“Our Letters Keep Us Very Busy.” 19th-Century Family Newspapers and How to Make Your Own

“Our Letters Keep Us Very Busy.” 19th-Century Family Newspapers and How to Make Your Own

The mainstream news circles endlessly around the covid-19 pandemic. Our own movements, interactions, and activities are severely limited. Sometimes the days just seem to roll into one. So how can we find ways to delineate the hours and keep track of them? Is there a way to share our news with friends and family beyond exchanging text messages? How do we create personal records of this unprecedented time?

Perhaps we should begin by reconsidering what constitutes news: start celebrating small triumphs, seek inspiration from within our limited surroundings rather than looking beyond them. Making family newspapers can help your children tune out of the barrage of bad news and focus instead on the little things that so often fail to be recorded.

Copyright: George Charles Beresford

In the 1890s, ten-year-old Virginia Woolf began working on a family newspaper called ‘Hyde Park Gate News’. This collaborative production featured family news, jokes, poems, riddles, fictional letters, stories in serial form, and reports of visits to concerts and plays.  

Anyone with a family WhatsApp group may be inundated with jokes and riddles already. But with the speed of modern communication, these often tend to get lost. (Depending on the quality, you may consider that a good thing!) Could your own young journalists start recording these jokes or, even better, come up with their own? If screen time is increasing, perhaps they could take on the role of Family Media Critic, writing down their favourite quotes and providing star ratings on what they watch. We may not be attending concerts or plays, but the National Theatre is providing free YouTube screenings of their productions every Thursday night at 7PM. Who knows? You might have a budding theatre critic amongst you!

Family Newspapers in Yorkshire

 

Long before the precocious Virginia Woolf launched her writing career, the Gray children were already producing their own family newspapers. Looking through their archive, we found newspapers from the 1820s containing letters addressed to various family members, daily accounts of activities, and features on topics such as “Apple Gathering”, “Plumbs” (plums), “Fox”, “Asses” (the donkey kind), and “Hens”. In the “Measures” section we discovered a simple but ingenious method for keeping children occupied: “Papa made each of us a Yard-Wand … and we measure everything. The church is 22 yards, 2 feet, 5 inches long.”

 

As the young Gray journalists reveal, there is news to be uncovered everywhere. Sometimes they simply look to the sky and take notes on the moon and stars (“Wednesday: the moon being three weeks old presented an appearance”). Entire sections are devoted to pets, food, and outdoor activities. If your children have been helping in the kitchen perhaps they could include some recipes. And our exercise time is the perfect opportunity for gathering content. Did they do any running races? Perhaps they can try identifying the trees and flowers they spot on their walk. Did they meet any dogs today? Was there any drama with York’s increasingly audacious geese? If your children are learning crafts or engaging in new hobbies, they can record their progress with this too. There are so many options! They might even publish their newspaper by sending it to friends and relatives in the post.

 

 

How to Make a Family Newspaper

As the BBC Great Creative at Home Festival continues, there’s never been a better time to think about creating your own family newspapers! 

One of the best ways to make your own newspaper is to produce a zine. These are easy to make, you can print multiple copies from one original, and they are small enough to send to friends and family in the post. The small format also helps if your children are struggling to produce lots of content, as they can easily fill the pages with pictures or just a few lines.

All you need is an A4 piece of paper, a pen, scissors, and something to write about. If you want to get creative you can make more elaborate zines by cutting out pictures to make mini collages. You can also use colourful paints, add stickers, or copy any of the other techniques in the video below. Have fun! And if you want to share your newspapers with a wider audience, we would love to see pictures of your creations on Twitter and Facebook! Don’t forget to use the hastag #GetCreativeAtHome! 

Zine Tutorial

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