During the first few months of lockdown we couldn’t see our friends and family unless we were in a support bubble with them. This led to a large tranche of us using Zoom and other digital communication platforms in order to keep in touch.
During that period of having to ‘stay home’ it became clear to most that maintaining contact with our fellow human beings was a treasured thing, and that connectivity and friendship were immensely important and valuable.
One group of friends who had to switch from meeting in person to communicating online was the Friends of Tunbridge Wells Museum, Library & Art Gallery (FTWMLAG).
If you’re not already familiar with them, then in brief they were established 15 years ago to provide a connection between the staff of the aforementioned cultural departments of the council and members of the general community.
Since 2006 they have organised walks, talks, quizzes, garden parties, visits and many other activities. Through these events FTWMLAG has raised funds for numerous projects, enabling the museum and library to purchase or restore various items.
This includes £10,000 for the conservation of a Georgian gown which will be on display next year in the new Amelia Scott Cutural Centre.
The group also helped Tunbridge Wells Borough council’s successful Heritage Lottery bid in 2015, which in turn enabled The Amelia Scott Project to go ahead.
“Our existence was important in obtaining Lottery funding for the Amelia Scott as it was necessary to show that the project had the involvement and support of the general public,” explains FTWMLAG committee member Anne Forster.
It’s therefore fair to say it’s a pretty formidable organisation full of passionate people who want to see the cultural tapestry of the town thrive and survive for future generations.”
During the lockdowns they were able to still ‘meet up’ courtesy of Zoom. This ensured members could continue to discuss future fundraising projects and chat about the Amelia development, which is due to open in spring 2022. But essentially, it also provided them with that all-important contact that had been taken away from so many during that difficult period.
For those who couldn’t communicate digitally, FTWMLAG Chair Anne Stobo kept in touch by writing pieces, one of which was a magazine article about the conservation work done on the Georgian gown.
“I wrote a piece for The Tunbridge Wells Community Ad Magazine and as a result I received a very generous offer from a supporter. He said he would donate £100 as prize money for a Poetry Competition.
“You can imagine my delight! In these very difficult, unprecedented pandemic times friends and friendship are indeed critical. Old ones, new ones, yesteryear ones, yesterday ones – all vital to our care and wellbeing, which is why we chose this as the subject of the poetry competition,” she explains.
“Celebrating friendship seems very appropriate in these bewildering times. It might have been a phone call out of the blue or an encounter on Zoom. Whatever your inspiration, your contributions will be most appreciated. You don’t have to be a wordsmith or an expert, it just has to be an original unpublished piece.”
Forming the judging panel will be published poet and children’s author Mara Bergman; Emily Bennett, who is a creative writing tutor at Tunbridge Wells Adult Learning Centre; and Eileen Leahy, Deputy Editor of the Times of Tunbridge Wells.
The contest, which launched last week, is open to all ages from adults to adolescents and those under 12, and encourages people to pen a poem that reflects what friendship means to them.
The deadline for entries is October 13 2021, and entry for adults is £5 and free for children. The adult prize is £100 with £75 for one runner-up, which will go towards an adult education course.
The winner of the Young Adults’ category (aged 12-18) will receive a £20 book token, and the winner of the under-12s group will receive a £10 one.
Cheques should be made payable to The Friends of Tunbridge Wells Museum Library & Art Gallery and all proceeds will go towards the Amelia Scott Collection.
To submit your poem and request any further information, please email: email@example.com
The Friendship Competition is supported by the Times of Tunbridge Wells and the Kent Adult Education Centre, Tunbridge Wells.