A book published this week by a group of local writers provides a unique record of life in Galloway in the first 12 weeks of lockdown.
Writedown gathers the work of 22 writers, either based in the area or with Galloway connections. In a collection of lyrical poetry, desperate rants, droll humour and quiet endurance they tell the story of a community encountering unprecedented times.
Margaret Elphinstone, tutor of the Glenkens Writers, launched the Writedown initiative when her writing classes could no longer meet in CatStrand. She says: “In times of trouble people want to be together but with lockdown people had to isolate, sometimes living alone. Writing met their need to communicate. Through our writing we entertained and supported each other, sharing fears and unexpected joys and daring to hope for a better future.”
Inspired by the Mass Observation project which encouraged ordinary people to keep wartime diaries, she invited anyone interested to contribute. “As well as bringing people together we have created a historical record of how a group of people experienced and coped with the onset of a pandemic.”
At the start there was general apprehension, and then, she says, the pressure began to hit. “None of our writers was on the ‘front line’ and most were aware that life in Galloway was better than in many places. But there was mounting anxiety for absent friends and family, and for what would happen to our communities.” In contrast brilliant weather and the natural beauties of Galloway brought solace and inspiration. At the same time, illness and stress created ominous silences among the contributions.
One writer, Cath Monk of Laurieston, recalls that everyone was positive at the start, but, after a few weeks that changed: “All the sad stories started coming out. It’s not easy to stay upbeat. We were all missing the contacts and the hugs.” She appreciated the honest sharing of difficult days. “At least we knew, ‘it’s not just me’.”
Leonie Ewing of Crossmichael adds: “We were united by the project – it gave us focus. We brought different life experiences and points of view. It gave us a finger on the pulse of Galloway as the pandemic took hold so we could encourage each other and be uplifted.”
The writers never met as a group, came from diverse backgrounds and many were strangers to each other at the start of the project, but they shared their writing week-by-week and positive bonds and friendships were forged. As Christine Rae of St John’s Town of Dalry says: “I shall tell you something, we became a close knit supportive group and it was lovely to be part of it all.”
The Writedown writers are grateful for the support of Galloway Glens Landscape Partnership, the Galloway Association of Glasgow, Oakleaf Camp, Local Initiatives in New Galloway, New Galloway & Kells Community Council microgrants from Blackcraig Windfarm through Foundation Scotland and to Glenkens Community & Arts Trust for logistical support and administering the project’s finances.
Writedown is available from CatStrand and other local outlets, price £7 (£9 including postage & packing). To order phone 01644 420 374 or email firstname.lastname@example.org