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The Armistice Project

Published on Friday, 26th January 2018

On 11 November 1918, the First World War ended. It was a war of unprecedented violence and devastation, making the Armistice with its prospect of peace all the more welcome. It was also a war that led to enormous changes in every aspect of life, socially, politically, economically. This year we also celebrate one of those big changes, with the centenary of the Representation of the People Act that gave women the vote for the first time in the UK.

26 has agreed an ambitious project with the Imperial War Museums to mark the Armistice Centenary. We are recruiting 100 writers to each write a short piece inspired by the wartime experience of a person alive in the 1914-1918 period. We are calling this new form a centena: exactly 100 words, the first three words of which are repeated as the concluding words. The centena can be poetry or prose.

The scale of this project, in collaboration with the Imperial War Museums, is big. We see it as national and also international, and we will be inviting writers to take part who bring a view of the war from outside the UK. There will be no national limitation on the choice of people chosen as subjects for the centena. We welcome the widest possible range – not just the military participants (the RAF also celebrates its centenary this year) but representatives of all parts of society. Everyone was affected by the war: women, children, those who refused to fight. Together they will make a unique meditation on war and peace.

The writer’s task is to focus on one person from that period. This might be a family member or it might be someone discovered through research: the Imperial War Museum have generously agreed to make their archive accessible to the writers taking part. The IWM is also seeking involvement from other museums in other regions who might also enable research to be carried out into people affected by the war. The choice of subject will be entirely left to the writer. Writers will inevitably explore the borderlines between history and fiction.

100 volunteer writers are invited to apply by email, and there will be no fee. The first 100 will be accepted and there will be no extension of that number. Each of the writers will be assigned an editorial contact through 26, and the 26 editors will make sure that the centena constraints are kept and deadlines maintained; they will liaise with writers about the progress and submission of work.

Our plan is that the centenas, once they have been submitted, edited and gathered, will be released daily in the 100 days leading up to Armistice Day 2018, beginning Friday 3rd August. They will be published on both 26 and IWM websites. We are hoping that a printed publication will also be possible, but details have to be agreed with the IWM. There will be other events, activities and articles over the 100-day period. An initial timeline is shown at the end of this brief.

There will also be the option for each participant to add the following:

  • A visual representation, photograph or specially created illustration.
  • A 250-word description of the research behind the creation of the main piece.

This is an opportunity created by IWM and 26 to be part of an extraordinary and memorable writing project marking a significant world event. We aim to make it a project we can all be proud of.

About 26

26 is a diverse group of people who share a love of words, and believe their potential is hugely underestimated. Many of us work with words for a living, as writers, language specialists, editors, designers or publishers, but anyone who cares about words is welcome to join. Together, we hope to raise the profile and value of words not only in business, but also in everyday life. We chose the name 26 because there are 26 letters in the alphabet – the DNA of language. We’re a not-for-profit organisation.

Previous partners on 26 writing projects include: the British Library, V&A, London Underground, National Museum of Scotland, Ulster Museum, National Library of Wales, Foundling Museum.

www.26.org.uk