Stories from beyond the Door is the new incarnation of the From Pen to Paper project which has been adapted to work online in light of Covid-19. From Pen to Paper was the first Friends of Kirkby Gallery & Prescot Museum community project focusing on creative writing, and it remains a key part of our offer over three years on, thanks to external funding secured by FOKGPM from various charitable sources. The idea originated from Kirkby Gallery having hosted exhibitions by various writers and illustrators and as a result, we recognised a way in which to use art and literature as the basis for engagement and inspiration. We have supported individuals who are on low incomes and/or those experiencing social isolation, i.e. issues associated with mental health, loneliness, disability and accessibility challenges. The group dubbed themselves the Gallery Scribblers, and volumes of their writings have been published.
FOKGPM secured funding from The Duchy of Lancaster Benevolent Fund (Merseyside) to enable Stories from beyond the Door, and an application to the Elizabeth L Rathbone Charitable Trust is currently underway to further support our Gallery Scribblers.
The project has assisted over 95 people to date, established Knowsley’s first creative writing groups and in 2020, saw one of its participants win their first award for writing: Rita Simpson won first prize in the 2020 Prescot Festival Short Story Competition for her piece When you wish upon a star.
Stories from beyond the Door will continue to feature and encourage creative writing; the stories and imagination which have been developed at home will be shared online. It is a wonderful opportunity to bring together communities and better understand the issues we have all encountered over the last few months, whilst supporting personal and creative development.
Our Writer-in-Residence, Susan Comer explains: “The national lockdown forced a new way of working and we had to look at ways to keep a sense of unity and continuity with the creative writing. I was very conscious that if left untouched for – what we then thought would be – a few months, the project participants would struggle with motivation.
“We decided together that the best way forward would be via Zoom sessions, however not everybody was comfortable or able to access this way of learning. To ensure everybody was included, we went ahead with a few members using Zoom and I provided exercises every Tuesday to be worked on through the week. This work was then shared via email on Sunday, allowing everyone who chose to, to comment and critique on the writing. This also provided a framework that they used to base their week around.
“Working this way has drawn the group members together. Before lockdown they operated as two separate groups, one in Kirkby and one in Prescot, and had only met to share work on two occasions. Through working this way, the members have developed confidence in both sharing work and in their writing abilities. This has happened by developing a deep sense of trust with each other through their shared experience of Covid-19.
“Through the regularity of the session, the feedback via email and zoom exercises, loneliness has been alleviated and new friendships formed. This has enabled members to reach out beyond the project and support each other, as friends as well as peers. I would suggest that through the shared experiences of the last months, an unbreakable bond has been formed that will last beyond the impact of isolation and the restrictions.”
If you are interested in joining in with Stories from beyond the Door, the next phase of the project begins on Wednesday 18 November. For more details and to get involved, please contact Susan Comer, our friendly and talented Writer-in-Residence direct via email: