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12th May resources

On this page, you will find videos with extracts from Mass Observation's 12th May diaries collected in 2020; the year of the Covid-19 pandemic. The videos are on various themes such as happiness, loss, creativity and hope. 


In this video, you will see extracts from Mass Observation's 12th May diaries on the theme of hope.

Much like the spirit and ‘can-do’ attitude of the second world war, many of last year’s lockdown diary entries included mentions of hope, and perseverance. In May last year, we did not know how much longer lockdown would last, but summer was coming and the rules were starting to relax. Little did we know that within months we would be ‘locked-down’ again, but these entries show a glimmer of hope. 



In this video, you will see extracts from Mass Observation's 12th May diaries relating to loss.

Something that is often covered in entries is loss or grief, as one of the painful, yet inevitable parts of life. This, in some entries, is mentioned in passing, or in greater detail, through the cathartic action of spilling your heart onto paper (though in many cases, a keyboard). The COVID-19 pandemic only amplified the evidence of these thoughts and feelings in the 2020 May 12th entries.




In this video, you will see extracts from Mass Observation 12th May diaries on the theme of wellbeing. With the limits on social contact and gyms and organised groups like exercise classes being closed, people had to be more intentional when looking after their physical and mental wellbeing. These entries reference to how ‘well’ the diarist is feeling, or their efforts to keep themselves healthy.



The entries below show some of the wonderful, creative approaches that were received last year. Some people have illustrated moments of their day, others included references to what they are currently creating, like weaving, and one has a poem at the end. If you’re someone that doesn’t enjoy writing in great detail, let these encourage you to think outside the box to portray your 12th May.



The most entertaining diary entries are those from children; the rollercoaster ride of emotions they feel through the day reveals the active and developing way children approach the world. They write about the most important things; mainly food and Minecraft, but several of the examples below also share insight into a child’s perspective of the pandemic. The following entries are picked for including references to family, children and schools.



The entries below demonstrate evidence of kindness, something that blossomed through lockdown, on the last 12th May. These actions, big or small, made a keen difference, and let these encourage you to use your diary entry to write about something that has been done for you, or possibly even the opportunity to do something for someone else.

Cooking and baking

In this video, you will see extracts relating to cooking and baking from Mass Observation's 12th May collection.

A hobby many seemed to pick up in lockdown was baking, and entry 516 details the struggles of trying to buy flour! A crucial part of the day, many of the diaries cover meals made and eaten, as well as any baking escapades. Entries can include anything you want to include, and if that is banana bread, so be it!


Social Media and Technology

In this video, you will see extracts relating to social media from Mass Observation's 12th May collection

Social media and technology have been an extraordinary way to still ‘see’ people from the safety of our homes. Several entries reference playing computer games like Minecraft or Fortnite, but doing this with friends, meaning they were able to play and socialise at the same time. Zoom (which was practical unheard of two years ago), is shown to be used for yoga sessions, family or business meetings, and even online courses.



Not being able to meet in large groups meant that last year’s references to ‘community’ looked very different to any year beforehand. These examples highlight the uses of messaging apps and video calls, meaning things like book clubs, or an entire street being in contact, can take place. Also included are entries detailing those who had to shield, and subsequently rely on others to get food, prescriptions and more.


‘Man’s best friend’ became the only friend many of us could see during lockdown last year, and multiple entries include dog walks, or spending time with other animals.


One of the overarching comments that seemed to be repeated throughout lockdown was the way people were grateful for outdoor spaces and nature; be that in their own garden, or noticed out on daily walks. These entries reflect this increased appreciation of nature, gardening, and being outside.


Some of the diaries received last year included joyous moments, or moments of reflection and thankfulness. Many parents recorded enjoying the opportunity to see more of their children, and many others were grateful for their jobs, their gardens and their friends. Some of the children’s entries were happy in tone simply because they had their favourite food for tea!


Since the 1930s, ordinary people have written to Mass Observation about their experiences of key events including the Munich Crisis, Blitz, rationing, Coronation of Queen Elizabeth, Falkland’s War, September 11th 2001, and Brexit.  This is how you can help us create a record of the pandemic:

Keep a journal of your experience of the Covid-19 pandemic 

Please get in touch, if you would like to submit a regular diary but not join the Mass Observation Project Panel. We ask you to take a look at this document which explains some points that you may want to consider before sending your diaries or reflections to the Archive. Please send your diary to us when you have finished writing, rather than in regular instalments. Please also consider keeping a diary on 12th May.

Writing by community groups, schools or other groups. 

We would really welcome contributions from school children and wider community groups. This could be a journal, drawings or writing in any style to record your experience. You could also take part in our 12th May Diary Project

You can send in your contribution individually or as a group. Please see our guidance notes which explain some points you may wish to consider before sending in your contribution to the Archive.

12th May Diary Project ‘10th Anniversary’

The Mass Observation Archive is conducting its annual diary writing day on the 12th May 2020. This is the 10th anniversary of the modern project. We anticipate that this 12th May will be unlike those captured over the last 10 years and welcome contributions from people of all ages across the UK. Whether or not the UK is in lockdown, please consider keeping a diary. For more details visit our 12th May page.

Format of documents

We welcome physical and electronic responses to all the opportunities listed above. A list of formats that we can accept can be seen in our guidance notes. We ask that you retain any physical records until after the lockdown period.

Don't forget to include the following statement:

I donate my COVID-19 reflections to the Mass Observation Archive. I consent to it being made publicly available as part of the Archive and assign my copyright in this work to the Mass Observation Archive Trustees so that it can be reproduced in full or in part on websites, in publications and in broadcasts as approved by the Mass Observation Trustees. I agree to the Mass Observation Archive assuming the role of Data Controller and the Archive will be responsible for the collection and processing of personal data and ensuring that such data complies with the DPA.

More information about this statement can be found here.

We will review our policy in May 2021. 

For current Mass Observers

This page provides links to directive questions, flyers and other material that are normally included in our Directive mailouts. You may wish to bookmark this page for future reference.

Autumn 2021 (Directive number 123)

download icon Download the Autumn 2021 Directive as a .pdf

download icon Download the Autumn 2021 Directive as a .docx 


download icon Download Newsletter as a .pdf

download icon Download a Newsletter as a .docx 

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

The Archive depends on donations for many of its special activities. Find out how you can become a Friend of the Archive here

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Become a Mass Observer

Join our Panel of Mass Observers and start receiving Directives.                                                                                                                Image taken by Humphrey Spender and copyright of Bolton Council.

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In this section you will find the answers to the frequently asked questions about becoming an observer for Mass Observation.

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Current Directive

Discover what our Panel of Mass Observers are currently writing about.

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12th May

Send us your 12th May diary.

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Become a Mass Observer

Due to unprecedented demand, the Mass Observation Project is currently closed to new applications. We are reviewing the panel and will open the Project again soon. 

We send a panel of writers three themed Directives each year on both opinion based and personal topics; from thoughts on education, close relationships, Eurovision to the NHS. Have a look at the current Directive if you would like to see an example of what you would be asked to do. 

Correspondents may email, type or write by hand, draw, send photographs, diagrams, cuttings from the press, poems, stories, letters and so on. No stress is placed on "good grammar", spelling or style. The emphasis is on self-expression, candour and a willingness to be a vivid social commentator, and tell a good story.

Help give an insight into everyday life

Mass Observation places a value on subjective experience, and descriptively rich material which can offer insights into everyday life. If you're interested in becoming an observer, take a look at the frequently asked questions.

What happens when you apply to become a Mass Observer?

You will then be registered on our database. We will ask you to:

  • Write a Self Portrait

This can be as long or as short as you wish but it should serve to introduce you to us. You should include your year of birth and your sex, your address, your occupation and some indication of your home life (whether you are married or single, who shares your home and so forth). After that, it is up to you. This Self Portrait is not made public until 50 years later - so you can write as freely as you like.

  • Complete and return a Biographical Information form

This will provide a very basic outline for researchers. This form will be made available to researchers so you should not include your name.

  • Send us a recent photo of yourself

Attach a note giving your name, the date the photo was taken and where, and if possible, who took it. This will be kept with your Self Portrait and not made available for research for 50 years.

  • Complete and return the copyright form

We ask you to do this so that we have a proper understanding with you about the use of your contributions. See the frequently asked questions for further information on copyright and privacy. Once you are on our mailing list, we allocate you a unique number - your M-O number - which you should use on your directive replies instead of your name.

How to join

Once you have read the details about taking part please fill in our online application form.


Frequently asked questions

Due to unprecedented demand, the Mass Observation Project is currently closed to new applications. We are reviewing the panel and will open the Project again soon. We are still accepting material relating to COVID-19 and diaries written on the 12th May 2020.  

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about becoming an observer for Mass Observation. Please contact us if you can't find the answer to your question below.

 What does taking part involve?

We hope you will reply to our Directives. These are normally sent out to you three times a year. They usually contain two or three different topics on which we would like you to report in the light of your own experience, including what you see and hear going on around you. The Directive is often made up of questions but it should not be treated as a questionnaire because it is most definitely not intended to be one. You can write as much or as little as you wish in reply.

Always include a "mini-biography" at the start of each part of your Directive. It is very helpful for researchers to see your age, occupation, where you live and your marital status. It saves them looking you up on our lists; it means that the information they use about you is up-to-date and it gives you control over how much you want to say about yourself. Please remember not to give your name or any information that may identify you directly. 

How much you contribute depends mainly on how you feel and what you have time for. As our resources are limited, if you do not keep in touch with us for a year we will stop sending you Directives

How much should I write?

That depends entirely on you. We are never going to say that you've written too much or too little but we'd rather you wrote one or two lines than nothing at all. Don't worry about rambling or going off at a tangent. We know that some subjects inspire some people and leave others cold.

You must feel free to pick and choose and to write about your own experience. Stories about things that have happened to you are of special interest. Do remember, all the same, that 'negative reporting' is always valuable. When we had a Directive on cars and drivers, for example, it was important we heard from non-drivers as well as drivers. If you decide not to answer a particular Directive, or a particular part of a Directive, we like to know why. Is it lack of time? Lack of interest? Ill health? Or are there other reasons related to your feelings about the topic?

What kind of paper shall I use?

Any kind of paper, including the back of junk mail (but please remember to delete any identifiable information on the reverse of your contribution). If you are emailing, if possible, you should send it as a word document or a PDF.

We ask only that you always start a new section of your Directive reply on a new piece of paper so that the different topics can be detached and filed separately.

Must reports be typed?

No. They can be handwritten, typed, word-processed or spoken on to audiotape.

Can I send in tapes or videos?

Yes, although it would be helpful to discuss this with staff at the Mass Observation Archive by email or letter first.

Can I send in other pieces of writing, for example, diaries?

We no longer actively seek diaries and they are harder for us to manage but if you are a keen diarist, please send it in. We are also pleased to accept contributions on topics which we have not been able to cover in Directives. This could be a personal experience (for example, a holiday, an illness, a birth or death, an incident at work or in your community) or it may be your feelings about current issues and events. We will file them separately under the subject heading.

But a special plea....

Please don't send in large parcels of material without checking with us first. Our space is limited and we must only accept donations of material if they are closely related to our concerns. So if you find your grandmother's diary in the attic, please do think of us (and please don't throw it away!) but contact us to check that we can accept it. If you usually use our FREEPOST system please think twice before sending parcels costing over £5 in postage, or several small items which would be cheaper sent together.

Do you want newspaper cuttings or printed material?

Not usually. They are bulky and difficult to preserve. Newspapers are stored in larger libraries so we feel that it is important not to fill up our precious space with material that can be obtained elsewhere. However, we are interested in the occasional cutting if it is relevant to the piece you are writing, or where it illustrates a point. And we are happy to accept leaflets, photographs, labels, menus, adverts, cartoons, drawings, maps, diagrams and any other "visual aids" where they relate to your response.

Is there a deadline?

We don't usually specify a deadline unless we have a researcher in the Archive who is in a hurry to see the material. It is helpful to us if you send in your reply before the next Directive is due, say within 3 or 4 months. Occasionally, however, you may not have the time or inclination to write for a while, and we are still pleased to accept Directive replies which arrive late or in bulk.

Will I receive an acknowledgement?

We always try to ensure that you are told that your post has been safely received - if possible within four weeks of receiving it, though there are times when it can take longer. We produce a standard acknowledgement letter with some of the latest news to keep you in touch. Staff at the Archive may write to you personally if an individual reply is required. If you are ever concerned about safe receipt, please tell us or add a SAE to your envelope.

Does it matter if I reply late or even miss a Directive?

No. Sometimes correspondents are too busy to reply - or maybe they don't feel inspired by the theme of the Directive. This is fine, although we are always interested to know if you don't like the Directive and why. However, if you haven't been in touch with us for a year we will stop sending you Directives - we simply haven't got the resources to keep sending them out and we don't want to become a nuisance to someone who has lost interest. If you stop hearing from us, it is probably because over a year has elapsed since your last contact with us. If you write in, we can immediately re-instate you. On the other hand, if you do want to stop writing for us, please write and tell us why. It would save us postage and a lot of work.

Who sees my contributions?

When your contributions reach the Archive, they are opened, checked and recorded by staff at the Archive. We, unfortunately, do not have the time to read all your contributions in-depth, but most are read very carefully by a wide range of researchers including academics from different disciplines, for example, sociologists, psychologists, historians and geographers. We also have visits from students, school children and the media. Please remember that your responses will be read by researchers, so don't include any information that you are unhappy to share. 

How is my material made available to researchers?

Replies to the Directives are made available to researchers as soon as we can get them ready. They are boxed up in batches according to the section of the directive. So there are boxes on our shelves labelled "Gulf War", "General Election 1997", "The Lottery", "Close Relationships", "Charles and Camilla" and so on. Inside the boxes, the replies are arranged in folders in MO number order. It is worth remembering that many researchers only see the writing you do in reply to one particular directive, so don't worry about repeating information which you gave in an earlier directive reply.

Researchers visit the reading rooms at The Keep. They are given basic information about each person (age, sex, marital status, current occupation and town of residence) so that they can set your writing in a social context. They are also shown the actual Directives and background information about the whole Project. Researchers are told that access to the material depends upon their respecting people's confidentiality and we keep a careful check on who sees the material and the ways it is used. Some researchers are also MO correspondents, by the way. Any MO correspondents can become researchers and visit whenever they wish by making an appointment.

How can I be sure that my privacy is respected?

We are very careful about the privacy of our correspondents. We issue everyone with a number. We ask you to write your number (rather than your name) on all your replies to Directives. Only members of the Archive staff can link your number to your name.

To increase your privacy, we strongly encourage you to use initials or made-up names for the people you mention, and to do your best not to inadvertently identify yourself within your reply. Please don't include your address or any information that may identify you personally.  

The length of time that the Mass Observation Project has been running means that it provides researchers with exciting opportunities for longitudinal study (looking at a writer’s responses over a number of years). We work with researchers undertaking this kind of work to protect your identity.

Your self portrait, your photograph, any letters or diaries, and any other very personal material you send us, are all covered by a 50 year embargo. You can ask for a longer embargo if you wish - or a shorter one. Fifty years from the date of leaving the project seems to satisfy most people's needs for privacy. It is only fair to say, however, that in the last analysis, no information is truly secure. If you send in information about illicit activities, the Archive might not be able to protect your privacy any more than a priest or doctor could.

Do I have to respond?

You do not have to respond to all the Directive responses. Mass Observation is a voluntary activity, and we don’t want you to feel obliged to respond to every request we send to you. We understand that sometimes the theme is not of interest, you lack time, or it could raise challenging emotions. If you haven't been in touch with us for a year, we will stop sending you Directives as we will assume you no longer wish to take part. Please let us know if this is not the case.

What should I do if a Directive theme triggers an emotive reaction?

We are aware that some subjects can affect our Mass Observers emotionally and this can sometimes take people by surprise. If you experience a challenging response to the subject, then please seek support. If possible, talk to a friend or family member, alternatively the Samaritans 116 123 (lines are open 24hrs) and SANEline 0300 304 7000 (lines are open from 4.30pm-10.30pm).

Can my friends or members of my family read what I send to you?

We do not automatically allow friends or relatives to see your contributions, even if they are close family members. If you wish to ensure that your members of your family see what you have written either during your lifetime, or afterwards, we suggest you keep your own copies.

If you are happy for your family members to read what you have written, please write and say so. It is helpful for us to have your wishes on file. If we don't hear from you on this question, in writing, we shall assume that your contributions should remain completely anonymous, and we will do our best to ensure that even your nearest and dearest do not see your writing under your name.

Can my Mass Observation writings be published?

Most use of the Archive is by students for their essays, dissertations and theses. More senior scholars use the material for articles in journals or in teaching materials.

Sometimes we are asked for permission to use extracts from the Archive in books, films, TV or radio programmes. Providing mutually satisfactory agreements are made, the Trustees of the Archive are normally able to give their consent. In fact, the Archive depends on the income it receives from the fees and royalties from the publication of the early papers. Formal contracts with authors and publishers are negotiated for the Archive by our literary agent In London so you can be sure that our interests are professionally protected.

We therefore decided to ask our current correspondents to share the copyright of their MO writing with the Archive. You will receive a form about this. There is no obligation to share copyright but it is a way of ensuring that we have a formal agreement with you. Most requests to quote are for very small passages. Every precaution is taken to ensure that no identifiable information appears in public unless you have given your written permission.

Do you need more recruits?

We are constantly developing the Project and we try to attract people from sections of society who are under-represented among our correspondents. If you know someone who is very keen to join us, please ask them to write to us themselves. We prefer to hear from them directly. There is currently no recruitment policy and the makeup of the panel is reviewed annually. Any changes to the recruitment policy will be announced on this website.

Can I go public on being a Mass Observer?

Of course. It is up to you if you want to "come out" as a Mass Observer. However, please do not advertise on our behalf without checking with us. If you decide to write about being a Mass Observer for the local paper, or in the newsletter of an organisation, or get interviewed by local radio, please emphasise that you are talking/writing in a personal capacity.

If more information is required, you should refer the journalist/interviewer to the Mass Observation Archive. In the past, enthusiastic Mass Observers have sometimes prompted new volunteers to contact us with overwhelming results. We need to plan for the staff resources and the budget for to cope with a sudden influx of new correspondents. We don't like turning people away - and even apologising takes time and costs money!

By the way, if you are in the paper, on the radio or TV, or writing or speaking publically about Mass Observation, please let us know. If possible, send us a copy of your speech.

Do you accept "one-off" directive replies from friends and relatives of correspondents?

From time to time, people do send us a directive reply written by somebody else. We are very pleased to accept these contributions but they can cause us problems over copyright and confidentiality. If you want to enclose extra replies, please ask the person to:

Write on separate sheets of paper from your reply
Include a note of their sex, age, occupation and town/village of residence
Attach a statement signed by the writer saying that they make over copyright of the piece.
Then we can add it to the Archive in the usual way. Effectively they are becoming a correspondent, even if only for the one reply.

Can I leave the project?

Of course! No one should feel obliged to stay with us once they have lost interest or if their circumstances change. Please do tell us why you want to leave. If you would like to stay in touch, you can become a Friend of the Archive. In this way, you could support us financially (the amount of the subscription is up to you), come to open days at the Archive and receive our Bulletin without having to reply to directives.

Can I visit the Archive?

Yes. The Archive is a public resource in the care of the University of Sussex and is located at The Keep. All visits to The Keep reading rooms must be by appointment, you can find out how to do this here. We also sometimes hold open days or seminars which gives you a chance to meet staff at the Archive, see displays of material and talk to researchers. These are advertised on our website or in the Bulletin. If you do plan to visit please e-mail us and let us know. 

Where do I send my contributions?

Please send all your post (letters, Directives, self portraits etc) to the Mass Observation Archive. We have a Freepost system so there is no need to use a stamp unless you wish to. Please note that the postal code is different if you use the Freepost system.

With a stamp:
The Mass Observation Archive
University of Sussex
The Keep
Woollards Way
Freepost system (no stamp needed):
The Mass Observation Archive
The Keep
Woollards Way
Brighton BN1 9BP

Can I send my contributions by email?

Yes. You can send them as Word attachments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

How is the Project funded?

We have two sources of support: the University of Sussex and the Mass Observation Archive Trust funds. The University through its budget for the main Library, is our main source of support. For MOP staff salaries and all other activities, including the collection of new material, we rely on the Trust fund. This has been built up from fees charged to media or institutional users, or from royalties and fees from publications, in particular the digital publication of material by Adam Matthew Digital from the first phase of MO activity (1937-50s).

In 1991, we set up a Friends of the Archive Scheme and financial support from our much appreciated Friends has been vital in our being able to buy equipment and support salaries. Without the Friends' support, the contemporary Project would not have survived. We also now frequently collaborate with researchers who are asked to make a contribution to our costs.

Application form

Due to unprecedented demand, the Mass Observation Project is currently closed to new applications. We are reviewing the panel and will open the Project again soon. We are still accepting material relating to COVID-19 and diaries written on the 12th May 2020.  

Current Directive (Autumn 2021)

On this page, you will find the most recent Directive to be mailed to the Mass Observers. You can download past copies of Mass Observation Project Directives here.

Part 1: Kindness

This Directive is being issued to coincide with World Kindness Day (13th November). You can find out more about Kindfest, a virtual festival of kindness at In recognition of this event, we are asking you to share your thoughts and experiences of kindness.

Before you start…

We would like you to write down the first 10 words that come to mind when you think of the word kindness.

Can you describe what kindness looks and feels like? How important is kindness in your life?

It’s a big topic, so below are some questions designed to help you organise your thoughts. We welcome any additional comments or stories that come to mind.

Receiving and giving kindness

What is the kindest thing anyone ever did for you? Who was kind to you? What did they do? What impact did it have on your life? How did it make you feel, then and now?

What’s a kind thing you’ve done that you feel especially proud about? Who were you being kind to? How did the person react? And how did you feel?

Have you ever thought about doing something kind, but then decided not to? What stopped you? What do you think might make the difference in terms of enabling you to be kind?

Places of kindness

Can you take us on a tour of the places you’ve been where you’ve felt the most kindness in your life? You might be thinking of somewhere in your own home or someone else’s home, places in your local community, places that you’ve visited etc. – anywhere that you associate with kindness. What made/makes it a kind place?

People and kindness

Do you think some people are just more kind than other people? Who is the kindest person you know? Why would you describe them as kind? And what do you think made them so kind? Are there many people like that? What do you think gets in the way of people being kind?

Please start each part of your Directive reply on a new sheet of paper with your MO number, gender identity, age, marital status, the town or village where you live and your occupation or former occupation.

Remember not to identify yourself or other people inadvertently within your reply. It is best to use initials instead of real names.

Kindness today

We would like to know what you think about today’s society in general, compared to what you remember from earlier in your lifetime. Does kindness today look different to how kindness looked in the past? And do you think overall levels of kindness have changed over time? If you think there have been changes, why do you think that happened?

Future kindness

And last of all, if we wanted society to be kinder in the future, what’s the single most important thing you’d want to happen?

Part 2: UK Trade Deals

There has been much news coverage of the UK signing new trade deals. Trade includes food and live animals, fuel, crude materials, beverages, and tobacco. These deals provide incomes and access to products we can’t produce efficiently in the UK and for lower prices. The UK’s most recent deals have been with Japan, the EU and Australia

Around 6½ million jobs are linked to exporting. However, imports threaten some industries and jobs and can require us to accept products produced by different methods and to different standards than we use in the UK.

Values and standards

We are interested to hear your thoughts about what values and standards should be considered in trade deals. Here are some questions for you to conside

  • How do you feel about the ethical, financial and/or environmental impacts of a trade deal
  • Do you have any thoughts on how new trade deals could improve standards for the environment, food, and animal welfare?
  • How far do you think trade deals should be just about improving the economy and how far should they consider other issues such as health? Is there anything – for example, sectors or goods – that you think should be excluded from a trade deal?

You and your locality

  • Is it important to you, how and where goods are produced and manufactured? Do you research where and how the goods you buy are produced? Does this influence on what and where you shop?
  • Do you have any concerns about the food production standards of goods produced outside the UK?
  • Please start each part of your Directive reply on a new sheet of paper with your MO number, gender identity, age, marital status, the town or village where you live and your occupation or former occupation.
  • Remember not to identify yourself or other people inadvertently within your reply. It is best to use initials instead of real names.
  • What do you think the UK’s new trade deals could do for the community where you live? How could the deals improve life for you and your family? Have you been personally affected by any trade deals? If so, please share your experiences.

Part 3: UK Events

One of our aims is to capture contemporary events in the UK. We will be asking you about COP26 as one of the next Directive themes, so please hold your thoughts and opinions on this for now.
In the third part of the Directive, we have made a list of events you might wish to write about:

  • COVID-19: boosters, restrictions, returning to work and “normality”
  • Rising energy bills and energy companies going “bust”
  • The centenary of the red poppy. A show of support for the Armed Forces community since 1921
  • The murder of Conservative MP Sir David Amess
  • The conduct of MP Owen Paterson and Government U-turn
  • The lawsuit involving HRH Prince Andrew, The Duke of York.

Please take some time to comment on any of these subjects, or on any other items from the news, which you feel we should be covering at this time.
We want to hear your opinions, along with details about conversations you have had, or stories and experiences and reactions to reports in the press.

 JS/KP Summer 2021 Directive/No. 123

Wednesday 12th May 2021: Would you like to keep a one-day diary for Mass Observation?

may12th 4On the 12th May 2021, the Mass Observation Archive will be repeating its annual call for day diaries, capturing the everyday lives of people across the UK. The written diaries will be stored in the Archive at The Keep and be used by a wide range of people for research, teaching and learning.

In 1937 Mass Observation called for people from all parts of the UK to record everything they did from when they woke up in the morning to when they went to sleep at night on 12th May. This was the day of George VI’s Coronation. The resulting diaries provide a wonderful glimpse into the everyday lives of people across Britain and have become an invaluable resource for those researching countless aspects of the era.

We don’t know how life will be on the 12th May, but we would like your help to document it. Please tell your family and friends. It will be valuable to have a collection from people of all ages across the UK.

Last year we received over 5000 diaries.

We would love to hear from you again to find out how your life is a year on.

We understand it has been a very difficult year and we were touched that so many people chose to share their stories with Mass Observation.

If you didn't send a diary in last year, why not join in this year and tell us about your life now in 2021?

Diaries can record 12th May and reflect back over the past year and look forward to the future and life beyond this year. 

Share your lives, your hopes and your dreams with Mass Observation for future generations.

How to take part

Ideally, diaries should be in electronic form as email attachments (Word documents preferably) and sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. We will accept physical/hard-copy diaries but advise that these are posted after the period of lockdown. 

Please don’t include your real name, contact details, or the personal details of the people mentioned in your diary. Please remember that these diaries will be read and used for research and teaching, so please don’t include anything that may identify you or others.

You should include a brief self portrait: your age, where you live, your relationship status, your present job or occupation if you are working and any other information that you think is important to record.

Any reflections on the day and on how you felt while keeping the diary are welcome. 

So that we can add your diary to the rest of the Archive for the future, please include the statement below at the end of your diary. If you don’t attach this statement, we won’t be able to keep your diary or make it part of the Archive.

“I donate my 12th May diary to the Mass Observation Archive. I consent to it being made publicly available as part of the Archive and assign my copyright in the diary to the Mass Observation Archive Trustees so that it can be reproduced in full or in part on websites, in publications and in broadcasts as approved by the Mass Observation Trustees. I agree to the Mass Observation Archive assuming the role of Data Controller and the Archive will be responsible for the collection and processing of personal data and ensuring that such data complies with the DPA.”

You can also take part on Twitter. Tweet your day using the hashtag #12May21

Schools and Community Groups

We really welcome diaries from school children, community groups, or other organisations. Diaries can be written in any style and can include drawings. 

These packs are designed for schools and groups wanting to post their diaries to the Archive. Individuals can also use the diary template to submit their entry if they wish but please complete only the first page.

download icon12th May diary folder (For school and community groups)

download icon12th May diary template (For school and community groups)

download icon 12th May diary template in word (For school and community groups)

Resources (including videos) on the 12th May diary day can be found here.  



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