Michelle Gant and 75 others captured their reflections during lockdown and have just published a book to raise funds for NHS charities. And the mostly Norfolk contributors even include her young daughter.
Can you remember much of what happened when you were four years old? Michelle Gant has encouraged her little daughter Thea to reflect on the last lockdown, in the hope that she will be able to remember what has, to the rest of us, been frankly unforgettable.
And as new restrictions come into force across England, Michelle and 75 others are helping to raise money for NHS charities with a new book featuring reflections on the last lockdown.
‘When The World Paused’ began life as a blog in March when Michelle decided to capture people’s thoughts on the time and publish them online.
In total, 76 people aged from four upwards shared their thoughts in the online journal from March to June.
Michelle explains: ‘When the lockdown was announced, I decided that I wanted to capture this significant time in words, particularly for my daughter. Her memories of this will be hazy at best.
‘I also know how writing has always helped me to manage emotions and thoughts through difficult periods – and this was clearly a difficult time.’
But, rather than simply writing down her own reflections, Michelle decided to open it up with an invitation to friends and family to do the same. She was overwhelmed with the response with a different person each day adding their thoughts to the blog.
‘At first, it was just people I knew coming forward to be involved. But, before long, the blog had a life of its own and I was contacted directly by others who wanted to be involved.
‘The blog was attracting huge numbers as well and to date there have been over 10,000 views of the site. It was having a positive effect on those who were taking part, who said they found writing cathartic, and those who were reading, with feedback that people felt uplifted by the reflections. It made readers feel less alone through a crisis.
‘What was really special about the blog was that people were so open, honest, and vulnerable in their reflections. I felt really privileged that so many people shared of themselves – the way they were feeling, their mental health struggles, their fears and hopes. It was a project that really connected us together when we had to stay apart.’
Michelle brought the blog to a close in mid-June and then decided to set about turning the reflections into a book. With the help of some of the other writers, she self-published the book on Amazon at the end of October with all profits going to NHS charities.
‘When the project ended in June, I thought we have something really special here, a piece of social history, and an opportunity to raise funds for NHS charities. The response to the book has been amazing.’
More than half of the contributors are from Norfolk with other writers hailing from places such as Canada, Holland, and the Shetland Islands, giving different perspectives. Thea – then aged four – also features, sharing her thoughts as recorded verbatim by her mum.
I really enjoyed writing it and by reading others’ posts, I really found comfort in such an uncertain time
Nicola Pritchard is one of the writers. Nicola, who lives in Taverham with husband Simon and son Harley, is not someone who writes regularly but jumped at the chance to be involved. She says: ‘I really enjoyed writing it and by reading others’ posts, I really found comfort in such an uncertain time. And now, I feel extremely privileged and proud to be part of it.’
My story is about a small and powerful act of kindness and a momentary connection that I’ll never forget
Tom OxleyBamboo Mental Health
Tom Oxley, a Folk Features favourite who runs Bamboo Mental Health, also contributed a post. He adds: ‘My story is about a small and powerful act of kindness and a momentary connection that I’ll never forget. I don’t think it would have happened before Covid. So the story, and this book, celebrates the generosity of human connection in tough times. Focusing on writing also helped me offload some of my thoughts and create some positive thinking.’
I felt calmer after writing and kind of chuffed with myself for actually getting the words out
Ange Fox wrote movingly about a bereavement she suffered during lockdown. She says: ‘Taking part with this incredible project for me came at a time when I had a lot of sadness, frustration and anger all swirling around inside of me and writing it all down was a way of releasing those feelings.
‘I felt calmer after writing and kind of chuffed with myself for actually getting the words out. To see the actual physical book just feels incredible, what an achievement. It’s great dipping in and out of each post and a reminder of how far we’ve all come.’
Michelle again: ‘I am so grateful for everyone who took part in the book, and to everyone who is now buying it. Although times are tough again now, looking back over these reflections reminds me just what we are capable of during difficult periods.’
When The World Paused is on sale now on Amazon at £8.45 with all profits going to NHS charities: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08M89X22W