24 October

It’s been fascinating to be involved with new commissions for writing workshops and poems as part of the 14-18 NOW, Norfolk & Norwich Festival, and Writers’ Centre remembrance of the Battle of the Somme, July – November 1916.

On 15th and 16th September I ran two workshops on War & Kindness at The Missing Kind in Norwich – a new charity dedicated to helping encourage kindness and compassion in society. There’s a KindaKafe, KindaShop and they run kindness events, including mindfulness, meditation, and other workshops. Anyone that knows me will know that kindness is something I value highly, and the odd juxtaposition of two huge and seemingly conflicting concepts was a challenging and interesting idea.

The Battle of the Somme in World War One was the bloodiest battle in UK history. As part of the UK’s national commemoration of the 100th anniversary of WWI, the aim was to explore the human stories about war and its relationship to kindness. Could a kind society ever go to war? What happens to kindness when people are tasked with defending themselves or others? And why does war often inspire some of the most extensive acts of kindness between people.

There was a lot of lively discussion, writing, looking at war and kindness from many different angles, and we used prose, poetry, journals and photographs to inspire responses. Participants ranged from young academics, to

retired teachers, creative writers, a singer, drama teacher and meditation workshop leader. We focussed on crafting and shaping experiences, stories and thoughts about war and kindness.

The workshops were in partnership with BBC Voices, so a film is being made about the workshops and resulting writing. The films will be shown online, at the Imperial War Museum in London, and at Cinema City in Norwich. It’s being premiered at Cinema City on Armistice Day, and I’ll be able to put a link to it online after that.