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West Norfolk lockdown reflections published to raise money for NHS




A new book has been published sharing the lockdown reflections of a group of 76 writers, including several from West Norfolk, to raise money for NHS charities.

Michelle Gant, who works with Love West Norfolk, was inspired to create "When The World Paused" after she was overwhelmed by the response to her blog. She began blogging in March after deciding to capture people’s thoughts on the time and publish them online.

Michelle Gant with her 4-year-old daughter Thea and her new book, When The World Paused, inspired by lockdown. (43046579)
Michelle Gant with her 4-year-old daughter Thea and her new book, When The World Paused, inspired by lockdown. (43046579)

Michelle said: “When the lockdown was announced, I decided that I wanted to capture this significant time in words, particularly for my daughter. Her memories of this will be hazy at best. I also know how writing has always helped me to manage emotions and thoughts through difficult periods – and this was clearly a difficult time.”

After sharing her own reflections, Michelle invited friends and family to do the same and was overwhelmed by the response, with a total of 76 people adding their thoughts each day from March to June.

She said: “At first, it was just people I knew coming forward to be involved. But, before long, the blog had a life of its own and I was contacted directly by others who wanted to be involved.

When The World Paused, new book by Michelle Gant (43048380)
When The World Paused, new book by Michelle Gant (43048380)

“The blog was attracting huge numbers as well and to date there have been over 10,000 views of the site. It was having a positive effect on those who were taking part, who said they found writing cathartic, and those who were reading, with feedback that people felt uplifted by the reflections. It made readers feel less alone through a crisis.

“What was really special about the blog was that people were so open, honest, and vulnerable in their reflections. I felt really privileged that so many people shared of themselves – the way they were feeling, their mental health struggles, their fears and hopes. It was a project that really connected us together when we had to stay apart.”

After such a huge response, she closed the blog in mid-June and decided to turn the reflections into a book, which she then self-published on Amazon. Created with the help of some other writers, the book was published at the end of October and all profits are going to NHS charities.

Michelle said: “When the project ended in June, I thought we have something really special here, a piece of social history, and an opportunity to raise funds for NHS charities. The response to the book has been amazing.”

The book contains contributions from 14 West Norfolk residents. There are also reflections from writers across Norfolk, Canada, Holland and the Shetland Islands to offer different perspectives of lockdown.

Among those from West Norfolk who contributed was Danielle Warman, who also designed the cover, she shared her experienced of becoming a new mum during the pandemic. She said: “It was very cathartic to write about how the lockdown affected me as a new parent and how it made me feel. The book was a brilliant idea for people to express their own challenges and how they dealt with them during lockdown.

“Every single one of us had a different experience and this book reflects that. I look forward to showing my son this book in years to come and for him to understand what the world was like when he was born. I was honoured to design the front cover and I really hope it raises a lot of money for our deserving NHS charities!”

Abbie Panks, the new chair of Festival Too, said: “I’m so pleased to contribute to the project. Providing some social commentary has proved, for many including myself a cathartic experience during a time of such uncertainty. Both the blog and the book give a really interesting insight to people’s lives during lockdown and reading other contributors thoughts and stories of their everyday lives serves as a great reminder that despite our geographical location, we are all going through this together.”

Jacqueline Fry said: “When I first saw the blog I thought what a great idea not only was the topic relevant to everyone around me it was so real.I thought I’ve never blogged before but I really wanted to be part of this opportunity to capture something in history that my grandchildren can read and be proud as I am that their Nanny took part. I luckily had the bonus day of VE Day.”

Michelle said: “I am so grateful for everyone who took part in the book, and to everyone who is now buying it. Although times are tough again now, looking back over these reflections reminds me just what we are capable of during difficult periods.”

When The World Paused is available on Amazon for £8.45 with all profits going to NHS charities: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08M89X22W



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