You may have seen a strange new Twitter feed pop up among Nottingham folk in the last couple of weeks, @NottsFortnight, populated with pictures of rubber ducks doing mysterious tasks. You may have seen the ads for Fortnight around town, or come across a poster in a number of Nottingham shops/ eateries and thought “What’s that all about then?” I’m here to explain.
Except that I’m not sure I can. Despite having been a Fortnighter for the last, well, fortnight, I’m still not completely sure what it’s all about.
Here’s the official blurb: “Fortnight is a two-week long bespoke Nottingham-based experience located in the spaces, technologies and occurrences of our daily lives. It’s about how experience creates meaning; and how a small change in perspective creates a massive change in outlook. Effectively it’s a bespoke exploration of where we live and how we go about our daily lives. It’s also an opportunity to meet new people and challenge the way we consider what’s sitting on our doorstep…”
What did this mean in practice? Well, the morning it started we all got a hand delivered letter containing a greeting and a mysterious badge. And then a text message giving us a task. And so it started. Each day, at 9am, a text message would appear, asking us if we had time, to head somewhere and do something. We started with a trip to Walton’s hotel to pick up a red phone and answer the question it asked; another day to head to Bromley House Library and touch our badge to a book to start an adventure. And another day, to go and fish a rubber duck from the water next to the Sky Mirror and take that duck on an adventure.
Each evening, an email would appear in our inboxes, containing links, poems, thoughts, diary excerpts – all sorts. We could respond or not, if we wished. And there were more texts through the day. And updates on the website. And replies to our texts, and replies to our emails. And the replies sometimes felt like a self-help programme, but a nice one.
It all felt very clandestine. Sometimes we met each other, and we all had access to the Twitter feed but otherwise if, like me, you did your tasks alone, you started to feel like you couldn’t tell anyone what you were doing and why you were racing around town at lunchtime. And when you did try to explain it didn’t make any sense. There were ‘volunteers’ at the tasks and you got to recognise them but were they the people on the end of the email and text? Apparently not.
Then there were the meetups – Fortnighters gathered at Wollaton Hall on Sunday, ostensibly to watch the sunset, in reality to freeze their butts off but we were rewarded by the appearance of a nosy stag. And another meetup on Wednesday at the Ned Ludd was a further chance to talk experiences through.
Then it was the last Saturday – a denouement, a party at The Primary. Arrive between a set time and then we were locked in. Was everything going to reveal itself? Was it all going to become clear? Not really, no. We saw some of our responses, some of our duck’s pictures, some of the tasks were repeated. More importantly, wine flowed and so did the badinage. By the end of the evening the remaining drunken Fortnighters raised their glasses to the unseen elves who had led us down this path of mystery and were just glad to be there, explanations or not.
So what did I learn? First, I would make a rubbish spy. I have to put to bed any remaining ambitions to join Control and the le Carre bunch. Second, I’m slightly unnerved by how easy it was to track me, with the badge and my mobile number which I cheerfully handed over. If you want a glimpse into the future, Snooper’s Charter through Parliament and a disregard for civil liberties, it all seems like we’ll just happily walk into a 1984-style nightmare. Third, I really don’t have enough time to do everything I want to do. And that other people’s ducks may well have had more fun than mine (sorry duck). And finally, there are some lovely gems in Nottingham – places and people. I didn’t learn this for the first time, but it’s always nice to have a reminder.
I’m going to put this blog post out there and see if fellow Fortnighters want to share their thoughts now we might have finished with it all… CN will happily publish your thoughts.