A few weeks ago, I wrote about the 1916 project I’m going to be involved with, which will use creative writing and arts and crafts to tell the stories of ordinary women in 1916. In recent weeks, the project has undergone a few challenges. We held information sessions, which we promoted as widely as possible, to encourage women to get involved. The attendance was very low, and I have to confess, all looked lost.
Fortunately, the good people at St Brigid’s Family and Community Centre in Waterford, who I’m working with, found another solution. They were in touch with the local library service and we’re now going to run the project as part of the Bealtaine Festival for older people in Waterford Central Library. Word about that festival gets out to hundreds of people and the events are very popular, so we’re hoping to feel the benefit of that popularity, and of people’s interest in exploring the past.
We’ll be running three workshops during the month of May to gather materials for an exhibit, which will be part of the overall Bealtaine exhibit. Participants in the craft workshops will create 1916-inspired artworks and crafts. Then in the creative writing workshops I’ll be running, we’ll be creating diary entries capturing a day in the life of a woman in Waterford in 1916.
These diary entries aim to give a sense of what it was like to be a woman in 1916 and to capture the spirit of the times. We’ll be doing very exercises to help us compile the diary entries. Here’s a sample of some the exercises we’ll be doing to get into the 1916 mood.
This is one of my staple exercises, where people look at a picture and use it as the basis to create a character. They fill out a profile of that character under various headings. In this case, the picture will be of a woman who could have been alive in 1916, dressed in the clothes of the period. Clothes at the time often indicated the class a woman came from, so the characters will either be hatted and gloved, or dressed in rags.
The participants will get a feel for writing a diary entry by first writing about a day in their own life. Sticking to 100 words will be a challenge for them. But if they find it difficult to cut down to 100 words, it will demonstrate to them that they’ll have no problem writing a 250-word entry for the exhibit. It will also be useful to compare their lives to those of their counterparts 100 years ago.
The Shopping List
We’ll also be doing activities to immerse ourselves in the atmosphere of the time and I’m going to use an exercise I’ve come across before, but haven’t yet used. I will ask people to produce their receipts from their supermarket shop, and then we will compare it to a grocery shop in 1916. They will then write a shopping list that a woman in 1916 might have compiled.
If you like to write historical books, what tricks do you use to immerse yourself in the times?