Getting Back to Basics: Letter Writing

It would not come as too much of a surprise if a teenager reacted by laughing to the concept of keeping in touch with someone via pen and paper. But just over a decade ago, that was probably one of the most common ways of doing exactly that. And now thanks to the younger and older generation in Norwich, we are getting back to basics, in a project supported by the Arts Council England.

While youngsters today primarily communicate via social media such as WhatsApp, Twitter and Instagram, those over 70 are more familiar with pen and paper. Thus a UK primary school in Norwich recently collaborated with their grandparents’ generation to build relationships via letters and postcards. Year five students from Lakenham Primary School and Norwich Time Travellers Group participants got on so well with this project that it is now available for viewing at the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library in the Forum under the title, ‘The Labyrinth of Lost Letters.’

At the exhibition (part of the Flying Shop of Imagination Scheme), one can read the letters exchanged between these two groups can be seen. As it is, the group of seniors meet in order to share their stories. Now, they are simply expanding this by writing to the children and, in turn, learning about their lives. This was an eye opener for both groups; many of the kids had never even written (or received) a letter and the older people had little or no communication with school children.

What made this particularly nice was the fact that in this instance – which these days happens rarely for the older generation – the learning curve was experienced by the youngsters since the elderly have been raised on a culture of letter writing.

The results of the initiative – according to project leader Belona Greenwod – were “hugely moving. It doesn’t take long before what is uppermost in a child’s life comes out and the time travellers have shown wonderful commitment to share their life experience and wisdom with the young people.”