With the recent lockdown leaving many of us feeling isolated and anxious, one St Helens Borough Council service took to the lost art of letter writing to reach out to some of the borough’s most vulnerable residents.
Recognising the compounded isolation for people that don’t engage or communicate online, the council’s arts and libraries teams decided to develop ‘Our Correspondence’ which involved sending hand-written letters in stamped addressed envelopes to residents registered with the library service’s Home Delivery Service.
Written by Emma Graney, a member of the St Helens Libraries team who just so happens to be a member of the International Union of Mail Artists, the letters were sent out to approximately 180 people. Recipients were invited to respond by reflecting on their own experiences, how their lives have changed, and hopes for the future.
Explaining the idea behind the project, Head of St Helens Borough Council’s Libraries, Kathryn Boothroyd, said:
“The residents signed up to our Home Delivery Library Service are people who, even before lockdown, tend to spend a lot of time at home and are unable to get to the library themselves, typically due to age, health or disability. So ‘Our Correspondence’ is an important initiative because it enables people to continue to have a bespoke connection with the library service.
“Every response we have received so far has spoken of overwhelming delight at finding a letter in and among their book pile that is especially for them, and many people have expressed feelings of real connection, too, and have been very glowing about the service that they get from the council.” One 87-year-old resident from Sutton involved in the project said:
“Thank you for giving me the chance to write a letter to someone. I used to love writing and receiving responses, especially from family. I love reading, I have been so pleased to have my books delivered to my door. I want to take this opportunity to thank those people involved in this service. I love books, I love covers, I love the feel of a book in my hands.”
Hailing the impact of the project, Councillor Anthony Burns, St Helens Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Health, Leisure, Libraries, Arts and Heritage, said:
“We’re lucky to have such an outstanding arts and libraries service here in St Helens Borough, the staff from which are such a genuinely caring and compassionate bunch who have really gone above and beyond these past months to check in with our highly valued library members that may have had a rough time recently after losing all contact with the rest of world due to lockdown.
“If there are any book lovers out there who cannot get to a library, I would encourage them to get in touch to find out more about our wonderful Home Delivery Service.”
For information on the Home Delivery Service please call 01744 677898 or email firstname.lastname@example.org Please note that there is limited capacity to take on new Home Delivery Service members.
‘Our Correspondence’ was developed as part of the award-winning Cultural Hubs programme funded by Arts Council England and delivered by St Helens Borough Council’s Library Service, which is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation.