contribute anytime before May 22nd to be part of the final recital either via this site (and your entry will be transcribed by Alinah into The Book) or by visiting Fabrica.

On Sunday May 18th, Alinah and her firekeeper will do a promenade around central Brighton with The Book of Debts, reading and gathering stories from anyone who wishes to contribute. Follow on facebook or twitter (@burningthebooks) to find out their location and the timings.

The Book of Debts, Brighton and Hove will be recited and burned on Thursday May 22nd. Meet at 6.30pm at Fabrica to be led to the burning site. Followed by a celebratory wake, ends approx 7.45pm.





The Book of Debts, Birmingham was recited and burned on Saturday March 15, 2014, outside Birmingham Cathedral.

14.3 trillion, 35.8 billion, 307 thousand, and 50 pence of unpaid financial debt and a whole spectrum of over 70 stories of other kinds of debt were sent to their fiery grave.

Alinah visited the Colmore District /Square with The Book of Debts on Friday 14th and Saturday 15th in the morning with her Firekeeper, talking to strangers, reading them existing stories and gathering final contributions to the Birmingham book.

The Book of Debts, Birmingham opened its pages on 17th October 2013, when Alinah began collecting at The Library of Birmingham and on the surrounding streets. Creative writing sessions with the artist took place prior to the event at Old Joint Stock Theatre and Writers Bloc, Birmingham University.

On the day, events unfolded as follows, involving both existing participants in the project as well as  members of the public using or passing through the Square who took an interest in joining the afternoons events .

2.30 Alinah, Catherine Ogle (the Dean of Birmingham Cathedral ) and John Nightingale (Jubilee Debt Campaign) in discussion in the North Aisle.Opening up the subject of debt with a small audience. 

3.15 An open session outside as the fire was started,  people read and contributed to The Book of Debts.

4.15 Final recital of The Book of Debts, before it was burned, followed by a celebratory ‘wake’.

Follow on twitter (#burningthebooks. ) or facebook for detailed updates of the next event. 

Book of Debts, Library of Birmingham











Burning the Books came to the legendary Duckie performance night at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern on Saturday November 9th for a one -nighter, alongside Candoco dance company and hot on the heels of Bonfire Night. We had a very warm reception, introduced by the coincidentally red-and-black-attired SonOfATutu, with a fast influx of entries into the Book of Debts after an initial on-stage provocation. We then recited all of the 45 moving and powerful stories, which burnt  beautifully out in the back yard despite the drizzle, followed by a disco wake! Scroll down for a listing of what was added that night to The Book.

Due to the intimate nature of the venue  and as an experiment in crowd-sourced documentation, we decided not to film the performances, and so the documentation  of The Book of Debts, Vol IV : Duckie, London is archived in written form, here below. Be prepared to be moved.

  1. A debt of life and love: owed – all the lives and love lost as a result of homophobic prejudice; bombings, imprisonment, murder and segregation, and that still continue on this planet right now. Examples – Russia, Uganda, Saudi Arabia to mention but a few..
  2. A pair of gold shoes- which once belonged to my late mother – the only ones that also suited me that I could wear out. recently I found them in my bedroom cupboard, nibbled to pieces by a hamster called Ron Weasley, who we had been looking after and who went missing. Lost, lost – all those nights out dancing in her shoes  – and remembering her glamour and love.
  3. I owe my partner more love, patience and acceptance. My expectations are often too high and so impossible to fulfill. And so I fail him on my curriculum of love and judgement  and a regular basis. And then I feel our disconnection, the pain – and we have to start all over again. One day this may not be an option.I want to symbolically burn  all my impulsive judgements and impossible expectations of him – this beautiful, committed man, who is – like me – only human.
  4.  Respect owed for the lives and loves of young gay people globally. To those too afraid to be out, as yet, abused – whose mental health has been affected through lack of support, understanding and acceptance.
  5. Reparations for soul murder – to the victims of child sex abuse, who have had their souls destroyed. All the unseen, unheard – whose distress has never been met, and whose have only been labelled by the mental health system as a disorder and disruption to the norm.
  6. Forgiveness of my self – for being so hard on myself for so many years, for self-neglect. Putting others – everyone – before me, and looking after so well, whilst not listening, feeling, caring or supporting myself. I truly apologise to my precious self, I endeavour to honour, love and support deeply, and I know this will affect every other relationship in my life. Apologies for this delusion, for the suffering I have created for those closest to me.
  7. £100,000 in consumer, mortgage, student and other debt.
  8. I want to symbolically contribute the UK National Deficit : £1,377 billion ! Comment: but leave a penny for good luck.Julian.
  9. In 1999, the other DJ – the black-haired one, at this club – bought me a film poster – The Switchblade Sisters. It was brilliant! He showed me it on my birthday and said ; ‘I’ll get it framed for you!” I’m still waiting for it.14 years later ! He owes me my present.
  10. The Soho homophobic bombings – their lives.
  11. A huge apology owed to me by my uncle for stealing my soul.
  12. T-shirt owed to my sister that I borrowed 10 years ago and never gave back.
  13.  I owe an emotional debt to the lovers who lost, and were kind – when they could have been nasty.
  14. I lost my glove in 5 minutes. Please burn the book.(?)
  15. Love and tenderness owed to my grandmother – someone who cared deeply and kept me from harm for many years.
  16. We owe a debt to each other as human beings to respect, love and care for one another – regardless of social, cultural or geographical boundaries.
  17. Our debt is for the birthday card we never brought for Jolly-Wally-Olly. So we take this opportunity to say we love him. Nia and Peter.
  18. To the BBC, for all the years of TV  licensing I have avoided paying.
  19. I am in debt to my mother, for putting up with way too much shit from me over the years.
  20. Debt owed to all disabled people for the lack of understanding, acceptance and for amount of places that are so inaccessible, eg. tube stations, nightclubs, venues etc.
  21. To the few flatmates who lived with me, and then had mental health problems – that I didn’t care about.
  22. I owe my boyfriend more time together.
  23. The debt of £150 owed to a hospital in Zanzibar, where I was looked after when I had malaria.
  24. I owe myself a debt of care, for not living authentically, for living in fear. It’s never too late to start afresh.
  25. I owe myself freedom to be myself, unapologetically, and the freedom to savour that – and all the fruits it bears ..
  26. My debt is to all of you – those who gave me unconditional love – and to whom I did not give back as I should . To Itsig (sic), who gives me all he has got, from whom I keep back and don’t give all I’ve got. To Tal – who loves me so, no questions asked – and I fail to love him back in the same way. All my friends and loved ones, who find it so easy to open up – and I keep myself from truly loving as one should; you have proven your love over and over again, and you deserve it as well. My debt is all the love I have yet to give you, and you all pray for and rightfully deserve.
  27. A debt owed to me by my mother and father for a childhood of non-recognition, neglect and abuse.
  28. A debt owed to my mother and father of recognition – that they are flawed human beings like all of us – with stories of their own.
  29. I know I haven’t treated you well these last three years, but things are getting better. 2014 is the year we are definitely going to make the changes to make you happy, yeah.
  30. In german – indecipherable (apologies to the contributor – it was read out as best I could at the event)
  31. To my family, for choosing to live abroad, and for being so far and not always there, I love you.
  32. I owe my family £500, for travelling in America. I have every intention of paying it back, You can’t imagine how much it meant to me – all I was able to see and experience, I learned so much more about the world and myself. I will pay them back  – I love them!
  33. 42p for a marathon bar I stole 44 years ago..
  34. Talla owes me £20 for his lunch today.
  35. Almost 32 years ago, an 18 year old woman left me in an orphanage. I am now living happily in London, and I owe her this information. She did the right choice and she has to know it -wherever she is – Rumania or anywhere else.
  36. I owe Marcie many things – mostly socks and pants – but mostly I owe her my time. Note to self: must stop working so hard and dance in my pants – or Marcie’s – to old Christina Aguielera  songs. And laugh at you when watching Black Beauty makes you super-emotional.
  37. I owe Fiona my life because it’s so much infinitely better with her in it. Thanks darling.
  38. I owe to those who are giving me shelter and warmth and love at this moment – when my world has fallen apart; a home, a roof, food. To know these people are there, who have given me unconditional regard, is the biggest gift – thank you.
  39. I owed my friend Adriana an apology – and I would do it if she let me – but hey…
  40. A thank you to Paul, I’m sorry, it was a nervous breakdown.Only medication worked..
  41. £2,000 owed to my parents..
  42. 18 rolls of toliet paper, 3 years of dinner – sorry Bruce I cannot cook..
  43. £5 owed to Simon Casson for the secret code.
  44. Gratitude to Adrienne for being an example of a true human being. Ultimately, all there is, is love. The rest is just story.
  45. When I was kid, I killed a frog for fun , to impress my friends. I still feel huge shame over this.




The recital and burning of The Book of Debts in Portslade, Sussex, was the finale to a 4 month period of research and development for the project, funded by Arts Council England and hosted by Blank Gallery, where Azadeh was in residence.

On- street  debt – collecting  included encounters with pawnbrokers, shopkeepers, charity workers and other unsuspecting strangers and Azadeh paid visits to homeless residential charity Emmaus and an older peoples freedom club where she sat and recited stories from the Book and scribed down new ones given to her by the groups.

Burning the Books online  was developed and launched with The Swarm and a large proportion of contributions to The Book of Debts then came in online..

Azadeh also devised a text on the multiple meanings of debt  which ran around the gallery walls and acted as an intro to the final recital and burning on May 18th and is documented on video here.

Her R+D project blog gives a reflective account of the whole process.


Burning The Books was initially developed in November 2011 as part of Present in Public, one of six live interventions staged in the city, through Giving Into Gift, a development programme for new gift-based live works, curated by Tim Jeeves and supported by Bluecoat Liverpool.

Azadeh ‘collected debts’ from the public on the street in the central shopping areas and wrote them into an over-sized sackcloth book. Contributions ranged from individual, unpaid consumer debts, pensioners with emotional ‘debts’ to deceased spouses, Occupy protestors submitting the unpaid taxes of Philip Green, and Christians submitting their souls, owed to Jesus.

The Book of Debts was then publicly recited and burnt in the Bluecoat courtyard as a ceremonial finale to the intervention at dusk.

An account of how this work evolved out of the artists personal experiences of financial meltdown and the subsequent R+D period that led to Volume II,  is on her Burning the Books R+D blog, hosted by the Artist’s Information Company.