A Common Place
When the spring 2020 lockdown erected walls around us, writers’ collective 26 Characters and London’s Eames Fine Art gallery launched a project that brought strangers together.
A Common Place paired writers and artists to identify places they both loved, and then celebrate them in poetry and art. Rebecca collaborated with Norman Ackroyd, CBE, RA, one of the UK’s greatest landscape artists and printmakers. They focused on Ireland’s Dursey Island, off the coast of West Cork. Norman’s etching, Dursey Head and Cow Rock, shows the island’s tip in turbulent weather. Rebecca’s poem, Dursey Island, captures the wild potential of the Dursey Sound but, reflecting her experiences of softer days on the island, hints at calmer times.
The project’s output of 50+ pieces, and a supporting documentary by award-winning director Mike Southon, featured in an online exhibition, before opening physically to the public in December 2020 at Eames Fine Art’s Bermondsey print room.
Our wildlife is disappearing at a disturbing rate, mainly due to human activity. This decline not only affects the threatened creatures, it is also an irreplaceable loss for our own species: as the 2020 lockdowns reminded us, wildlife and nature bring joy to us all.
In 26 Wild, writers collective, 26 Characters, and The Wildlife Trusts celebrated – and launched warning flares for – our many endangered species. In her poem, Gone, before we knew it, Rebecca wrote about our native constrictor – the smooth snake. Along with the other participating writers, she also wrote a prose piece about her background research.
As well as raising awareness about threatened wildlife, in autumn 2020, sales of the project’s poetry collection, 26 Wild: The Story’s Not Over raised more than £1,600 for The Wildlife Trusts.
Trees are central to full lives. In this climate emergency, they are our planet’s lungs, and provide shelter, food and warmth for us and wildlife. In autumn 2019, writers collective, 26 Characters, and The Woodland Trust launched 26 Trees, a celebration of native British trees – from the alder to the yew. Each writer composed a poem about an actual tree and a prose piece about the use of its wood. In Patriarch, Rebecca celebrated a venerable West Sussex willow.
The 100 Days project, which marked the centenary of the First World War Armistice, shone a light on 100 individuals touched by that conflict. Rebecca Dowman wrote a piece for the project, a partnership between writers’ collective 26 Characters and the Imperial War Museums. She captured the emotions of a young woman, whose brother was facing court martial for refusing to fight.
“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.”
These words by Leonardo da Vinci were the inspiration between 26 Prints – a collaboration between writers’ collective 26 Characters and Eames Fine Art. Alongside other talented writers, Rebecca Dowman crafted a poem about a piece of artwork that she was paired with. The written works, along with the prints that inspired them, formed an exhibition at Eames Fine Art’s London gallery.
26 Pairs of Eyes
In 1739, the London Foundling Hospital – the UK’s first children’s charity – opened in response to the rising number of youngsters abandoned in the capital. The Foundling Museum captures the history and times of the charity and holds thousands of objects related to it and its charges. The 26 Pairs of Eyes exhibition displayed writers’ impressions of 26 exhibits next to the objects themselves. Rebecca Dowman’s piece, Handel’s gifts, focuses on the last will and testament of George Frideric Handel, a great benefactor of the hospital.