Women from the Loudspeaker project write ‘Letters to the City’ of Nottingham.

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Hello, my name is Jason McCormack. I’m the recently appointed Community Programmer here at Nottingham Contemporary. One of the first pieces of work I’ve been involved with since I started was helping to facilitate the ‘Letters to the City’ celebration event on 7 December. It was lots of hard work, but proved to be a poignant legacy for Loudspeaker and I was very proud to be involved.

In 2013 Nottingham Contemporary invited artist Polly Brannan to join Loudspeaker to develop a piece of work that would extend the project into the city, bringing the women’s voices to the wider public. The results of this collaboration were ten beautifully powerful and poignant ‘Letters to the City’, written by the Loudspeaker participants.

On Sunday 7 December 2014, the general public and Loudspeaker participants joined Polly, walking together from Nottingham Contemporary to Speakers’ Corner in Nottingham city centre to read each letter aloud. Speakers’ Corner plays an important part in campaigns for individual freedom and social justice – it’s an open space in the heart of the city where people can freely share their opinions and stories, so it felt like a very fitting place to read the letters. Polly invited people to recite the letters with her if they felt confident enough to join in…

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Personally, it felt really special to be part of a group reading the letters aloud together on this unique occasion. I had a sense that what we were doing was almost like reciting a mantra to the city of Nottingham. Indeed, having spoken to Polly about how she came up with the idea for the project, my experience on the day was very similar to one which  inspired her to devise ‘Letters to the City’ in the first place.

After the readings, the group was invited back to Nottingham Contemporary for a celebration to acknowledge their support and individual contributions to the project.

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Between 2 and 16 December 2014, two of these letters were circulated across Nottingham city centre on billboard posters, which could be read by people walking, driving by or from public transport.

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All ten letters have been compiled into a limited edition of 300 printed booklets, some of which were donated to the Local Studies collection at Nottingham Central Library. Others were donated to the Nottingham Museum and Galleries Service archive (some of these will also be placed in their ‘Access Archives’ resource boxes – collections of artefacts which can be freely borrowed by community groups and organisations to encourage learning and provoke discussion). The letters will provide a unique insight in to the lives and experience of women in Nottingham 2014 for generations to come….

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You can find out more about the Letters to the City by visiting the project website here: http://letterstothecity.com/

You can also read an iNewspaper Article and interview with Lynn Chippendale (Loudspeaker participant and mentor), Maxine Dickinson (Loudspeaker participant), artist Polly Brannan and Ciara Smyth (from Changing Lives, our project partner) on the Letters to the City project and Loudspeaker here:

http://www.nottinghampost.com/Women-struggles-powerful-letters-Nottingham/story-25366667-detail/story.html

More info on artist Polly Brannan here: http://avantgardening.org/about/

All photographs courtesy of Vika Nightingale: vika.nightingale@gmail.com

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