Our project just grew

– John Simmons

John Simmons shares an update on 26 Orphans – including Lemn Sissay’s thoughts on our latest project with the Foundling Museum and Bloomsbury Festival.

The 26 Orphans project is progressing well as part of this year’s Bloomsbury Festival. At the beginning of June we finalised the list of 26 writers to take part. Thanks to all of them, with a special welcome to those who are now part of their first 26 project – and to 26 members from New Zealand and USA, a clear sign that Bloomsbury Festival and 26 are international in their reach.

So now our writers are working towards showing their first drafts to editors by mid-July. Our editors include Emily Bromfield, Margaret Kenna, Helen Jones and Wendy Jones – they’ll soon have the pleasure of reading about Anne of Green Gables, Becky Sharp, Lyra Belacqua, Eleven and many more fictional orphans.

The project was inspired by the poet Lemn Sissay who had created a list of fictional characters whose names are displayed in the Foundling Museum. Lemn has said this about our project:

“It’s a subject close to my heart as a writer who was cared for in childhood, not brought up by my natural parents. My own background led me to think of the great range of fictional characters who were orphans or fostered, and you can see the names of these characters displayed on the walls of The Foundling Museum. From David Copperfield to Harry Potter to Superman and many more.

I’m delighted that the writers’ group 26 have now been inspired by the selection I made and have drawn on that list and added new names to it – characters from books and films and folk tales. They have extended the stories of these characters by writing sestudes (a poetic form of exactly 62 words). Those short pieces will be exhibited around the museum for visitors to see and listen to. I’m excited to discover what the writers will come up with and I look forward to this creative contribution to the Bloomsbury Festival.”

A new request came up from the Foundling Museum – could we run a writing workshop on the theme of fictional characters? Of course we said Yes, so Neil Baker and I will be bringing our Dark Angels techniques to the Bloomsbury Festival on the morning of Saturday 22 October. After the workshop there will be a tour and readings of the 26 Orphans work around the Foundling Museum. All our writers will be very welcome to come and read their work, and all our members will be invited to come along and celebrate with us. Put the date in your diary now.

– John Simmons

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