Continuing Bonds: Creative Dissemination

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bradford
Department Name: Sch of Life Sciences

Abstract

We do not speak of the dead often enough: we lack the language, the opportunity, the encouragement, and someone to listen. Even amongst professional end-of-life care givers, this can create problems and frustrations. Yet the past provides us with rich stories of how people throughout time have mourned, remembered and grieved; exposure to these examples encourages conversations around these topics, enabling a 'safe' way in to discuss difficult topics of mortality and loss. These were some of the key findings from the AHRC-funded 'Continuing Bonds: Exploring the meaning and legacy of death through past and contemporary practice' (CB) project, which has investigated the value and contribution of archaeology to end-of-life care.

This follow-on project brings the stories, narratives, themes and experiences espoused in the CB findings, as well as inspiring archaeological/ethnographic materials, to wider audiences.
Involving creative writers and the general public, four activities are proposed:
1. A series of creative writing workshops
2. Collation and dissemination of an anthology
3. Celebration reading events
4. Development of a free resource pack

Stories told in the original Continuing Bonds study, as well as archaeological/ethnographic materials, will be used to inspire participants' creative writing, as well as normalise facets of death, dying and bereavement (DDB). These materials will focus on a range of stories, narratives, themes (such as memorialisation and legacy, ethics, and treatment of the dead), experiences and objects. The workshops will provide a safe space for individuals to talk about DDB, to engage with others' stories and experiences about these and to engage with case studies about DDB from the past. Participants will be asked to produce pieces of creative writing, such as short stories, flash fiction (short fictional work which still offers character and plot development) and poetry. By engaging individuals in these topics through the medium of writing, it is likely that a wider understanding of DDB will emerge, with DDB thoughts, behaviours and practices being validated and normalised. These impacts will continue through the anthology and the celebration reading events.

The anthology will include approximately 45 pieces. These will have been developed through the creative writing workshops. This will be free to access and hosted online. Free print copies will also be made available for contributors, their friends/family and other interested parties.

The celebration events will welcome all who have attended the workshops, submitted to the anthology, and the general public. The aim is for participants to showcase their pieces. This will provide a valuable reflective opportunity for those involved and enables members of different writing communities to join together. It is hoped that this will form the basis of ongoing informal networks among participants.

The resource pack will enable workshop materials to be used by others, free of charge, enabling further impact beyond the life of the project.

The project will run for 9 months, which allows for the adequate preparation of materials, recruitment, facilitation of workshops, feedback to contributors, advertising for and holding the celebration events, correlation of resource pack and evaluation. We anticipate that participants will be attracted by the unique inspiration provided by the archaeological materials and related participant accounts, as well as the opportunity to network with other writers and to showcase and receive feedback on their work.

Overall, the Creative Dissemination proposal takes the success of the original CBs project and extends this to new audiences, using the medium of creative writing.

Planned Impact

Impact is expected through the activities (creative writing workshops and celebration events), and outputs (anthology and workshop resource), as well as the preparation of conference papers for practice-based and public audiences.

The workshops will encourage participants to make connections with each other, with individuals benefiting from focused time to write, access to unique and original inspiration material, peer feedback from others in the group and the opportunity to publish and share their work. They may find their writing skills as well as their confidence in sharing their writing improves. Writing for a deadline can help motivate individuals and encourage them to dedicate 'protected time' to creating. Further, individuals will gain new learning and knowledge about DDB, including thinking and behaviours which tend not to be discussed in society, but which are natural and normal.

The anthology (including around 45 pieces) will have a print run of 500 copies, distributed free of charge to participants and their families. Copies will also be disseminated to key libraries in the cities and local bereavement support institutions (such as Bradford Bereavement Support; CRUSE Bereavement Care), University libraries, and other interested venues. The anthology will also be available free of charge online, via the University of Bradford and Continuing Bonds Project websites. We will invite comment from key voices around the topic, encouraging blogs on the anthology from influential individuals and blog sites, as well as other AHRC funded projects (e.g. Grave Goods and Remember Me), and from important bodies such as the Centre for Death Studies. Writers and poets will have a free space to showcase their work.

The celebration events will be open to all who have attended the workshops, their family and friends, interested parties and to the general public. The aim is for individuals to showcase their anthology submissions. This will provide a valuable reflective opportunity for those involved and enables members of different writing communities to join together. It is hoped that this will form the basis of ongoing informal networks among participants and with CoI JD who intends to continue working in the field of creative writing. Furthermore, the nature of the material (based on death, dying and bereavement) will promote conversations between contributors and their families and friends attending the event about these topics.

A downloadable resource pack of workshop materials and accompanying guide to delivery will be made available, free of charge, hosted by the University of Bradford. This will enable the Follow-on project to have greater impact beyond the immediate workshop participants and their families, friends and peers.

In the work we have undertaken so far, and the outcomes of that work, it has become apparent that the disciplines of psychology, particularly counselling psychology, and creative writing share many commonalities and can usefully inform each other. The Creative Dissemination project will reveal further commonalities between the two, particularly understanding of how research methods and findings can inform the content and processes of writing. This may lead to further interdisciplinary work and research.

Finally, a conference paper for a practice-based audience (our research to date suggests that Psychology would be the most appropriate field) will be produced, which outlines how the Creative Dissemination project came about, how it was implemented, gives examples of the writing work created, and showcases what the consequences and impacts of the project have been. This paper would allow practitioners to take our learning back into their own work in a tangible way. This will be accompanied by a presentation at the Bradford Literature Festival to a community audience and literary fields.

Publications

10 25 50