A Postcard from Martin Rowsell

Martin Rowsell runs Postcards for Peace. In an interview with us two years ago, he took us through the story behind PFP and its founding. Here’s our chat with him on what’s been happening since then.

How is it going with Postcards for Peace?
There’s been a lot of talks behind the scenes but not much actual action for us to share with the world in the last year. However, there have been some positives. For instance, a group of ambassadors in Kurdistan got together to hold an event for Peace Day under the PFP banner. We had our first meet-up in London last summer which was really useful! We sent twenty postcards around the world to see what journeys they might take - some have got further than other and many have completely disappeared, though. We are currently holding talks aimed at sending messages about body positivity, body shaming and related bullying. Something might come from this in 2019. Right now, we are looking at ways to restructure our Ambassador network, while the network continues to grow. We have a lot of schools looking for partnerships as part of our Postcard Exchange Network, and are currently looking at several ideas too!

In your journey so far, what has your key learning been? Have you found yourself with a different idea of / view on peace than from when you began?
Personally, my biggest learning has been that we, as humans, are more similar than I had felt we were before. My view of peace is so much bigger than it was when I first started. I now realise that it is far more than stopping war or dropping bombs on distant lands. It is much more personal than that. It has to start with each and every one of us realising that we are all human beings and that we should all be there for another. That doesn’t make the job of Postcards For Peace any easier though!

You have built a powerful network of ambassadors in this time! Tell us about your ambassador program. 
We do have a lot of Ambassadors and most are very willing to help but need some direction. Many seem to want to call themselves Ambassadors but not really sure what that involves or just want the title. We plan to change this so that Ambassadors becomes a network of the most dedicated supporters who can be more actively involved or who, through their own work/network, have something more to offer. Those that want to be associated with the charity but perhaps can’t dedicate their time to helping, will become part of a separate network. Ambassadors do play a vital role in our work though. Sometimes we just want to share an idea with people around the world and it’s good to get different feedback. They can also help us share posts on social media.

What have your greatest professional obstacles been in this time?
Finding time to work on PFP and also, recently, maintaining motivation. We have also really struggled to open a bank account - as stupid as that sounds - which means that we haven’t been able to get as many funds or apply for grants as we should have been able to. Most recently an application was turned down because we associates ourselves with another charity that has had some bad press in the last year. The stress this has caused me personally has been massive.

How have you overcome, or how are you overcoming these challenges?
Recently, I’ve just had to switch off from working on the charity completely. However, I need to start getting things moving again and hopefully we can get to a position where I can delegate some roles to others.

The challenges to peace are manifold - sometimes, they cannot be foreseen. At this point, do you believe that getting young people to work towards peace can still prove useful for a future of sustainable peace?
Yes, I still believe that getting young people involved. I think most already want to learn about it and want to work towards it but are perhaps lacking the guidance or knowledge. It is a basic human instinct to want to live in peace and we need to work to make sure that children don’t grow out of that belief because of what they see older generations or the media doing now.

As a peace worker, what do you believe we are missing out on in achieving or making the achievement of peace a possibility?
The peace movement misses out on money. Governments and many businesses are only interested in money and, sadly, they seem to believe that there is more money in war and hate than in seeking peace. People need to come before profits and then hopefully we can create a world where there is a place for humanity in diversity.

Switching gears a bit… What got you into writing?
My father always said that he had an idea for a novel. He started it but it was tucked away in his wardrobe and was never touched again. But I think that planted a seed in my head that anyone could write. At school, as part of an English project we had to write the first chapter of a novel. I loved doing that and I think that was probably the start of believing that I would like to write more. In my mid teens I had an idea for a novel. I can’t remember where it came from but probably a dream. I asked for a typewriter and wrote it out. I got copies and sent them to agents but it was rejected until I got too demoralised. I really believed in it at the time, and thinking about it today, I do believe that it is a strong story so it might get told again in the future. 

In my early twenties, I saw an advertisement for a contributors to a music reference book. I got six articles included and that really made me realise that I could write good enough to be published. In the mid-1990s, I began to write short stories. The more I wrote, the more ideas I got and I really found my flow. Two of the short stories were published and received great feedback. However, circumstances changed and my inspiration dried up. It was until twenty years later that I had the idea for another story and I opened myself up to the idea of writing again.

Writers often say it is a challenge to write short stories. Do you think so, too?
I’ve never found it a challenge. If anything I find it easier to tell  short story than it is to write a novel because you can keep detail to a minimum, leaving a lot up to the imagination of the reader. Before I start, I don’t set myself a word count limit and allow the story to grow as long as it needs to.

A lot of your writing is driven by your observation and passion for peace. Do you consciously follow that pattern?
No, it is never a conscious decision but I am inspired by the people I have met and the stories I have heard as a result of my work with Postcards For Peace and a greater knowledge I have as a result of listening to people from around the world, and books from different countries. I had a head full of ideas last year, for different stories that I really felt needed telling. Some were definitely influenced by the side of humanity that I want to help create. My work has changed because I have a better understand of people and the world but, The Christmas Jumper, was written in the 1990s so maybe it was always meant to be that I would write about society and humanity.