It doesn’t seem that long ago that the Naval Families Federation set up a creative project to bring our community together and to better understand how people were feeling during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Now the time has come to launch the project – Time, On My Watch – in which we have captured the thoughts of Royal Navy and Royal Marines families on the passing of time in permanent form.
The NFF has produced a beautiful book which presents a miscellany of work, giving an insight into how Naval families were faring during a period when our normal face-to-face channels of communication – families days, coffee mornings and the like – were closed off to us.
‘Time, On My Watch’ was funded by the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust. After testing the water with some of our families during the application process, the Federation decided this would be a rewarding way to see how families were coping with the additional stresses and strains which were inevitable during the uncertain times in 2020/2021.
To help us deliver this project, we enlisted the considerable expertise of professional artist Tim Mann, who offered a very different perspective on what was, for the NFF, an unprecedented initiative.
Naval families were invited to submit their thoughts on the concept of time, and how it affected them, in the form of drawings, poems, handicrafts or photography.
This collection, we believe, presents a powerful message, delivered in creative form that ranges across the emotional scale, from heartfelt words to dark doodles.
They hint at how people seize special moments, or steel themselves for a patient wait, or watch as the sands of time slip away, highlighting some coping strategies adopted by the Naval community and the effects that separation has on both the deployed and their families back home.
One strong theme that emerges from the miscellany, in which the contributions are presented anonymously, is that of the importance of the community in supporting one another – which came as no surprise to the NFF team.
The honesty and openness displayed makes the collection all the more valuable as a means of communication, and justifies our original intention to somehow capture the spirit of the project for posterity.
A printed version of the book will be presented to key policy and decision-makers in the military and government to help inform their thinking, as well as to those who contributed to the project. A digital version also will be made available at nff.org.uk/tomw in early October.