Project Updates: Two teasers and a celebration!

With 2024 well underway, we tease our upcoming work with the Bloomsbury Festival, invite you to shape a new project on neurodiversity, and look back – celebrating the culmination of a 19-month month project in New Zealand.

‘Only Collaborate’ – 26 Connections for the Bloomsbury Festival

This month we kicked off a special 26 project. It’s come about at the invitation of Jacob Sam-La Rose, the leading poet and educator many of you will know from previous 26 projects and from Wordstock last year. (Pictured below: Jacob Sam-La Rose in action at Wordstock 2023.)

26 Connections pairs thirteen writers from 26 with thirteen participants from the Barbican Young Poets programme. The idea for the project had emerged from a series of conversations between Jacob and John Simmons.

Those conversations had explored the possibilities for a joint project. The essence of the project is to pair writers to work together, to see if they can collaborate to write a poem. Perhaps the discovery will be that the two writers cannot fully collaborate, perhaps they will decide to write two pieces separately rather than one piece collaboratively.

Either approach will be fine. It will be a learning process that could make better writers of us all. And perhaps even, in a grandiose thought, make us better people as we focus on the meaning to each of us of the Bloomsbury Festival theme ‘Human.Kind’.

Watch this space. We’ll report regularly and we’ll unveil the results over the next eight months, going fully public at the Bloomsbury Festival in the autumn. Probably on 19th October, the date already pencilled in for Wordstock 2024.

– John Simmons

Shaping a new project on neurodiversity

Last month, we put a call out to shape a new project on the loose topic of neurodiversity. Missed it? Find it here

Thanks to all who got in touch to express their interest. We’re going to kick things off with a Zoom call at 6pm on 5th March to start shaping it into a more project-y form. If you’d like to join or find out more, get in touch

– Sophie Gordon

Aotearoa/New Zealand Chapter of 26 has a big day out

26 writers Jane Berney, Jayne Workman, Paul White and a large 26 logo wrap up the live reading in Lopdell House Theatre

It was a great way to start the year Down Under – 19 months of work in partnership with Forest & Bird New Zealand came together quite literally on Sunday 18 February at an exhibition and public reading. Lopdell House in Titirangi, West Auckland was the venue for the exhibition of the collaborative work by 13 NZ artists and 13 writers from the NZ Chapter of 26.

On show was incredible art, evocative centena poems and 260-word essays celebrating 13 conservation reserves and the work carried out by Forest & Bird volunteers over the last 100 years. The exhibition opened to the public at 12 noon and at 1pm there was a two-hour live presentation and reading of centenas in the Lopdell House theatre to an audience of about 100 people.

Left: 26 writer Jayne Workman and her artist Anya Greenwood’s work ‘Pūriri Rāhui’ / Right: 26 writer Lindsey Dawson and her artist Dannika Tukua’s work ‘Ngahere Kōrero’

It was a stunning and moving event, not least because writers and artists were able to reconnect or even, in some cases, meet for the first time. In fact, due to Covid et al it was the first time we 26 writers had met face to face in most cases. In true 26 style, and thanks to the canny forethought of Sue Heggie, writers and artists retired to the restaurant/bar next door for a well-earned imbibement afterwards.

Forest & Bird has been a fantastic partner and has published all the work in its national magazine as well as online. The last four pieces are going to press this week for publication on March 1st, but you can see every one of the artworks, the centenas and essays right now on the 26 Forest and Bird Centennial project website.

Look out for the social media posts as the publication date approaches.

– Paul White

The exhibition opens at 12 noon

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