The Project

The Long Goodbye proposes to combine reproduced archival material such as photographs, posters, and newspaper clippings with handwritten, contemporary responses – in poetry or prose – on the other side of the letter, thereby creating “a conversation across the century”. The physical objects, small and quietly unobtrusive in postcard and A5-letter format, emulate the form of correspondence available during the war years.

We speak to the importance of memory and recognition to those who leave the safety and comfort of home. This holds true especially for those who return and cannot begin to describe to their loved ones where they have been and what they have seen and done. The Long Goodbye aims to re-embody the farewells of so long ago.

How can you participate?

In partnership with the University of Exeter, the City of Exeter, and its schools and community groups, Exegesis will co-ordinate a series of workshops on writing cards and letters to loved ones in the war effort. We will then curate and install the letters in several linked installations and exhibits. It is our heartfelt wish that the project will speak to those who have been touched by war, in the past or today. We ask you to join us in the writing of these cards and letters. If you would like to organize or participate in a workshop, or if you would like to write a card or letter of your own to be part of the installations, please contact us.

You may contribute anonymously. However, individuals who contribute writing to this project may also request to be listed on this site’s Contributors page. Work will be posted only with the writers’ permission.

To whom are you writing?

Those who contribute are encouraged to reach from this century to 1914 and to re-engage in what has been described by Dr. Richard Batten as the massive “participatory citizenship” of the millions worldwide who contributed and lived through the Great War.

You are invited to write a few lines on a postcard or a letter, from yourself in 2014 to any who left for the Great War. Recognizing members of the army, navy, air force, and land army, we encourage you also to consider those in support trades, such as munitions workers, Volunteer Aid Detachment Workers (VADs), professional nurses, First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANYs), Ambulance Corps workers, chaplains, medics and the many others.

You may also consider “making contact” with other non-combatants involved in, or affected by, the war. Included in this project are images of children who picked berries for soldiers’ jam; animals and veterinarians involved in the conflict; the volunteer committees for knitting, sewing, or providing aid for refugees; the sphagnum moss gatherers whose moss was used for bandages; the protected job workers (fishermen, farmers, cigarette factory workers); and the women who went to work in offices, and as mechanics, dentists and nurses. The list goes on …

We invite participants from, and words to, all sides of the conflict, in all languages. We also welcome messages to those who for moral or religious reasons could not participate.

The Installation

The installation will begin to be hung on August 4, 2014, in the former stables of the university – representing the starting point for the “everyman” who enlisted – and will slowly roll-out from this site, enacting a journey to war, with an end-point exhibit at, or near, the St David’s rail station, the point of departure for the front and other sites of war work. The route of this installation will encourage readers to imagine taking the same route and will potentially bring a physical and more immediate perspective to the centenary. Ideally, other community sites will participate in the roll-out, including smaller villages throughout Devon, whose sons and daughters said “goodbye” a century ago.

The installation is designed to be biodegradable, drawing on Exegesis’ earlier installation, Wall of Miracles (2012), on the University of Exeter Streatham campus.

There are plans for a publication and a formal exhibit for the future, with the potential to engage the drama department in readings and possible dramatic staging of the letters.