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Evening News comes out in tiny town

PUBLISHED: 12:29 18 May 2010 | UPDATED: 16:36 01 July 2010

Reporter Mary Hamilton with her micro edition of the Evening News

Reporter Mary Hamilton with her micro edition of the Evening News

There is a cake shop next door, a giant hamster over the road and soldiers are fighting zombies on the roof.

Welcome to the Home Sweet Home offices of the Evening News, where the postman leaves envelopes leaning up against the front canopy of the 20cm cardboard building.

Sharing card and glue with strangers, I built the office myself, from flat-pack cutout to fully-fledged office building complete with newspaper bundles, Plasticine journalists and bronze sculptures outside.

It is part of a performance - or perhaps an exhibition - called Home Sweet Home, the brainchild of Goldsmiths graduates Abigail Conway and Lucy Hayhoe, in which participants build their own city and tell stories within it.

I joined in the building as the tiny town sprouted from a black and white canvas into a riot of bizarre buildings in the extravagant surroundings of Blackfriars Hall.

But when the letters began to arrive the town took on a new dimension, with incredible feats of collective imagination emerging through the postal service and the radio station.

An early letter reads: “Dear Editor, An escaped swan ate my shoes! Please put it in your newspaper! Yours, Joz Norris, No. 188”.

I spring into action, posting a breaking news update on the office billboard - crafted from matchsticks and card - and dash off a return letter asking for more detail.

Over time, petitions spring up on the community notice board. A campaign to build a public swimming pool gathers pace. Disgruntled residents try to force a local election. A little girl who runs a flower shop donates a sponge-and-cocktail-stick floral display to my office.

And I get a letter back from Joz saying that he's bought another pair of Doc Martens but he doesn't think he'll be able to look a swan in the eye ever again.

The whole experience is a testament to the power of play. Adults and children alike tap into the storytelling possibilities of the town, expressing their personalities through their houses and opening them up as the community evolves around them.

Some people come along, build houses and leave, while others build stories around their houses, and the whole city evolves as the project progresses.

I spend the weekend asking questions, writing down stories, monitoring the notice board and answering letters, preparing for a burst of activity on Sunday night as I put the Home Sweet Home edition of the Evening News together.

The following day, when I return to Blackfriars Hall with a stack of miniature newspapers under my arm, someone has stuck a giant red ball to my door. There are balls on the church, the fire station and the city hall, too.

For a short time this miniature cardboard community has been incredibly real. It has had action, politics, feuds, joy, fear and anger, and the people who created it have told hundreds of tiny stories that literally changed the way their city was constructed.

As the houses were dismantled and returned to their owners yesterday, I felt privileged to have been present for the life of Norwich's smallest suburb, and to have reported just a few of the stories the residents created.

To download a copy of the Home Sweet Home edition of the Evening News, visit www.eveningnews24.co.uk.

For more information about the Norfolk and Norwich Festival or to book tickets visit www.nnf10.org.uk or call 01603 766400.

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Download a copy of the Home Sweet Home edition of the Evening News
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