Reading List

Monday, 30 May 2011

A week is a long time in postcards

Phew. That was quite a week.

It is going to take some time digest it all I think. But I wanted to put some photos up quickly for those who couldn't make the talks... and also for those who did.

Talking at the British Postal Museum & Archive

First up, confirmation that the cards people wrote on Thursday have been sent.


At the end of the talk at the BPMA, three volunteers from the audience (Anna, Fran and Axel) wrote cards using some of the Edwardian techniques for writing postcards that we'd discussed earlier in the night.

The volunteers agreed to enter into a deal.While the BPMA paid for the card and the stamp and they could send the card to whoever they wanted - I would read out the cards at the end of the evening to the rest of the audience.The idea was to explore the open form of the postcard, in that the message can be read by all en route to its destination.

Anna wrote a gingerbread recipe to her friend in Dulwich, Fran a message to her future child (I got it in the end, Fran!) and Axel sent a very poignant note to her grandma. These cards are now in the possession of the Royal Mail.

Once again, thanks to Laura and Alison at the BPMA for inviting me along to speak!

Touring at Waterstone's

I must admit I'm still on something of a high from Saturday's 'postcard tour' at the Gower St branch of Waterstone's. The people that came along were fantastic. Loads of great observations about the cards. In fact the event became a long chat as much as a tour.

We walked around the store taking in the secondhand section, the philosophy and art departments, the fiction area and then back to the secondhand section for some biscuits and jam tarts. And all through the medium of different postcards. So for example, in the fiction department we discussed how postcards have been used as plot devices by authors like E. M. Forster.

Lots to think about. I'm sure the experience will be a source of inspiration for a long time.

But now for the very very exciting bit.

Above are the photos of the cards people got me to write using Edwardian postcardese. In exchange for a free card and free stamp, people gave up part of their privacy by dictating messages to me to write to whoever they wanted. (To stop the slideshow you can just click on the album to have a closer look at some of the cards. Names of addressees have been smudged for data protection...)

Some great messages emerged as you can see. Lots of codes, lots of tilted stamps. And somewhat surreally of course, they are all in the same scrawling handwriting learnt at Longton County Primary school circa 1984.

At the same time, though, there was a serious aspect to all this. Jamming Edwardian postcard writing with our very modern concern for what is public and what is private, made for interesting exchanges. One person described sitting down in the alcove of the store where we were based as "stepping into the confessional". That felt spot on. It was fascinating not just to see what emerged in the messages, but also how people engaged with the 'stranger scribe' scenario.

Thanks again to everyone who came along, and to Jo and Emma for letting me do the tour in the store. Yes, let's do another one in the Autumn!

Playing with the form

Finally, this week has made me realise how much I enjoy this card sent to an R. Wade in 1903, a year after the postcard's reverse side was split to allow people to write both a message and an address on that side. It's a great example of how playing with the form of something, whether it be 'the postcard' or 'the talk', can be a lot of fun.


  1. LOL. Quite the message, besides the stamp affixed at an angle, although it isn't quite 'over the top' of the addressee. And I really enjoy what you've given us for a narrative for your postcard adventure! A great read.

  2. And upside down writing - that is code for ?????

  3. Love that message. Brief and to the point.

  4. That was fun - and what was the upside down writing for? :D
    Happy PFF.

  5. Great post! Laughing at the message on the 1903 card!!!! Funny stamps are still angled just like the 1903 card in almost all the pictures you took they are almost the same!!!! Thanks for sharing and Happy PFF!

  6. That's a cute red mailbox. I love sending and receiving postcards. Mine is up - My PFF Entry. Thanks for sharing and Happy PFF!

  7. Would have loved to come. Too far away. Did tell friends in London via Facebook. Looks like you had a good time. Cheers from Vermont. Place stamp here.

  8. What fun! Sorry I couldn't be there to enjoy - thanks so much for sharing.

  9. Such an interesting project. Thanks for letting us know how it went.