The Long Goodbye


The Long Goodbye: a conversation across a century

The Long Goodbye, an eXegesis Poetry Collective project, funded by an Exeter Award and by the Humanities Faculty of the University of Exeter, was a major installation of 'love letters' to those of a century ago who engaged in the participatory democracy of volunteerism and employment in aid of their communities and countries.

The project included not only combatants, but also the millions of non-combatants - from the sphagnum moss pickers on Dartmoor, to the women 'Canaries' of munitions factories, to children collecting eggs for the wounded, the blind massage therapists, the pigeon fanciers who became part of the signal corps, the young boys who took to the mines at age 12 and 13 to support their families while the men were away, the women who knit and sewed for the 4 million refugees, the 1.2 million women who went to work in offices, as mechanics, dentists,  etc. etc. We also welcome letters to conscientious objectors, the valiant Quakers who served at the Front as Ambulance Corps. e.g., or those who joined the Non-Combatant Corps or who chose prison rather than fight, and we welcome letters from all sides of the conflict and in all languages.

Many people were invited to engage in the project - including staff, students and the general public. All were invited to write a few lines on a postcard, or a letter, from us in 2014 to those in 1914 to those who left for the Great War.  This included non-combatants, children, women and people of non-military age, who engaged in or who were affected by the war on all fronts  - the Western Front, Mesopotamia, Serbia, Africa, Australia, India etc

The installation of thousands of these letters rolled out on 4 August, 2014 from the Wall of the Welbeing Centre on the Streatham Campus, down the hill towards St David's train station - the point of departure a century ago and will be in place for approximately a month after that.

There was an opening event on 4 August 2014 on the University Campus, which included live music and dramatic readings from both the installation, and from Professor Tim Kendall's Poetry of the First World War (OUP).  There was also a presence from the Chaplaincy representing different faith communities.

The project aimed to expand the public's conception of the Great War from the trenches of the Western Front  (of which the British Expeditionary Force held 15% of the entire Front line across the world) and of death (while tremendous numbers died, 90% came home alive) to include those who lived, and even thrived. The legacy will include an online archive of the letters.

eXegesis, whose ethos is of inclusivity and collaboration, is made up of the artist Dr. Jaime Robles, author of Hoard (2013), Mike Rose-Steel, PhD researcher, videographer, poet, philosopher, and SM Steele, PhD researcher, official war artist (Afghanistan 2008-2010), award-winning poet, librettist (Afghanistan: Requiem for a Generation) and video installation artist. 

Visit The Long Goodbye website for more information about the project and examples of images and contributions to the project.


To contact The Long Goodbye:





Images gratefully loaned, copyright: The British Red Cross, The Society of Friends of Britain, The Oates Collection, Cambridgeshire County Council, 2014.