Projects are the lifeblood of 26, a
visceral expression of our DNA. But have you ever considered leading one
of our projects yourself? You might be wondering what that would involve, how
to get started… Well, look no further.
keen to encourage more people to come up with ideas for potential projects. You
don’t have to be on the management board to do so. You don’t need to be an old
timer. And it doesn’t matter if you’ve just joined.
So, how do you go about it?
First, have a good idea that’s
relevant to 26. One you can pitch over the phone in a few short sentences. Test
it on your friends in the pub – preferably at closing time when you’re at your
least articulate. Think about collaborations. In the past we’ve partnered with
photographers, filmmakers and designers. Your project needn’t revolve around 26
participants, but doing this helps to build our identity and keep the numbers
at a manageable level.
Second, write a one-page summary of
your idea and, send it in an email to Rachel Marshall.
Rachel will share this with us on Slack – the online space we use to run 26
projects. The one-page summary should include: your idea, how this will work in
practice, what form it might take, how much it might cost, and a idea of
review this, and if we think it’s a goer, we’ll get in touch with you and ask
more questions or simply give you the thumbs up. If we’re not sure, we’ll let
you know why.
Once you have approval, and we agree a
budget (tip – most are run for next to nothing), you can get started. We
promote new projects in the 26 newsletter, at our events, and via all-member
emails. You’ll need a core team. This will include you as the project
manager/curator/editor/dogsbody, a member of the board as project
sponsor/editor and usually two other people who will also act as editors.
You’ll need to sort out who’s going to
take part. Make it random. Give everyone a sporting chance. Make sure they can
commit to your deadlines and will promote the project on their own social
networks. Go back to your timeplan and share it with everyone. Make sure
everyone can hit to your deadlines and looks on this as if it was a proper paid
job. Suggest drinks – this should be as much about enjoying the journey as the
Then get cracking. Keep your sense of
humour: People will miss deadlines, forget the brief, and drop out. Some will
do all three. Keep the momentum going. You’ll be chasing work at 11pm on a
Sunday, writing email updates over lunch, and waking up at in the middle
of the night wondering why the hell you ever unleashed this monster.
But stick with it. It’s tremendous
fun, very rewarding, and you’ll make some great friends along the way.
– Andy Hayes
Need more convincing? Here’s
Michelle Nicol’s take on it:
“My first project was 26 Under A
Northern Sky, an idea cooked up via Twitter with fellow writer Sandy Wilkie during
a train journey. At the time I felt like my ideas weren’t being heard at work,
so when a group of writers joined us on another train journey to read some of
the pieces we created, it gave me the confidence to keep speaking up and
putting forward creative ideas.”
And, lastly, a prompt sheet to bear in
mind if you choose to embark on a 26 project:
All projects should have a Board
member as sponsor and co-lead. This person may or may not be the person running
the project, but should be the one who stays in the loop with the project’s
progress in order to report back to the Board.
Project team and management
One person should be named as project
manager and to take overall ownership and responsibility for the project. This
could be the Board member who sponsors it or someone else – ideally a member of
26 or the partner organisation that we’re working with. There should be at
least three people picked to help run the project, so that the workload can be
When collaborating with people outside
of 26 we should make it clear what everyone’s role is, including giving a clear
brief to everyone taking part. For example, when working with designers, both
the writers and designers should be briefed on the project’s background,
objectives and final output. Each group should know what the other is doing.
What costs will be involved in the
project and who will bear these: 26, the project partners or both equally? Keep
in mind that we have limited funds, so need to watch costs carefully. 26 does
not normally pay anyone from outside the organisation to take part in projects
and everyone gives their time voluntarily.
Any exhibition partners or venues will
need to take account of 26’s Equal Opportunity policy, which is available on
Eligibility for taking part
Are projects open only to members of
26 or can anyone outside of the organisation take part? What’s the criteria for
taking part? For example, will priority be given to certain people based on
where they live, as with 26 Under a Northern Sky. Or will priority be given to
people who haven’t taken part in a 26 project?
The purpose of the project should be
clear, including what the objective is and what needs to be done to achieve
If the project requires the writer to
visit someone/a place then that should be stated. If writers need to work
collaboratively with other people then both groups need to be aware of that and
understand what they each have to do.
The style of writing must be clearly
stated. For example, a poem, sestude, article, fixed word count, etc. Likewise,
if a writing style is to be specifically avoided, such as copywriting or
journalism, then that should be made clear too.
Word counts. We should always state
whether these include/exclude a title, so that writers know what they are
Editors. We should aim to have five
editors on each project. They should be clearly briefed on what they are to do.
Blog posts. Will we ask writers to
write a blog post or article for the newsletter and/or the 26 main website or a
micro site set up for the project?
Deadlines. For each version of the
written piece there should be a clear deadline for both the writers and
editors, so that everyone knows how much time they have and when they have to
complete their part. And there needs to be enough time allowed for the editor
to read/edit the pieces and return to the writer with enough time for the
writer to then work on their second draft. For example, is a week long enough
for the editor to do their bit, send back to the writer and then the writer to
do the next draft? Perhaps not if they’re having to fit in the project around
Designers/partners. What do they need
to provide as part of the project? Has this been made clear, including their
deadlines, if any?
Strength-testing a brief. Inevitably,
every brief will raise questions from the people who take part. It may be
helpful to pass the draft brief to other people on the Board so that we can use
our experience from other projects to catch as many of these questions as
possible before briefing the writers and any other people involved.
What will be the result of the
project? Publication on a website; in print; as an ebook or digital file;
displayed at a gallery, museum or other venue; turned into an artwork by
someone else; illustrated or somehow modified for publication; recorded on
video or audio; presented live; performed by actors; or something else? This
should be clearly stated on the brief.
If there is a physical output, such as
a book, magazine or pamphlet, will each writer (and editor, designer and
partner, etc) be given a free copy in return for their participation? If so,
this should be made clear as part of the brief. If not, this should also be
If there’s a ticketed event will the
entire project team (writers, editors and partners) be allowed to attend for
Design. If the writing is to be
transformed, illustrated or designed in some way, then it should be clear what
this entails and the writers should know what to expect from the designers’ brief.
This should always be done and, where
possible, writers/designers should be able to check a proof copy of their final
piece before it’s published.
What credits will we give the writers
and editors? Name only? Name and link to their website and Twitter handle, etc?
We should make sure that everyone involved is credited, not just the writers.
Where anyone (writer/designer/partner)
supplies photos or artwork we should make sure that we have permission to
publish them before doing so, together with giving credit/links where needed.
We should connect with all writers,
editors and partners on Twitter and LinkedIn, both as 26 and through our own
accounts. This will help everyone to promote the project.
It’s important that project updates be
shared amongst everyone who takes part. For example, if there’s a change to the
writers’ brief then everyone involved should be aware of it (ie designers and
partners) so that there are no misunderstandings later on. Regular updates help
to keep the momentum and foster the collaborative spirit of projects.