The Apology Line is a collaborative, interactive art project by Will Bridges and James Lee, who set up a free, UK-based phoneline where people could call in and leave anonymous apologies. Although initially afraid that nobody would call, Will and James found themselves with a problem quite the opposite. The phone rang non-stop. As it turns out, people were using the line to apologize for EVERYTHING — from the silly (stealing chocolates as a young boy) to the quite serious (having an affair with a married man) to the truly outrageous (you’ll have to listen to find out).
Will and James have shared a special video compilation of their favorite apologies with us (see above). Listen, then check out our awesome Q&A with Will below. Support the project here.
How did you come upon the idea? What inspired you?
The idea actually came from an American artist called Allan Bridge. In 1980 he set up the Apology Project — a telephone line in New York offering people to ring and leave their apologies and listen to others. Unfortunately the project ended when Allan tragically passed away in an accident in 1995. We thought the idea behind the project was just too fascinating to not continue so decided to create and launch our own version. We did this across the UK and now we want to “bring it home” and launch it across the US. Hopefully this will be a fitting tribute to Allan, we know he was keen for people to continue the project.
Were you expecting the response you got? Any all-time notable calls
that really surprised you?
To be honest we were terrified no one would call at all! We waited with baited breath for the phone to start ringing. Luckily, and surprisingly, it did ring and on some days didn’t stop! It seemed people really appreciated an opportunity to get something off their chest, apologise and share their guilt without someone answering back or immediately judging them.
There were a few calls that did and still have a very strong resonance with us. The lady apologising to Reverend Peel (as can be heard in the film) still to this day leaves us speechless and stunned.
Where would you like this to go from here?
We have always wanted to create and tour an Apology Line installation and exhibition. To provide an opportunity for people to come and hear, read, interact and share in all of our guilt and then leave their own apologies before they leave. It would be a beautiful thing. Maybe at a later stage we would like to create an Apology Line book and possibly another follow up film. First we really need to expand the project and get people calling the line so we need to set up an actual U.S. phone line and get the number out there.
What do you hope people will take from the project?
We all feel regret, guilt and have the desire to apologise to certain people in our life but often circumstance, events or emotions have prevented us from doing so. The Apology Line offers an opportunity to anonymously get something off your chest and maybe find a cathartic release in doing so. Maybe you want to apologise to someone but can not bring yourself to do it in person or maybe they have passed on. Maybe you just need to share your burden of guilt — “a burden shared is a burden halved.”