On 1 October 2020, National Poetry Day, we launched a project called World Turned Upside Down 2020 #haiflu edition. The aim was to create a chapbook, based on a 200-year-old version, The World Turned Upside Down or No News, and Strange News, printed in York and held in our archive. Our edition would document our responses to the Coronavirus pandemic in haiku and doodles to create a lasting record of how we felt during a year of change, lockdown and restrictions.

We held several online poetry and doodle workshops led by poets Penny Boxall and Janet Dean and artist Stephen Lee Hodgkins, encouraging contributions to the chapbook.

Early this year we got to work reading the haiku, matching them to doodles and deciding where to place them within the book. We hand printed one copy on beautiful handmade paper and had it professionally bound to take its place in our archive alongside the original chapbook. Another 50 were printed on handmade paper and hand-bound. These have been given to everyone who contributed to the project and a reference copy is available in every library in York. You can see a digital copy here

What inspired us?

At the beginning of lockdown in March 2020, spoken word artist Liv Torc posted on Facebook to ask how her friends were feeling when life-as-they-knew it stopped. She wanted them to tell her in haiku form, or by posting a photograph, what they had noticed. She brought the words, pictures and some music together in a weekly film and Project Haiflu came into being. Liv made 12 weekly films, one overall 45 min project film and an extra film based on contributions for public libraries.
Since then Project Haiflu has evolved into Big Haiflu Art and Haiflu 3.0, which you can discover more about on Liv’s website.
Liv joined us at an online event, Haiflu Ever After, in autumn 2020 and we are delighted that she will be appearing at York Explore in person on 9 October with her live show. Booking will open later this year.
Meanwhile in York, community artist Stephen Lee Hodgkins was making his own lockdown discoveries and creating drawings and printed work.
Stephen was experimenting with an old Adana 8×5 tabletop letterpress printing machine and while searching for old instruction manuals he came across the York printer James Kendrew of 23 Colliergate who during the 1800’s had produced a series of chapbooks. These chapbooks, or ‘cheapbooks’ were small roughly printed booklets were adorned with intricate woodcut illustrations. Chapbooks kept alive folklore, nursery rhymes, fairy tales and school lessons and were sold by travelling merchants across town and country.

We combined inspiration from Liv’s Project Haiflu and Stephen’s serendipitous discovery of the chapbook, through his experiments in hand printing, to create World Turned Upside Down 2020 #haiflu edition