Spill your secrets at the Southsea Confessional for the Instagram generation

As the proverb goes, a problem shared is a problem halved. And now you can unburden yourself of your darkest secrets, by anonymously confessing to hundreds of people.
Someone anonymously writing a confession at Staggeringly Good Brewery.  Picture: Habibur RahmanSomeone anonymously writing a confession at Staggeringly Good Brewery.  Picture: Habibur Rahman
Someone anonymously writing a confession at Staggeringly Good Brewery. Picture: Habibur Rahman

As daunting as that may sound, the cathartic and therapeutic nature of a confessional inspired an anonymous team of Portsmouth individuals to create Southsea Confessional – the project which goes by the motto of ‘get it out by posting it in’.

When you think of a confessional, it conjures up thoughts of the Catholic church and a priest listening to your worries.

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But the people behind this project have distanced it from religious connotations and placed their confessional boxes in four independent Southsea traders – Hunter Gatherer Coffee, Albert Road; Osborne Road’s The Wave Maiden, and The Tea Tray; as well as new members Staggeringly Good Brewery.

A pile of confessions placed on a table at Staggeringly Good Brewery.  Picture: Habibur RahmanA pile of confessions placed on a table at Staggeringly Good Brewery.  Picture: Habibur Rahman
A pile of confessions placed on a table at Staggeringly Good Brewery. Picture: Habibur Rahman

The boxes are situated in the toilets – the most private place at any social space – and participants then write their confession, however weird or wacky, on the card and post it in the box.

The anonymously-written cards are collected and, depending on the participant’s decision declared on the card, are uploaded to social media through the medium of Instagram for hundreds of people to see.

These confessions vary from admitting wrong-doing such as adultery or betrayal, to sharing their love for their pets or family.

For example, one reads: ‘I fancy my best friend.’

‘I’m going to be a dad at last,’ says another.

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I meet Southsea Confessional – who are keen to keep their identity secret – over coffee to discuss how the project started.

‘I did a little testing ground in No6 Cinema, Portsmouth Dockyard, during Christmas 2018,’ they say.

‘It was really well received and some of the comments we got back were fantastic.

‘Some people really use it as a chance to confess and get things off their chest. And other people do it as a bit of fun or something to get involved in.

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‘It’s an idea that I came up with specifically for this community, although there are projects out there which do a similar thing.’

The anonymity of the founders of Southsea Confessional is equally as integral to the project as those who are posting in.

They say: ‘The reason we keep it so anonymous is because we don’t sit in judgement. I don’t want my identity to affect that.

‘It wouldn’t benefit the project in any way for people to know who runs Southsea Confessional. It’s stronger without us in it.

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‘Everyone understands what a confessional box is, whether you’re religious or not.

‘But that idea of shedding nuggets of shame you may carry around with you has been taken on by loads of different types of therapies.

‘That’s because it’s dangerous for people to harbour negative thoughts about themselves or other people and secrets.’

Two things inspired the project: fascination with others’ lives and being increasingly unaware of what or whom are around us.

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‘I went to look at a property in Southsea. It had previously been a shop,’ explains Southsea Confessional.

‘But it hadn’t been used as a shop for years and the people who lived there used it as a house.

‘I walked in through the front door and inside it was dedicated to Doctor Who.

‘Floor to ceiling, back to front, was decorated with daleks, Doctor Who memorabilia, everything.

‘I was taken aback by that and thought it was fascinating.

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‘From the outside it looked like a normal house and then you go in and these people have a really amazing fascination with something.

‘It makes you think, who are these people, what do they do, how did it end up like this and how did it start? It made me think about who we really live amongst.’

The other aspect that intrigued the curious founders of Southsea Confessional was the extensive research behind confessions.

‘What makes people happiest is feeling connected to their community and feeling heard – two really key things. It’s about feeling connected and being heard without being judged.’

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Southsea Confessional is proud of how accessible their project is with basic tools.

‘You have cards, a pen and a box.

‘But it’s made accessible to people on a much wider scale through the use of Instagram. I use Instagram because it's pictorial. You can see the handwriting so you can see it’s from actual human beings.

‘Overwhelmingly more people want it to be shared on Instagram than not.’

But how do the founders feel about knowing people’s secrets?

‘It’s fair to say we become affected by it.

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‘There is an aspect that we feel powerless, that we can’t help the people writing in. We don’t have any opinions on what comes in. We just post it, we don’t curate it.

‘The only moderation we have – and this has only come up once – is when people try and use it to out or to shame other people. There was one scenario where somebody was having an affair and they’d written specific names on the card.

‘And that’s not something we would ever get involved in. It really is about creating a safe space, first and foremost.

‘We think there’s a fantastic creative spirit within Southsea and there's a real willingness to be able to engage with each other. You give people an empty platform and this is what comes back. And that’s what is really lovely.’

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Southsea Confessional says: 'Due to the virus, SC will continue to be available as usual, but will now also be accessible online too.

Now, more than ever, it’s important we can stay connected.

Go to Southsea Confessional’s Instagram to look at some real confessions, including...

'I hate breastfeeding in public'

'I get tattoos to remember my grandmother but my mum doesn't understand'

'I stole a shed today (by accident)'

'Sad day for "Great Britain". EU for evs'

'I wish my husband could love me and want me like I love him'