‘Wish You Were Here’ – Meeting at last

Yesterday, eight months after we first saw each other in the blurry haze of Zoom, the writers with whom I worked on Wish You Were Here finally met face-to-face. It was a joy. The completion of a community art project is always a special moment, and I remember every one, but this had another layer. Like pen-pals, we were meeting for the first time as old friends. We had to get used to how we looked, without the familiar background of our homes, but with the physical reality of presence. There were double-takes as people recognised one another. When I arrived at Boston Guildhall, I almost walked past Sonya, Jane and Tess, having fun taking lockdown photos in the old cells – ‘Is that…Yes, it is you!’.

By perfect chance, someone had had the excellent idea of organising Boston’s first Book Festival this weekend, and so our small group had an ideal platform to present the book. Sonya Hundal took on the task of organising a stall at the Guildhall, and the others joined her for as much of the day as they could. When I got there in the afternoon, they’d already sold lots of copies. I watched as they talked about it to visitors – and dedicated copies – with much more ease than I’d have managed.

Afterwards we gathered at the White Hart, from whose windows you can see the river and the parish church that graces the book cover in Rosie Redzia’s lovely drawing. Among other milling party guests, we talked, ate and basked in the happiness that comes from having created something you’re proud of, with people you’ve got to know and like through the process. Tentative plans were made for further work, perhaps a live reading, even some films. Who knows?

For now, it was enough to be here, meeting at last, another small community brought together by art.

Thanks to Writing East Midlands, Transported, Arts Council England and The Baring Foundation, who supported this project, and especially to Michael Cartwright, Sonya Hundal, Jane Kay, Frances Sabey, Tess Sanderson, Brian Skinner and Rosie Redzia whose creativity made it so valuable.

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