Hear Florence's thoughts, observations and creations,
brought together in her well-crafted Covid Audio Story:
By Florence, age 12
Florence, age 12 yrs
COVID-19 COMMUNITY STORIES
These stories have been kindly shared by children, young people and adults in our community, from personal accounts to the experiences of key-workers. People have described their lives at home, work and and school and shared their feelings, challenges and hopes. At Gladrags we wanted to capture local living history and create this resource for teachers and community / youth workers processing the events of Covid-19 within their schools, community projects and well-being settings.
Our FREE initial collection of 30 stories, written between May and September 2020, is now available in pdf (download copies below) and editable powerpoint verisons (please contact us for a copy).
You can take part!
As we continue to live in the age of Coronavirus, we are still inviting people of all ages and all sections of our community to give voice to their experience, so do please share this page freely or download our E-POSTER. For more info and to submit your story please download one of the following forms:
For detailed questions that help with putting a story together, either your own, or those of people you are working with / interviewing, please download one of the following sheets. They can be edited to suit your specific purpose.
"As a Primary Deputy Head I am keen to source real accounts of different people’s experiences of life since lockdown due to the coronavirus. It is vital for pupils to hear about these experiences to support their understanding of how others have and are coping and to develop empathy with different people."
Nigel Watson, Coldean Primary School, Brighton
Thank you to East Brighton Trust for funding this project.
Some names and places have been altered to protect identities.
Hear Florence's thoughts, observations and creations,
brought together in her well-crafted Covid Audio Story:
By Florence, age 12
Florence, age 12 yrs
There has been a lot of telly. I tried to structure lots of other activities but on some days it just felt like school work, cooking, eating, life admin and going to the same park was too much. And whilst we watched lots of telly we discovered Lego elves!
With access to an extensive dressing up box my boys were inspired! In gold unitards topped with either a tutu, a pinafore, a cloak; with feather boas, Christmas hats and cat whiskers the ‘mummy chase me’ game suddenly became more complex. Before I could catch them I was trapped in a magic portal: ‘zaziiim!!’ Or they had escaped into another world from me through another portal, carefully closing it behind them! A world away from their restricted everyday life? A better world?
Even before lockdown we had discussed whether we should buy a trampoline; friends kept asking why we didn’t have a climbing frame, a swing, a teepee. But in the end having an uninterrupted stretch of grass on which to run up and down their imagination has been enough. I’m glad I was able to put my faith in it as I think they have come out the other side with so many more stories to tell!
By Eleonore, August 2020
Being one of the ones who got to go to school was kind of nice in the beginning. I was really lucky I could be with other children and I got to play football every day! The P.E. teacher got permission to play a different kind of football game; just little amounts of people, playing 3 or 5 a-side. You couldn’t cross the half-way line, so no tackling; social distanced stuff. You passed between your team and scored from the halfway line (although sometimes we crossed the line to shoot when the teacher wasn’t looking!). It was actually quite fun.
I didn’t do much footy at home, there’s not much space for it in our garden. But my brother spent a lot of time doing tricks and keepyuppies (keepie uppies). He started lockdown on around 500 and by July he was doing over 1000. Him and his friend kept sending videos to each other of their latest record. It was something to keep them going I guess, but back then I could play football at school. I did see my friends on ‘House-party’ quite a bit, playing the games, trivias and quizzes on it. We also got inventive with it and made our own games, agreeing together to change the rules and create something new.
We did do a lot of artwork at school in the beginning and I like the creative stuff because I’m a doer and time goes by more quickly when you’re ‘doing’. You always get to do something different so the days feel less repetitive. The best was the massive Marble Run that we made from bricks, tubes, all sorts of bits and pieces. My friend and me started it and others added to it, working in twos, so we all got to build it together, in a social distanced way.
We were all years mixed together then because we weren’t very many children. You got closer to people you kind of knew before from other year groups. Then when more children were allowed back to school, from this one big class we got split from the inside, and us year 5’s were separated from the friends we had made in year 3 and 4.
I don’t mind lots of rules, but I don’t like it when the rules change, I like to settle into stuff. When the split happened everything changed again, like when you have a new teacher. Suddenly we had a one-way system, and we all had to queue for ages at one sink to wash our hands. There was a lot of washing hands all day. With more kids in it was harder to social distance and there was no more football. It was all quite annoying and I felt unsettled.
When I go back to school I’m hoping it will be like it was before the holidays, I hope it won’t be back to normal-normality. That feels like years ago. It‘ll be winter soon and people always get colds and flu. Coronavirus is a bit like flu so I think it will come along at a similar time. Then there’ll probably be another lockdown and everything at school will have to change all over again. At least if we went back to part-normal it wouldn’t be so much change to cope with.
I’m just off to play my first official football match, actually it’s a tournament. I usually play CDM (central midfield defender) so that keeps me busy on the pitch. Hopefully we’ll win some of our matches and that will make for a nice memory.
By A. Mitchell, age 10 yrs, August 2020
I was born in Higher Bevendean in 1936 and I’ve lived here most of my life. If we had had a lockdown in the 50s or 60s we would have had everything local, like a village. It would have been much easier for older folk like us, especially those who can’t walk far. You would have been able to pop out to the butcher’s, the baker’s, post your parcels at the post office and buy your groceries there or at the greengrocers. There was a chemist if you did fall ill, a newsagents with sweets for the kiddies and even a shoe repair place. All this on Widdicombe way, a real hub; but only the hairdressers is there now.
My sister Sylvia moved in with me during lockdown. She can get confused and it would have been hard for her to cope alone. My daughters help us out and I know it’s the right thing to do, but it’s a lot; overnight I became a carer, and along with having to ‘shield’ I sometimes felt like a prisoner in my own home.Once we could meet with family though my daughter took me out a few times. It was nice to get a break, to get out.
Before lockdown Sylvia and I would walk in the field behind us. They’ve had bulls in there the whole time so we’ve just gone up and down our street.
One day in July Sylvia was keen to take her jumper and coat, she was worried she’d get cold. When we were out I couldn’t get her to take them off however much I encouraged. She got so hot she nearly collapsed on me, it was too much for us both. I’ve put them away now as the weather has been so lovely and neither of us will want that to happen again.
We’ve watched quite a lot of films on channel 81 – they show the old black and whites and we know all the old stars, Sylvia can recognise them you see.
I try to find films that are pretty or about animals because she likes those. The other night we saw a big concert on the television and they were singing songs from all the old musicals. Just brilliant it was.
Do you know the seagulls were really hungry over lockdown. I wonder who else was thinking of them? With all the cafes and chip shops closed on the seafront they were really short on food, poor things, with little ones to feed. We were getting ‘meals on wheels’ from The Bevy pub and Mother Theresas and I started saving our leftovers and putting them out for the seagulls. I spread out several plates so they could all get some. Sometimes they did squabble though and then a couple of magpies would nip in quick for a bite to eat themselves. The seagulls loved the peas and beans and anything greasy…not the carrots though! My cat doesn’t finish his breakfast and I always put it out for him to finish later. But the seagulls got to know and they would line up on the wall every day, waiting for me to bring it out! It kept us entertained though!
By Pearl, August 2020
The wedding planned for April 4th 2020 had to be cancelled because of the lockdown for the COVID 19 pandemic. Four months later, the bride and groom decided to make a new plan for Saturday August 15th, the first day that receptions were to be allowed, although with many restrictions.
FRIDAY AUGUST 14th
At midday the bride received a phone call from the lady in charge of the church hall. She said that wind and rain were forecast for the next day and so the choice for the reception was either to be socially distanced outside in the small space of the church memorial garden, or to be in the church hall with all the doors and windows open; each family group at socially distanced tables and NO-ONE ALLOWED TO LEAVE THEIR SEAT!
Oh, dear. It seemed an insurmountable problem; should they choose the garden and risk everyone getting wet; the hall with the problem of keeping very young children in their seats for an hour or more and no-one able to talk to anyone from another family group; or something else altogether? One phone call solved the dilemma. A village ten minutes drive away agreed to the use of their field for a picnic.
SATURDAY AUGUST 15th
At 11.00 am the guests had sanitised their hands, written their contact details on a list, put on their face masks and were sitting in the church in family groups with an empty pew between each one. The bride and her father (who did not live in the same household) arrived to walk down the aisle, socially distanced by holding either end of a yellow ribbon - and the ceremony began.
There was some recorded music because no singing was allowed and at the moment that the bride and groom were pronounced husband and wife, the guests provided a noisy “hurrah” using percussion instruments instead of cheering, which was also forbidden. A special wedding licence had to be obtained and each person signing the marriage registers had to use a separate pen. Even the photographs outside couldn’t be in the usual groupings.
The caterers had provided a picnic box for each family group which they brought to the village field. There, kind friends unable to be invited to the wedding (because the rules stated a maximum of 30 people) had erected borrowed gazebos as shelter from the rain; borrowed bunting and a few vases of flowers on the grass for decoration; and a small table for the cakes. It looked lovely. Delicious picnics were eaten, speeches made, and toasts drunk to the happy couple. Guests were able to move around to talk to each other, easily keeping 2 metres apart, and the children played in the field. It was a happy and relaxed event.
And the most amazing thing – the weather forecast was wrong. The sun shone all afternoon!
By Sarah, September 2020
On the 12th of March, I returned from a college trip to New York, merely hours before the whole city locked down. Whilst I was aware of Covid's presence there, it almost didn't feel real. Rules were not yet in place and it felt like everyday life with extra hand washing and anti-bacterial gel. Though of course, after returning and finding out that New York went into lockdown just after we left really put it into perspective. Only days later, a lockdown was announced here and my family decided to follow some guidelines straight away. This was difficult for me because I hadn't been able to see my college friends for a week and now we all had to stay inside.
I overcame that quickly though and turned to social media and apps like Zoom to communicate with my in-real-life friends as well as Internet friends. I participated in many Zoom calls with my close friends because we missed each other so much. We were all just boxes on a screen though and we craved face to face meet ups and missed each other’s hugs.
I feel that I bonded with and grew closer with some of my Internet friends because we were all in the same boat, stuck inside, not being able to see our in-real-life friends. We had not only a lot of time to pass, but also a need for communication. We shared our experiences and what we were doing to pass the time. Some of us were baking bread, brownies or cakes – I got into Asian cooking. Others had found new hobbies like crocheting or painting or DIY. We shared a lot of these things on Instagram, sending each other pictures of our creativity.
Social media, Netflix, YouTube, and Spotify have taken up a large part of my time in lockdown. I have been interacting with many people online and watching a lot of TV shows. Being someone who loves Kpop, I have been keeping up with new releases of my favourite groups such as BTS, Stray Kids and Blackpink. And there has been so much content created over this period! I streamed many music videos and watched many livestreams including the ones created during the lockdown for entertainment, such as 'Dear Class of 2020' which was made to celebrate university students who were graduating (I may or may not have made my parents stay up past midnight to watch BTS's performance on that). I have discovered a lot of new music which has taken up a LOT of my phone’s storage space (oops!).
Over this six month period, Covid 19 has not been the only problem that has cropped up for us. Racism has caused The Black Lives Matter movement to sweep through us in an incredible torrent of protests, fundraisers, and petitions. Personally, I have been sharing posts on social media as well as signing petitions and educating those who didn’t understand and/or wanted to help. I’ve been very engaged with raising awareness about this cause and causes like Black TRANS Lives matter too. Being part of the LGBTQ+ community myself, I feel very passionate about it. I went to a Black Lives Matter march locally with some friends. The atmosphere was a mixture of anger, pride, and euphoria. It was an incredible experience and I'm extremely proud to be part of this movement.
I feel that generally I've been more politically active, and I've been more invested in the news. Not only for our country and our (very slow) progress through this, but other places where suffering is at another whole level, such as Yemen who have had the virus hit amid a humanitarian crisis. I've signed petitions, spread information and donated money because at least these are things I can do from home to help.
By Amina, age 17, September 2020
We’re open again, and how good it is to be back in the Salon. The first few weeks back were pretty crazy. 13 hour days, 7 days a week. It felt like the Christmas rush, only we’d all been off work for months so it was quite intense! We had invited our regulars to book ahead online and we are fully booked until the end of August. That’s a good feeling though so I’m not complaining!
Hair appointments are spaced out more so we have time to clean and sanitize in between visits. It means a longer working day and we have to wear a visor and a mask now. We’ve got to be safe and careful with clients, but it’s a pain to wear all day; uncomfortable and restrictive. Clients arrive in a mask and put all their belongings in a clear plastic drawer, so we can always guarantee a covid-safe place for them …another thing we have to disinfect of course.
I found myself being more chatty than ever – I’d barely spoken to anyone face-to-face besides my close family. Clients have been understanding of all the changes here and it makes you appreciate the time that you put in previously, getting to know them, being friendly and chatty. Now I’m the one who needs a good chat and what goes around comes around.
Sometimes you need a real break from something to know how much you like or hate it; some people will have decided to change jobs thanks to lockdown. Personally, I was so looking forward to meeting clients and colleagues again, and getting back to the physical act of cutting hair. I subscribe to stylist vloggers and started watching hair instructionals every day. I’m very experienced but there’s always more to learn and it helped keep me positive.
My wife is a hair stylist too and we cut each other’s hair a few times, it was nice to do it more than was really necessary, we were both missing our craft. I’m glad people had a go themselves in lockdown – for me it means they were happier, but that they also realised quite what a skill it is to cut and style hair well, so they appreciated coming back to the salon even more.
We’re a small independent business, in the North Laine in Brighton, the hub of independent businesses. We’re not part of a big chain, there’s no-one to prop us up in times like these. The salon did get a small grant from the government, but only I was lucky enough to get support for self-employed people. The business can survive this, as long as we’re not shut down for months again, but this has been a tough time for places like us and it’s made me change my own approach to where I shop. I’ve made a pact with myself to buy local, support local wherever I can. It’s a chance to be more eco too. I’m a keen cyclist and it’s been great to be on roads that are free of traffic and pollution; it’s been a chance to think about how to be more friendly to the planet, virus or no virus.
By Nick, August 2020
My name is Gill and I live in Portslade. On March 17th I was teaching a year 3 maths lesson when my head teacher came and told me that that anyone with poor respiratory health was to be sent home. I left after the lesson and from there stayed at home. I had to prepare work for children to send it electronically for them to do, mark it and send it back with any critical things to look at and how to change it. The sad thing about that was there was not any way for me to verbally explain what I wanted them to do or how to make anything easier.
Teaching is a completely different world. Teachers understand how to explain things and children go with that, asking when they are unsure, and the problems are solved. Many of the children didn’t do the work because the parents found it quite difficult to understand, especially in Maths. It was like me asking them to get in a car and drive it and they’d never had any driving lessons. Emails were answered immediately as well as parent conferencing and queries asking how to work problems out, there was no let up. We then went into zoom conferencing, not zoom lessons, as the children needed to see a friendly face rather than more work.
At the same time, I was teaching my grandchildren for 3 x 45 minute lessons each day. They found it extremely difficult a lot of the time. They asked: “Why are you torturing us, Nana, you are supposed to be kind to us!” They were quite lethargic and wanted to give up the ghost, but they did plod on - it was a chore to say the least. So I understand how parents felt and I felt very sorry for the parents.
In my school the key worker and vulnerable children returned and were all put in bubbles. The Reception and Year One children came back but no other year groups until September. The persistent effort and achievements with children online have been really brilliant. Some achieved more than I would ever have expected them to. Just to keep going and sending things in from the first to the last day. Of the 30 children in my class, 15 children still managed to keep up with the work. It wasn’t easy for lots of my children, many live near the seafront in flats without gardens. It will be so lovely to see them again.
We’re going back in bubbles of 30 and not mixing with the other year groups. We will have 15 desks in each room and everyone has to have their temperature taken, desks looking forward, no group work, very alien to what they should be doing. We will eat together, do as much learning outdoors, reading, maths, and try not to cross contaminate with other class bubbles - which is going to be tricky.If anybody has any virus then the whole bubble will have to stay at home for 2 weeks and I’ll have to go back to online learning again.
These 6 weeks of no online learning have been the best thing for me, as well as knowing that I’ll go back into school.I also had my birthday and that was really lovely, but it was again most strange. Birthdays in lockdown have been strange. The best part was when I could see my extended family again. Not to see my other daughters and grandchildren was very difficult, and to go out for a walk or a family bike ride was great. I had a bike bought for me, and it was so lovely to get the wind in your face.
By Gill, August 2020
They say that you never know how you’re going to react in a crisis until it happens.
When the pandemic hit, my first thoughts were a strange tangle of fear, disbelief, denial and hope. I contacted loved ones, friends, family and even people I hadn’t been in touch with for ages to make sure they were alright. Even while I was guiltily enjoying the reduced traffic noise, increased wildlife and Blitz-like community spirit, my thoughts turned more and more to people whose home life would have become like a prison; for some a place of real danger. I found myself wanting to reach out and help. I knew that support services were being inundated with people like me trying to be helpful, and that’s when The Bevy meals on wheels project grabbed my attention.
I started delivering hot lunches once a week to local residents in the east Brighton area. People who would usually have been coming together at one of the supported social clubs at The Bevy to enjoy a meal and group activities but were now stuck at home, often on their own. I felt socially awkward at first, not sure of how to talk to strangers through my mask and gloves; worried that I wouldn’t know what to say or that I’d do the wrong thing. I got to know the faces on my route, and I found myself enjoying my hour of deliveries and chats.
One Friday, Terry, one of my regulars, told me that he’d not had TV or internet since a cable had come loose from the wall. I put together a list of local companies who could come out and give Terry a quote for the work. It took me a week or so to realise that Terry didn’t have anyone else calling in and no phone to contact an electrician himself. I made contact with Fiona at Sacbod Electricians who, despite having no availability, came out on a weekend especially because of Terry’s situation. I met Fiona at Terry’s on a Saturday morning, and after a quick look at the problem, was able to fix it on the spot.
Although I’m good at the practical stuff, good at delivering the meals efficiently, good at getting the work done, I’ve never worked as a front-line person before. I thought I wouldn’t be very good at going beyond simply providing for people’s basic needs; that I’d be too scared, too formal, too boring, but I’ve realised that I was avoiding something else. I’ve shied away from this front-line work because it means feeling deeply for someone, risking having them rely on me. It means caring. So now I care about what happens to Terry, I’m anxious for him, I want him to be okay, he matters to me. Getting close to people can be scary, but I’ve also learned that it means I care, that I matter, and because of that, I can help.
Now I know how I react in a crisis -I can count on myself to care.
By Jenni, August 2020
My name is Marie-France so you might guess that I am French. I came down with the virus on 12th March and our lockdown in France came just a couple of days later. I felt like I had flu but with sudden peaks of fever. I was achy and headachy and sleeping most of the time. My husband Nicholas became a first class nurse. He looked after me, propped my pillows, entertained me; he cooked and brought me food, but I had completely lost my sense of taste and smell so I could sense the texture of my meals, but they tasted of nothing. I’ve still not got it fully back and have to add a lot of salt and pepper to my food!
I am 72 and I don’t do “ill”. But here I was, so weak and unable to walk barely 200 yards. Being usually an active and healthy person I was lucky, I recovered at home – although months later I still have post-covid symptoms and have had to slow my life down, a big change for a busy me.
Back in March I was eventually well enough to come out for the nightly clap at 8pm for health workers. It’s been so important, starting up on 18th March in council apartment blocks in Paris where people were inspired by the same idea in Italy. A hospital director told us on the television “every night we know, we feel it, that you are thinking of us and you are behind us”. He had teary eyes. It’s one of the ways in which we have been unified in our solidarity. I grew up in the shadow of the Second World War when France was an ‘occupied’ country. You understand danger on your doorstep and being restricted in your movements. I wouldn’t say we are a very disciplined culture in general, but we know from our history that in a crisis limitations are needed. We needed to be told clearly what to do and our politicians acted quickly. They were also humble in the face of the virus and the changing information. So most people trusted them and complied with the strict lockdown.
And it was strict! From the outset you were only allowed out of your house for essential needs: visiting the doctor, chemist, supermarket, or helping a vulnerable person in need. At first you could exercise up to 1km from your home but that soon stopped too… unless you had an essential outing or to walk your dog. Lucky us that had Minnie the Springer Spaniel to walk every day! You had to get a paper signed by the police called an “Attestation” and giving you permission for each outing; the police came down the street every night, checking that people were staying at home. In more normal times we have a lot of social and political freedom in Europe and it’s good in a way to be reminded it’s not the same everywhere. It felt like curfew time; but it also felt contained and reassuring to me.
By April we were advised to wear masks and councils had to make sure there was access to masks for everyone who wanted them. In our small area this really brought everyone together. The Mayor put a call out to borrow sewing machines and receive help from those who could sew; 60 people came to the town hall on one day to make free masks, all from donated fabrics. There was a very organised system to collect them from the Town Hall, a mask for each one of us, every resident. I have seen this sense of sharing across Europe too, not in the beginning when we were all needing to look after ourselves, but then France was sending doctors to Italy, experts were coming here from Germany, a solidarity across boarders and a sense that we are all in this together.
By Marie-France, September 2020