Award-winning Wirral author Natalie Reeves Billing’s book, Ben and the Bug, which she wrote to help children tackle covid-related anxiety, will be saved for posterity in a Liverpool time capsule commemorating some of the key moments of 2020.
The ‘Capsule of Culture,’ which is on display at the Liver Building, will mark a year that organiser Peter Johnson-Traherne describes as “pressing, pivotal and poignant.”
Schools and individuals nominated items that they felt best represented key moments in 2020 and chose an eclectic mix of mementos – from Merseyside author Natalie Reeves Billing’s book to Tony Bellew’s boxing gloves to face masks and a model of Everton’s new stadium.
Judges including Kim Cattrall, Lord Mayor Anna Rothery, Liverpool and England footballer Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ru Paul’s Drag Race winner The Vivienne carefully considered the nominations before choosing key items that they felt best represented 2020 for the time capsule.
The judging panel also included Olympic Gold medallist Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Denise Barrett-Baxendale, Chief Executive Officer at Everton Football Club and Maria Breslin, the first female editor of the Liverpool Echo, among other key figures.
Natalie Reeves Billing said, “Having one of my books chosen felt like the glorious end of a long, nerve-wracking journey. Although lots of things have been happening to be excited about recently, to have my book recognised by a celebrity panel and placed in a cultural exhibition in the iconic Royal Liver Building is a Liverpool girl’s dream come true. It means the world, and my mum is so proud too, which makes me smile even more.”
Teachers and parents have been using Natalie’s book to introduce the topic of covid in a way that’s accessible to children, and the author said: “I wanted to write a book that gave this mysterious virus a face, and often that takes the fear out of things. The unknown is much scarier – the idea that some unseen attacker is out there waiting to get us. As children returned to school, I wanted them to know that they could play a part in keeping us safe, but to remind them of the importance of fun, friendship and normality, too.”
She added: “I hope my book has played some small part in alleviating anxiety during a really long, difficult period. I hope it brought joy to little readers and provided a tool for families to open up conversations about the pandemic in an easy-going, palatable way.”
Natalie, who is keen to build upon her work in the local community with the Liverpool 6 Community Association alongside other organisations to encourage literacy and creativity, said: “Literacy is a main focal point in Liverpool, and I’m delighted to be on the core planning committee for Liverpool Years of Reading and Writing, and I’m passionate about the power of creativity, storytelling and education as a way of creating a kinder, fairer world. My social enterprise, Split Perspectivz, was set up in February 2020 to do just that, offering literacy tools and resources to families who needed them most.”
Since ‘Ben and the Bug’ was published, Natalie has gone on to write more books for children focusing on mental health for kids and their families, and is committed to working in the community, delivering free resources and literacy boxes via her new initiative, Build a Book.
The author, who says that her Build a Book literacy boxes are “jam-packed full of magic and imagination” says that having her work selected for the ‘Capsule of Culture’ will help her to further her message and continue her work in the community.