We will go down to the sea again

- By Sue Evans

To be more precise, to the Woodlane campus of Falmouth University to celebrate the public launch of the 26 Collection of print publications. The University is holding an event for students, alumni and writers locally to find out more about 26, our body of work and what it means to be a member. There will be a panel discussion and readings from 26 projects, accompanied by an exhibition of books and printed material from the archive.

Archives & Special Collections area at Penryn which opened in 2019.

The event takes place on Friday 25 March from 5:00pm until 6:30pm in the main lecture theatre, followed by a drinks reception. Please save the date if you would like to join us and, if you’re happy to travel, we’d welcome people from further afield. The event is free to attend but we are asking guests to pre-register here.

The line-up includes John Simmons and Sue Evans from the 26 board; and readers Rob Self-Pierson, Sarah Farley, Suzie Inman, Alex Mawson-Harris and Julia Webb-Harvey.

Senior Lecturer Tom Scott is our host for the evening. Here is what he says about the archive: “Words can do so much to enrich our lives – to excite, reveal, surprise, inspire; to make us laugh or make us cry. Through its creative projects and collaborations, the writers’ association 26 has blazed a trail in showing how words can enhance every aspect of our everyday experience, and it’s wonderful that Falmouth University Library is now home to this archive of unique and beautiful books that have resulted from these projects. Especially so because several Falmouth students and alumni have been able to contribute their creative talents to them. The archive will be a great source of inspiration and ideas to our current and future students.”

Next year is the 20th anniversary of the founding of 26 and during this time we’ve amassed a substantial body of work from 26 Letters in collaboration with the London Design Festival and the British Library in 2004; 26 Treasures with the V&A and other national museums in 2012; to more recent projects with the Wildlife Trusts and the Woodland Trust. Rather worryingly, we had no arrangement for giving people access to the 26 back catalogue or a single place where they could find it. As Falmouth has run successful degree level writing courses for many years, the obvious choice was for us to get in touch. Last summer John Simmons and I approached Tom who has long been a champion of developing links between Falmouth and 26, and ran 26 Flavours of Cornwall in 2011. We have other connections too: John is an honorary fellow and Elise Valmorbida was an external examiner on the MA in Professional Writing.

Contributions to 26 Flavours of Cornwall from the archive: ‘Clotted Cream’ by writer Caroline Carver and designer Sally Biddle.

To our delight, Tom was enthusiastic from the start and put us in contact with the University’s Library and Archives staff, including Carole Green, Archivist and Special Collections Officer. Carole proposed a plan to provide a balance of security for the material deposited and ease of accessibility by staff, students and the wider community. As a result, the 26 Collection joins an array of unique, rare and specialised materials held by the Archives & Special Collections service based on the Penryn Campus. The collections are kept in a secure setting to support the teaching, research and learning of Falmouth University and The University of Exeter in Cornwall, and span diverse subjects and formats. The 26 Collection sits alongside collections relating to theatre, writing, art, design, politics, history and mining. Where we could, we have sent duplicate copies of many items so these can also be viewed at the Falmouth campus library.

Contributions to 26 Flavours of Cornwall from the archive:
‘Seaweed’ by writer Kieran Haynes and designer Mat McIvor.

This is very good news for 26. Our publications are now in a university setting, meaning nearly 20 years of print is not lost but in a safe place. The archive is also a great opportunity for us to build a closer relationship with a major university focused on writing and creativity.

– Sue Evans

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