Monday, 17 October 2011

Ideas are power

A year and ten months ago, I had an idea. Wouldn't it be great to give voices to works of art in stuffy museums? Help them speak to the person on the street (who otherwise might not pop in to look around)?

A week later, I'd pitched the idea to John Simmons, a founding member of the writers' organisation 26. A month after that, the London Design Festival had jumped on board. Then the V&A in London's South Kensington.

By September 2010, we were exhibiting 26 62-word written responses beside unique objects from the British Galleries inside one of the world's most popular museums, as part of one of the world's most respected design festivals.

We'd reached dizzyingly beautiful heights. So where next?

Last Friday, I flew to Belfast for the launch of 26 Treasures Northern Ireland. This time, instead of being the man with the idea, I was a guest. Invited but not celebrated. Just the way it should be.

This time the plaudits went to Gillian Colhoun, a good friend I made somewhere in Northumberland National Park at a Dark Angels writing course. The Park was an inspirational place - and Gillian an inspirational woman.

Since we asked for her help early in 2011, Gillian's created and curated 26 Treasures Northern Ireland with grace, grit, enthusiasm and a smile. She's taken the spirit of 26 and 26 Treasures. And she's blown me and John away.

The idea for 26 Treasures came one dull afternoon to a bored man sitting in an armchair in his parents' house in Essex. He called himself a freelance writer where 'unemployed' may have been closer to the truth.

Almost two years, lots of hard work, many friendships and a lot of sweat and smiles later, 26 Treasures has changed lives across the UK - at the V&A, the Ulster Museum, National Library of Wales and National Museum of Scotland (that launches in early December).

Believe it. One idea can change the world. By having even the smallest effect on the lives of people involved in it.

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