Can writing restore communities?In a world of social media, stressful jobs and difficult family life it has become easier and easier for people to lose touch with one another. The sense of community we once had is fading and nobody seems to be doing anything about it. But how do we restore it? What would bring people together, get them talking, discuss something other than the gripes of their day job, having a real conversation rather than communicating through emojis, getting to know someone without swiping right first. The answer is simple – writing.
Liverpool itself is a very diverse community with its own unique culture. 8% of the population are Black, Asian or belong to another ethnic minority. The city has the oldest Black African community in the United Kingdom and the oldest Chinese community in Europe. Additionally, there are over 94,000 LGBTQ+ persons living in Liverpool and they host many events to celebrate their community such as Liverpool Pride festival and the LGBT Trail. We also feel very proud of the culture in our city – Liverpool has been named European capital of culture. It is the home of many incredible writers, musicians, poets as well as rich history of theatre and visual arts.
At Writing on the Wall, community is at the heart of everything we do. Our projects are centred around uniting people and helping them to gain skills to better their lives.
Our Write to Work campaign gives unemployed learners the opportunity to develop and learn new creative skills. Between April 2018 and May 2019, 11,100 people in Liverpool were unemployed. Being unemployed can lead to a very isolated and lonely life – it has consistently been related to depression and other mental health illnesses. In fact, 2.3 million people with mental health conditions are on benefits or out of work. This can lead to unemployed people withdrawing themselves from their community. Our project helped learners to openly discuss their experiences and write about them. Learners left us feeling more confident and hopeful about what they could go on to achieve. As a result, 47% went on to find employment or pursued further education.
It’s not only unemployed people who are susceptible to becoming withdrawn. The hustle and bustle of working life is making people less sociable and is reducing social interaction. We are all guilty of quickly walking through a crowd with our head down, avoiding eye contact at all costs because we’ve had a stressful day at work and just want to get home. But if this is something we all have in common surely we should spend that commute home exchanging a knowing eye roll or stories of our horrible boss and incompetent co-workers. Our Write for Work project aimed to bring together those already in work and help them broaden their skills and progress in their careers. Currently around 55% of people in the UK are unsatisfied with their job so it is vital we give them the skills and knowledge to steer their career in the way they want. This is something they would not have achieved if they had kept themselves locked away.
All the projects we host end with an anthology of work produced by participants. It’s such a positive outcome for them. They start their journey with little or no writing experience and leave as published authors. Our book launches help people to discover these new writers and give us the opportunity to celebrate together.
In February this year, we held our City of Light, City of Sanctuary project. Writing on the Wall partnered with the Lantern Company to create a mesmerising floating city of light on Sefton park’s boating lake. The event was attended by thousands of people, who enjoyed listening to the soundscape compilation of people’s stories about the theme of home. The event involved writing workshops focusing on light, home, city and belonging. The best part of this project is that it was open to everyone. It was completely inclusive as arts should be. We engaged with and created a community with this project through a shared love of creativity. There is no better way to bring people together.
Writing on the Wall gives authors the opportunity to share their stories and build their own community with their writing. We worked with Rose Thomas to publish her book ‘Bess’. The novel follows a young, black woman who is part of a new generation growing up in post-war Liverpool facing age-old racism amidst new opportunities for work, and personal, social and sexual exploration. Rose Thomas became the first ever Liverpool-born black woman to be published. Since publishing her book, she has read extracts at a variety of events with us including an event with Collegium for African American Research (CAAR) conference in Liverpool Hope University. Her novel has brought her closer to people who have had similar experiences or who want to learn more about hers. Her writing has allowed her to build her own community with people she may not ever thought of mixing with. This is the power of writing.