AUTHOR Anita Sethi’s new book retells the harrowing moment she was racially abused on a TransPennine Express train journey.

In ‘I Belong Here: A Journey Along the Backbone of Britain’, Anita reveals how the ugly experience developed into one offering hope across the beautiful landscape in the North of England.

Anita was on the TransPennine Express service when she became the victim of a race-hate crime.

After the event she said she experienced panic attacks and anxiety, and a sense of claustrophobia which made her "long for wide open spaces, to breathe deeply in the great outdoors".

Anita’s journey through the natural landscapes of the North is one of reclamation and "a way of saying that this is her land too and she belongs in the UK as a brown woman, as much as a white man does".

The book was shortlisted for the 2021 Wainwright Prize, won the 2021 Books Are My Bag Readers Award for Non-Fiction, and was longlisted for the Ondaatje Prize 2022.

Anita had boarded the TransPennine Express train from Liverpool to Newcastle. Later as the train pulled out from Manchester Victoria she was to be the victim of a abhorrent crime.

In her book she reveals the moment when she was abused:

“As the train hurtled on, a migraine began pulsing due to loud music blaring in the carriage.

"A train conductor told a man sitting a few seats ahead of me to turn his music off. The conductor walked on, after which the man turned the volume up.

"The dull thumping made the pain in my head swell. I asked if he would turn the volume down.

"He turned around, looked at me with surprise, then hatred, then stood up and burst into a hostile, aggressive torrent of racist abuse:

“Do you have a British passport? Get back on the banana boat. P**i c***! F*** off!”

She posted part of the footage on social media during which the man lunged at her.

Later she moved to another carriage for her own safety and after staff were alerted the the man was arrested by police at Darlington.

She later writes: “I began to long for wide open spaces, to breathe freely in the great outdoors. I hungered for greenness.

"One day, I was looking at a map of the north of England and there, along the route of my Liverpool to Newcastle train journey, I saw the Pennines, 'the backbone of England', with their nature reserves, national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty. I

“I felt a longing to journey through the landscapes of the north, transforming what began as an ugly experience of hate and exclusion into one of hope and beauty.”

The book has led to the Woodland Trust running 'nature writing workshops' with community groups outdoors.

The groups include the City of Sanctuary, Bolton GP Federation (who focus on walks to ease anxiety) and the Woodland Trust ’s volunteers.

The workshops will take the groups out into the countryside of northern England, including Smithills Estate, owned by the Trust.

The partnership will also see free copies of I Belong Here placed along the ‘Pennine Way’ national trail – so lucky walkers can find them within and around the woodlands which lie along the journey, as well as in urban areas including Anita’s hometown of Manchester.

I Belong Here: A Journey Along the Backbone of Britain is published in paperback today (12 May) by Bloomsbury.