Love Letter to Macclesfield

“Where is the heart of a town to be found? Is it in its history, a point on the map, or in the people; their memories and experience? Or is it in the power of places to inspire, to enable us to imagine something else beneath its surface, between its layers and beyond its skyline.”

The central idea of this project was very simple. To invite people to write a love letter to the heart of the town. To draw people into Arc’s dome, for a drop-in, hands-on workshop to share what they love about where they live. It could be stories of love, heartbreak, significant places or special moments.

The aim was to use elements of as many individual letters as possible to compose a communal love letter, presented back to the town as a Festival legacy. Arc developed a blog for the project, to enable promotion of the forthcoming event, to recruit potential volunteers and to post any letters written before the event.

One of Arc’s core aims is to provide opportunities for vulnerable people to access, benefit from and participate in a wide range of high quality creative projects.

So for this project an integrated team was created, to develop the resources for the event and facilitate it. This team included vulnerable people working alongside artists, Arc staff and volunteers.

The team met and worked through creative writing exercises before preparing the materials and starting points. In this way they took ownership of the delivery of the event. Appropriate support mechanisms were put in place to ensure that the members of the team were comfortable with all aspects of the event, including travel to Macclesfield.

This event voiced perceptions of the town by residents and visitors, and increased the reach of the Love Letters engagement. As a way of generating initial work for visitors in the dome to respond to, and as a trial of the engagement ideas, Arc ran creative writing workshops in 4 junior classes at Rainow Primary School in the week leading up to the Barnaby Festival.

“Getting to meet and work with Jacqui and the Arc team this Barnaby has been a real pleasure and a genuine privilege. The Love Letter to Macc project is inspiring in its simplicity – and its all-round effectiveness. From entering the calm of the Dome in Sparrow Park to look at all of the letters already produced during a hot, buzzing festival weekend, to hearing from participants in Brewing Culture who also got to tell their love stories of Macclesfield (documented on beer mats), to reading the final poem online, the project  demonstrates how to deliver a process which engaged a wide range of people in thoughtful, creative and expressive activities with a lightness of touch and good humour, without condescending. Well done to all involved – look forward to collaborating again when possible, and to seeing the final outputs of the project.”  Dr Abigail Gilmore, University of Manchester.

“This is for us all, for the town. It is our words – and we should look after this, it is part of our heritage.” Alift Harewood-Jones, Mayor of Macclesfield.

“Barnaby has always developed projects which last beyond the festival and the Love Letter to Macc is a special addition to this list of legacy projects. It is a gift to the town from its people, we are so proud to be a part of it with Arc”  Karl Wallace, Macclesfield Barnaby Festival Director.

Click here to download a PDF report to read more about this project.
Thanks to:
  • The Barnaby Team – staff including Festival Director Karl Wallace, Co-ordinator Dan Williamson, all the volunteers and the Trustees
  • Alison Smart at R A Smart textile printers
  • Julie Bullock, Macclesfield Library
  • Diana Hamilton, The Print Mill
  • Dr. Abigail Gilmore, Manchester University
  • Matthew Gratton-Cash and all the staff at Rainow Primary School