As it’s Valentine’s month, I thought I’d turn February’s blogs into love letters. Today it’s a love letter to the very lovely Bumblebee Hive.
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways!
I love the buzzy bee trails that fly out all across the country each month – from the Vale of Glamorgan, to Inverness and Edinburgh, to Bath, Belfast, Bournemouth and Basingstoke.
It’s now quite a labour of love to wrap and parcel everything up, but it’s worth it to send everyone in the hive their monthly bookish treat. One of the things I love most are the messages you ask to be included when sending Bumblebee gifts. This month I’ve written messages from grannies who miss reading to their grandchildren; from mums wanting to encourage their kids during home schooling, from work pals sending Birthday cheer to colleagues they miss seeing around the office, and from friends who ‘saw this and thought of you’. Every card I write makes me think that those invisible Bumblebee trails across the country are about more than just books.
I tend to think of reading as a solitary activity – although of course reading together with children is a whole other thing – but reading as an adult tends to be something we do on our own. It can of course connect reader with writer – part of the joy of books is the direct link between two imaginations simply through words on a page. When I set up Bumblebee I knew that I didn’t want to just send out books, that forming a community in some way would be just as important. That’s why I encourage Bees to share what they create – not to show off their artistic talents, but to share their imaginative responses to the books. Those responses will be individual; they could be vastly different – but I hope they connect Bees together through their shared inspiration. But what I hadn’t quite anticipated was just how much love gets sent via books, and it is truly wonderful to feel Bumblebee is part of so many connections across the length and breadth of the country, particularly now when it’s easy to feel cut off from the rest of the world.
Perhaps it’s a symptom of the winter lockdown blues but since the start of this year there have been quite a number of Bees gifting to themselves – sometimes requesting a note (‘to me, with love from me x’) and sometimes without a note, just quietly sending themselves 6 months of reading and mindful creativity.
There are a couple of Bees that live very close to Bumblebee HQ who I hand to deliver to, and as so many people are now in all day everyday, I’ve been able to meet them. It’s lovely to have a chat on the doorstep as I hand over their parcel, to hear first hand about what they’ve enjoyed, and what they’ve been making.
Social media isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but the hive forming on Instagram is equally as lovely. From the supportive comments cheering on Bumblebee, as well as the words of encouragement when Bees share their creative endeavours, I am amazed daily by the kindness of people I’ve never met who seem to just like the idea of books inspiring creative sparks. I recently ran a giveaway as we’d reached 1000 followers, and asked people to nominate the person getting them through lockdown, who they thought would like a bookish treat – the messages posted in response were wonderful. Amidst a pretty gloomy January, they were so heartwarming and cheering to read. One of my very favourite moments of connection was when the author and illustrator of the very first Mini Bee book, Zeno Sworder, commented on artwork created by a Mini Bee subscriber ‘I love to see another artist at work’ he posted. That direct line from the imagination of the writer, to the imagination of the reader was made visible.
So thank you, dear Bumblebees – thanks to all of you for turning book inspired creativity into small acts of love.
With lots of love,