Letters to The Healing Place of the Soul #FillingTheVoid – Write to Us

Public Art Participation Project – WRITE TO US NOW!

We live in extraordinary times.  We will gladly receive your (emailed) letters to FillingTheVoidProject@gmail.com. We will miss the immediacy of your handwriting and your envelopes, the physicality of the letter, but we will gain the immediacy of your lived experience of these times. We are extending and re-opening our project, but as an online experience, given the implications of Covid-19 – so email us instead.

Tell us what is happening day to day. How have things changed? What is different but good about the changes? What is it that is making you anxious? What and whom do you miss? To paraphrase the French avant grade artist Georges Perec, what is happening, when nothing is happening? 

The motto over the door of the historic Robinson Library in Armagh translates from the Greek, as The Healing Place of the Soul.  We are looking beyond these times. In March 2021, when we celebrate 250 years of the existence of the library, we will mark with a new site-specific dance theatre piece, AT THE MARGINS, based on the letters project and the participation of those who sent us their words. Join in – this is a place to tell us all of human experience in these challenging and unusual circumstances. Let the words talk, and let the words travel the distance, from you, to us.


In our last iteration of this project, we had hundreds of beautiful, intimate and heartfelt letters in response to our call-out for #FillingTheVoid https://mariamcmanus.wordpress.com/2019/10/30/write-us-a-letter-filling-the-void/. Our writers wrote to the future and to the past, to people they love and about things that matter most. They made us laugh, they touched our hearts and they made us think. They also made us realise that through writing their letters, the opportunity to reflect, record the everyday, and connect with each other, is responding to a deeply held need to communicate.

The letters came from Australia, Spain, the UK and all over Ireland. During Georgian Festival we had many  visitors to the library on the day, and those that came also wrote letters – some were posted there and then, to friends and family from the beautiful Georgian letterbox on the street outside the Robinson Library, and others were left with us for the archive.

This is a time for reflection and a time when we need to connect. We are navigating  new uncertainties about the state of our world and where it is we find ourselves now, individually and with each other. 

This project is creating a contemporary epistolary archive written by citizens – especially the citizens of Armagh, but also from all over Northern Ireland, the border area, the island of Ireland, Britain, Europe and the whole world. Everything in a letter tells something –  the handwriting, post marks, the subject matter, the demographic and concerns of the writer: the letter is a  point in time pen-portrait.  We are also interested in receiving correspondence which for some reason has personal significance to the donor.

Letters are welcome from people of all ages and ethnicities, from anywhere in the world, on any topic they may wish to record. Then we will include it in our archive in the beautiful Armagh RobinsonLibrary for posterity and consider all letters received when were are devising our site specific dance theatre piece – AT THE MARGINS, in March 2021.   

  • If you wrote the letter you wanted to write, to whom would you write it?
  • What would you write about? A letter to your childhood home, the parent you’ve lost, your old lover, those pesky politicians, your heroine/ hero, the generations yet to come, the child in your arms, or in your womb, your idol, the lost, the prodigal, the fictional, the historical?
  • Who would be the object of your letter? We live in such uncertain and turbulent times. What do you have to say …what is the ‘thing’ you can write about in a letter, but just can’t say any other way?
  • Is yours letter to the masses, or to just one person?  To your older self? Your younger self? Your braver self – something for the record.

Letters from anyone, about anything are welcome. 

  Email us : FillingTheVoidProject@gmail.com

Maria McManus (Poet) is the author of Available Light (Arlen House, 2018), We are Bone (2013)The Cello Suites(2009) and Reading the Dog (2006) (Lagan Press). She has collaborated extensively with others producing performance pieces for choir (18, with composer Keith Acheson) dance (TURF and DUST with Eileen McClory) and multi-art form collaborations. She is Artistic Director and curator of Poetry Jukebox, an on-street audio installation of contemporary poetry.



Offbeat Antibes #4 -It’s Illuminating


Come over here now….I am told the core population of Antibes in the winter is around 5000 people. This swells to 100,000 during the summer.  I think I’d find that to be too many people for me, but it is wonderful here now, and though the current population is a fraction of that of summertime, it feels alive. You can tell this is a place catching its breath, focused on the local. Families go to the church, children play in the schoolyards; it is relaxed, routine, orderly. The light is beautiful.

The sun is coming up over the sea into a fairly clear sky. The weather was squally, wet and agitated yesterday, but is more settled now. It seems though, that there is never  a bad time to be out and about. In such weather, walking the old town, the streets are sheltered from the worst of the wind, making it possible to use and umbrella in response to the rain. There are still things to see and experience.

We get to speak with people and though my grasp of the French language is fairly limited, I love it that we can take time to speak, to make conversation and to engage in delightful, fragmented discussions that zip between languages, conscious that while the words are important, so much else is also carried with gesture, tone, looking, sensing, behaviour, intent. In last night’s company the nationalities were Irish, Swedish, Italian, Greek, Slovenian…… all conversing with the common language as French, however flawed – we talked politics, music, rescue dogs.

The low-hanging and wind-fallen fruits are oranges.

Offbeat Antibes….. #2 Correspondence

There are so many things I am appreciating about being here. It is an incredible gift to me.

I get out and walk everyday and just take time to notice the environment around me. Yesterday morning, when I was on the way to the station, I noticed an orange had fallen from a tree and was impaled on a fine wire of the very high fence around a beautiful but clearly private property. I took the orange as a wee gift to myself and enjoyed eating it when I was sitting at the station. The oranges are all coming into season – they grow on trees in some of the streets – but the picture below is from a market stall.


The local architecture is fascinating – the doors, door furniture and shutters, are so different to those at home and it is the ‘up’ side of being here out of season, in that there are fewer tourists and therefore a much slower pace, less human clutter, less mental clutter – so I get to see more.


Some letters are coming in bit by bit. It makes me realise how much I appreciate it when I  receive something back. It isn’t a requirement, nor a condition that people do write back, but it means so much to me when people do.  I am far from home, content to be far from home, but the letters are like an umbilical cord, a tangible connection to the people with whom I belong in some way.

The phone rarely rings, there is an occasional text, some Facebook messages and, rarely, a Skype call.  It is as I need it to be just now. I need the peace, and can’t bear noise to any great extent. I am out of circulation, not on tap, and need it to be like this. It feels like time to heal, for peace and to nest.

The letters I have written,are in a number of subcategories –

The Unsolicited – I write to some people, just because they are on my mind and I have things I want to write and say. This is a combination of old friends, and people I need to thank, and in one instance a friend gave me the heads up about someone – a prompt to write.

The Requested –  These are in the majority……I write to people because they have asked, in response to my offer to write to anyone who wants a letter….. that remains an open offer and a letter is unconditional….. there is no need to respond, but it is especially nice when it happens and I get a letter back.

The Reciprocal – people who also write, and not because they feel obliged, but just because they also like to…. so the chance to exchange and to explore a bit more, to experience writing as a ‘mode’ for a while..

Responses have come in a number of ways……. actual letters, some cards, some postcards, a number of Facebook acknowledgements and the odd What’s App message.

For me, the experience of writing the letters has been about the chance to bring someone to mind in a sustained way for the 20 minutes or so that it might take to sit and write something. In an odd way it is a meditation often about the person to whom I am writing, but also a way to be with present with them and share something of what is going on, even when I am not in their presence. ( Still with me? Somehow this feels to be incredibly important ……. exploring……) It is also a way to share something about the minutiae of daily life ….. I can handle minutiae…somehow it feels like that is where meaningful things are….. in the small, the ordinary, the quotidian.

So many things to write about……. like the void….. and boundaries & high-maintenence people…. and reflecting on life……….  knocking on doors within.


Belongings – what makes home?

I’m temporarily living in France for four months. It is not a hardship – in fact it is very nice. I don’t have a home of my own anymore – everything is in storage. It is a strange and, hopefully, a transitionary period of time. We are like migratory birds – over-wintering, but not naturalised to here.

I don’t consider myself to be overly acquisitive, as much as just feeling the need to have a home, a nest, a place to be surrounded by my own things. I like the cumulative narrative of the collected ‘stuff’.  The ‘stuff’ is in some state of suspension.

The ‘Stuff’- is a unique assemblage of utensils, equipment, books, music, art, with a couple of bikes thrown in for good measure. It’s not that any one thing in itself has huge value in monetary terms – but much of it, individually and collectively carries a weight of attachment. Stuff represents the story of all the stories – friendships, occasions, celebrations, bonds between people, times and places – everything that has held us to bring us to this juncture of life. It is the collected tokens of belonging – to family, to friends, to place. It is not us – but says something about who it is we are, where we have come from, where it is we belong.  But it is bunged up somewhere in a crate, or several crates, indefinitely.

Anyone following this blog may know that some weeks ago, I had ‘Bag-gate’……..a woeful whinge-fest about a freight bag I had sent ahead of myself, which went on tour (God knows where) for 35 days or so. It was delivered eventually; just the 16 days late……… I was entitled to whinge.

Not only were most of my clothes in that bag, but also small items of comfort. For example there were four very beautiful Swedish linen napkins, that are not only beautiful, but of enormous sentimental value too. There were also four small candle holders. Dining – is a ritual…. we light candles at every meal, breakfast included. I write and read, with a lit flame beside me. There were also some books and some notebooks, but that was about it. It is is modest, but significant and enough.

Nothing else in this place belongs to us – it is these small collection of things that symbolises that this is ‘home’ for the present. Apart from that – some small rituals are, perversely enough, also part of making ‘home’ home – ironing the napkins, scrubbing the kitchen sink, sweeping up, keeping a small bouquet of flowers on the table, cooking………chopping stuff – it’s domestic ‘porn’, but in a good way.

I am enjoying  a level of solitude that is often hard to come by.

In the solitude the one other ritual I have is to continue to write letters. I have written 61 letters in fewer than two weeks. Averaging around 700 words a letter – that’s more than 36000 words. Every letter has been unique and to different people. The letters are also like migratory birds – and messages home – reminders of people I belong to, and reminding them, that I too belong, in some way, with them.

“Bird Nest With Egg” by Dakota Lynch – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bird_Nest_With_Egg.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Bird_Nest_With_Egg.jpg