We launched Letters Home at Rochester Library on 10 November 2012 in a 2-hour event with readings, and songs, in several languages! (Photos above by Nikki Price.)
Sam Hall and Barry Fentiman hosted the event which was attended by an enthusiastic and full audience. And Roy Smith recorded the event and made a podcast from it – which we will post soon.
Sam and Barry read letters from some of the letter writers who couldn’t attend – ably assisted by Steph Anderson, who read former Medway resident, Tara Moyle’s ‘A Letter Home’ in a faultless Southern accent.
Sam kicked off giving some background to the project. ‘Letters Home’ is the latest project from ME4Writers, which invited Medway residents to write a letter to the place they think of as home, this has resulted in a collection of evocative and emotional writing, which forms the basis for the exhibition. The exhibition is being displayed by Medway Libraries in Rochester and Walderslade Village.
As well as letters, photographs from Medway photographer Nikki Price feature in the exhibition, alongside Medway artist Heather Haythornthwaite’s atmospheric local street scenes.
Sam said ‘The idea for the exhibition grew as sometimes there’s a feeling that people just find themselves here. Kent has always been a place that displaced peoples end up in, and that has often been seen as a negative thing, but this exhibition celebrates Medway’s diverse population – as well as letters from writers who are born and bred in Kent, we have had letters from members of the other communities, who have all made their homes here. ’
Barry then took over introducing the readers, who read their own letters. Amongst the bi-lingual highlights were Irina Fridman reading her letter in Russian, Sarah Jenkin and Sean Meaney reading poems and a letter in Gaelic and Sam reading the English translation to some letters from children learning Bulgarian. Other readers who read for the audience were Roy Smith, Sarah March D’angelo, Jaye Nolan and Phil Kane, whose new collection of poetry about the Medway ‘Unauthorised Person’ is available now from Cultured Llama.
We have had a brilliant local response to the project – which has included letters from children at the Bulgarian School of the Association of the Bulgarian Community in Rochester, and we are still receiving letters which will be added to this website, at the end of the exhibition.
Sam also ran a creative writing workshop for adults (and one will be run for children on 21 November,) and the responses received from the attendees were really moving (they can be read in the Workshop section). This seems to be a project which has really touched people deeply.
Sarah Jenkin, who is Medway’s Community Librarian, sums up perfectly why this project has been so enjoyable for ME4Writers to be involved with – and important for Medway:
‘When Sam approached me about this event, I knew libraries had to be involved. For so many, their definitions of home and identity and culture are not acknowledged, erased from history. Other people write their stories for them, defining their identities for their children.
I wanted there to be a place for people to experience, describe and explore their ideas of home and identity in their own words and with their own language, without censorship. I want their voices to be recognised and shared with others.’
Thanks to those at Rochester library for letting us display our exhibition and hold the launch there! Also thanks to those at Walderslade Village, where our smaller satellite exhibition is running. Thanks also to Carlito Juanito whose houses feature on the bunting and postboxes.
Some comments from audience members:
“the idea of Letters Home is very good and helped to forge the emotions with expression”…
“Really wonderful afternoon, relaxing and different”…