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Unlockdown: A collaborative poetry zine

An artistic response from a group of young people to Covid-19

October 1, 2020

In the summer of 2020 a group of young people came together to create an artistic response to COVID-19. As the UK emerged from lockdown they discussed the feelings and worries of a post-Covid world. These discussions were the impetus to create new artworks and words that capture feelings and images that help us escape from the pressure. This book is testament to the strength and resilience of the human spirit and the importance of art in our toughest times.

The project was run by Hear Me Out artists Arjunan Manuelpillai (Arji) and Kevin Campbell Davidson (Kev). They delivered weekly online sessions over six weeks for young people living with a mental health diagnosis, being supported by the Early Intervention Service run by Central NW London NHS Trust at the Pembroke Centre. The group met once a week on Zoom for 1.5 hours to create poetry, lyrics, music and art, in an informal yet carefully curated space.

Download the poetry zine

Hear Me Out artist Kev shares his experience in running the project with Arji:

Due to the unprecedented context of Covid-19, this project has been an exploratory experience at different levels. It was the first time that we have conducted a project exclusively in the online context, through live video sessions accompanied by group messages in-between sessions. This presented creative limitations which led to new forms of practice. It was interesting to see the level of human connection that is possible through this medium. The lockdown period presented all sorts of mental health challenges, including isolation, loss of earnings, familial tension, as well as anxiety over catching the virus, and bereavement of loved ones who passed away. This has highlighted the issue of mental health beyond those with formal diagnoses to the general population, with the potential to reduce the ‘othering' or ‘labelling' which may accompany a diagnosis. This project explored the role of collaborative creative practice as an approach in the maintenance of good mental health during challenging times.

Whereas the usual conventions of professional practice might require that a practitioner leaves their personal life at the door, in this context it felt appropriate to share more openly and poetry-writing provided an effective container for this. Participants were invited to respond to tasks around identity, family and community, with each able to share within their own comfort range. It was significant that everyone in the ‘room' was engaged as a participant, including both ‘artists' as well as support workers from the Pembroke Centre and Music in Detention. This helped to make a democratic space in which we were able to connect beyond titles, roles or labels. Each task revealed little insights into our personal lives, the ways we spend our free time, the special objects in our homes, the appreciation someone felt for their mother. These insights generated feelings of connection and safety, allowing us to share more personal aspects of our lives with the potential to release challenging emotions.

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