‘Reach Out’ – A Collaborative Art Project 

by Claire Hankey and Shilpa Agashe at the Clifftown Telephone Box Museum, Essex, UK

April 2024. 

As part of this project we conducted a survey on the relevance of written communication, today. We are very grateful to everyone who took time to fill in the survey and shared their thoughts and experiences. 

Let’s get to the big question – Does it matter? Is it relevant today?

60% of survey takers feel that it is very important and 64% feel that the act of writing by hand communicates a deeper connection or thought.

What could be the reasons for this fairly emphatic response? It could potentially be demographic, over 65% of the survey demographic is in the 40-70 range. Or it could be because of particular emotions that handwritten communication invokes in us, irrespective of age!

In today’s age of digital domination, what is the biggest motivation to send personal handwritten communication and who do we send it out most to?

What are some of the challenges in sending handwritten communication today?

While the rising cost of postage is a source of frustration for all of us, the more interesting response is – over 66% of survey takers found the effort to write a note/ letter challenging.

Let’s juxtapose this against how we feel when we receive a handwritten note or against what people do with all the handwritten notes/cards they receive.


Over 60% of survey takers say they are highly or very likely to save any handwritten correspondence they receive.

Over 97% of those who save, save it for ‘Nostalgia and or sentimental value’ and over 40% save it for ‘Reflection and Introspection’

91% of survey takers experience a feeling of ‘Warmth’ and over 70% experience a feeling of ‘Being special’ on receiving handwritten correspondence.

We wonder why ‘Effort’ gets in the way of these positive emotions related to handwritten correspondence?

 What does the future hold for handwritten communication?

48% of survey takers felt that pre-stamped envelopes or postcards would make it easier to send a personal note while over 25% wanted a tik-tok to make handwritten notes more cool. 

Since our skills don’t quite extend to tik-tok yet, we are giving away about 15 small paintings in pre-stamped envelopes as part of this installation!

Our little contribution to enable you to reach out more freely. 


Shared experiences

The survey also had a free form question for people to share any experiences related to handwritten communication and we were very surprised by the generous and candid nature of all the responses. While it’s difficult to include all the responses, here are some that we feel shine a light on some surprising aspects. ( Responses are paraphrased to further preserve anonymity ).


When WhatsApp messages came about I stopped the letters I sent to my daughter. She missed the letters a lot . So I made it a point to write especially for birthdays and special occasions.


I end up sending personal notes ‘bundled’ with gifts when somehow the effort seems more justified, not by themselves 🙁


I often think of the recording of the everyday experience of the common man/woman. Historically we have been able to read letters to get a glimpse into ordinary people’s lives as they individually see it. Now will emails, texts etc be accessible to historians to record and comment?


It’s just all overly expensive now and there’s not even a guarantee that it will get there. It’s the nail in the coffin.


Digital options are useful to me, I’m dyslexic so will often type a note to put in the personalised card! 

The act of writing requires switching off from all distractions while one writes. This ‘switching off from all distractions’ surely helps connect the conscious with the subconscious/ unconscious.


Receiving handwritten notes/cards when you’ve been bereaved (as I have been) really makes you feel that people care as it takes time, thought and effort. 


Handwritten notes may be associated with warmth and all these positive things but also sometimes are just stuck up feelings of superiority from people who uphold traditions and rules. If handwritten notes lose their place, then we need to be open to the possibility that something just as valuable may be replacing them.


Personal, written communication creates more of a connection, as I’m unfolding a letter and settling in to read it I think of the writer, at a moment of their own settling down with paper and pen to read it – I clear my mind to take in what they write, they have cleared their mind and ordered their thoughts to begin; a connection, like an in-person conversation, has been established.


I love writing handwritten notes occasionally but I resent the expectation to do so. There is a powerful class expectation to write thank you notes. Notes that I receive because people believe they have to write them are meaningless to me.


I have friends in care in nursing homes. They have few visitors and feel abandoned and lonely. My letters to them every month give them something to look forward to as well as it gives them a lift reading them.

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 17:57h, 21 April Reply

    Thanks so much for all your dedication and hard work on this project! It has certainly made me reflect on the importance and relevance of handwritten communication and how it still feels special to me. You’ve encouraged me to reactivate my card sending! Melanie Muir

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 00:23h, 25 April Reply

    What a lovely project and an enlightened idea. I enjoyed the pictures and the report. It is so true that when something becomes a little bit hard and practically unnecessary, it can become a thing of the past. But I think you’ve proven that in letting the art of written communication die, we are losing a valuable way to connect with others. Now that we consider it something that takes more effort—it carries an even more special message to the receiver.

Post A Comment