An online community project culminates on Monday with the release of an animated video inspired by local people’s experiences of lockdown.
Norden Farm Centre for the Arts in Maidenhead launched All Write Together in April. Its aim was to help people stay creative and connected while staying safe at home.
The eight-week project saw professional poet Simon Mole lead free online workshops with people of all ages from the local community.
Over the course of several weeks, Simon explored different themes with the public, based around the situation we have all found ourselves in during the Covid-19 pandemic. Themes included ‘keeping in touch’, ‘journeys’ and ‘the future’.
The public were invited to contribute their thoughts and ideas around the themes via social media or by emailing them in.
At the end of the workshops, Simon collated the words of the public to create a community poem. He has worked with illustrator Scott Tyrell to bring the poem to life through an animation that reflects this time.
How has the process been different to how you would normally work?
Looking at people on a screen is obviously a hugely different experience to sitting with them in a room, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how quickly a comparable atmosphere of friendly creativity can develop.
Most of my other poetry workshops on Zoom have been with large groups of young children, so these sessions were definitely more relaxing!
Did you have any expectations of the project?
I wasn’t totally sure what to expect, as our first sessions were very early on in lockdown. Having this positive creative space to connect with other people outside my house (even whilst inside my house) became a really important part of my week on a personal level too, and it was really moving to read the poems that people sent in each week.
What has the response from the public been like?
The quality of the poems sent in have been brilliant. All the workshop participants came with such a friendly and open attitude, and were really up for trying out this different way of working.
One participant emailed me at the end of the project saying that having this chance to laugh and create in a group had made a big difference to her life at that time. It really brought home to me how important creativity and connection are, and how lucky we are in Maidenhead to have an arts centre so committed to its community.
Did anything surprise you about the project?
The main surprise for me was that I didn’t expect to write the poem in the way that I did – it all rhymes for one thing, and that’s something I haven’t done for quite a while. I think that surprising yourself with your writing is almost always a good sign, as it usually indicates you’ve allowed yourself to be guided by the subject matter and the needs of the poem itself. I really tried to reflect the vibe of the workshops as well as including the ideas and topics we’d covered – I really hope that the people who took part like it!
The All Write Together video will be released on Norden Farm’s YouTube channel on Monday.