After taking some time to reflect, we’re
launching a new project in response to the COVID-19 outbreak – a chance to
connect, listen, and of course, write. Our chairman Martin Clarkson shares how
every member of 26 can get involved.
Like all of us I had reacted to the
developing COVID-19 situation with a mixture of emotions. It seemed clear,
though not immediately, that this would be the biggest disruption to all our
lives in 26’s history. So how should I respond? How should the board respond?
Could we devise a project that would help us all deal with this crisis? Surely
if we live in extraordinary times, we need an extraordinary project.
is the result. It’s a project developed with other members of the 26 board and
with Mel Cochran from my organisation createbalance. 26 is for writers so we
clearly need to have writing at the core of our response. But writing also
involves observing, listening and talking to others. This suited our feeling
that we should not rush to put out hasty solutions. Let us reflect, have
conversations, learn – and then, in time, after 26 weeks, the right stories
will emerge, but for now and the months ahead let’s see what we can achieve by
taking a snapshot, or a rolling series of snapshots.
What follows is a 26 project for every member of 26 to take part in – if theywish. We call it 26 weeks
because it will cover the time after the announcement of the lockdown on 24
March until early October. We want to avoid rushing to premature conclusions
about the effects of COVID on the way we live and work. Let’s try to understand
how attitudes change over this accelerated period of evolution that we are
living through. We can do that through conversations.
Our invitation to all members is this:
think of an individual you know who interests you.
This can be a friend, a family member, a client, someone you know whose views
you wish to explore. Bear in mind that we would like the greatest possible
range – social, economic and geographical diversity.
Then approach that person to see if
they would be willing to have a series of conversations with you – there are
three stages in our project, so the minimum would be three conversations spread
across several months, at times to be decided by you and your conversation
partner. In the conversations we’d like to explore how people are feeling about
the situation – and to record if or how those feelings change over the 26 weeks
of the project.
We would like you to post short notes,
based on those conversations, on a website we’ll create. Gradually we will
build up a picture of 26 members’ responses.
Responses will change as we move through
time. But we have no crystal ball and no preconceived agenda. At the end we
will aim to produce a piece, or many pieces, of reflective writing to help us
move forward. This might become a book, a permanent website, an event – we don’t
yet know because we cannot prejudge, but all options are open. Everything will
depend on what you, our members, produce through the conversations. They are
the key to this so please think who to approach, set up the conversation, make
This could be the most important 26
project ever. We’d love as many of our members as possible to take part.
Please join us by firstly signing up here.
acknowledge your submission by return and follow up with a fuller brief and a
brilliant short paper on interviewing tips from board member Martin Lee. But
please respond quickly because the clock is already ticking.
– Martin Clarkson, chairman of 26
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