In the early days of May, First Art distributed the Everybody’s Home Kit to hundreds of homes in Ashfield, Mansfield, Bolsover and North East Derbyshire, as part of Go the Distance, First Art’s remote festival. Alongside a variety of resources, designed to offer some fun and light relief, and to help connect people with their communities during the lockdown, was a card that asked the question Is There Anybody There?
Hello. Are you 55 and beyond, someone who has seen a great deal of life but nothing quite like this, and find yourself with a bit of time on your hands? If so, we do hope you will join us as we try to make some sense of things.
Whether you’re in lockdown alone, or packed in like sardines, we want to hear about your experience and capture something of these strange times so that we can understand it a little better when it is all over.
Those who were intrigued were asked to text the words I AM READY to a mobile number at which point the journey began. As the take-up wasn’t quite what we had hoped we sent out another invite asking people to join us for a Zoom with a Brew; to chat – this time – about coming out of lockdown and to write about this experience together in a variety of forms. This group – you – as well as meeting weekly are also responding to a series of text message tasks.
Once this is over we’ll find a way to share what we’ve all been up to together but in the meantime we’re using this site to host some of the work that has been done so far by those (of you!) who have become part of this collaborative project. Thanks for all of your work and keep on keeping on!
The Texted Tasks
Text 1 (July 10th) – Write a short letter to your younger self (you can choose whether this is six months or sixty years ago, or anything inbetween). This will explain what is to happen in March 2020 and how you should prepare and deal with what is to come (tips for lockdown).
Text 2 (July 14th) – Think of a character. This is somebody who was going to do something, or who wants something, or who needs to do something, but who has had to wait because of lockdown. What is it that this character wants or needs to do? Why is it important? (Even a little thing can have a deeper meaning behind it). Has the waiting shown them something unexpected about themself? Make some notes about this character as we will begin to develop these ideas on Thursday.
Text 3 (July 18th) – Using the beginning sentence structure, “You said”, write a small piece of flash fiction no more than 250 words, with four/five paragraphs. You will need to think of two characters – the speaker (it might be your monologue character or someone new) and the person they are addressing with the “You”. It could be something they would really say, or something that is internal thought. If you are stuck, use a picture or photograph for inspiration and make a few single word notes to get you started. Have a look at the website for an example – which is here – and remember, you can’t get this ‘wrong’!
Text 4 (July 21st) – In public / on television, select a person. Note a detail of something they wear & how they wear it; a detail of their hair; listen to their voice, how do they use it & what word choices do they make? Describe how they move. Give them a name. Now edit and condense your work until you end up with a single sentence description.
Text 5 (July 25th) – Find an object in your house that is connected to how you have spent some of your time during lockdown. (Maybe you started a new hobby or did something you had put off for years, or threw yourself into the garden). Use this as a prompt to write with a paper and pen. Just write whatever comes into your head. Stop after ten minutes. Cut what you have written up line by line. Throw these in the air. Randomly reassemble them. Add / subtract some words if you wish. Move things around if you wish. Sellotape it together. You’ve got a poem.
Text 6 (July 28th) – The title is THE MASK. What you write is up to you. A haiku, a novel, or anything inbetween.
Text 7 (August 1st) – Tidy up those letters (Text Task 1) and finish the dialogues you were working on in Thursday’s session and email them to (if you want to, we’d love to see them) email@example.com by next Wednesday. A reminder that the website is at https://isthereanybodythere64108651.com/
Text 8 (August 4th) – Find an object that you have used more than you normally would have done because of lockdown. Find another object that you have used less than you normally would have done because of lockdown. If you can, take a photograph of them. Or maybe sketch them. Bring them with you on Thursday.
Text 9 (August 8th) – Watch or read the latest news about Covid-19. Capture your thoughts by then writing for 10-15 minutes – what are you thinking, how do you feel at this moment?
Text 10 (August 11th) – Describe the most unexpected and enjoyable moment you have had since the world changed. Turn the colour up. Focus in on the tiniest details. Relive it through your writing.
Text 11 (August 15th) – Make a list of your six favourite brews. What made them special and why do you remember them? (and don’t forget to take your mugshot and email it to us).
Text 12 (August 18th) – What’s the biggest u-turn you have ever made in your life? (Just a paragraph of your most finely wrought prose please).
Text 13 (August 22nd) – Have a look at the website and the text tasks that have been forwarded so far. Choose one to do that you have not yet done.