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18 Nov 2020

Life on Lockdown:
Birmingham’s pandemic story

On 21st May, we launched our Life on Lockdown project to capture what it’s been like living and working in Birmingham during lockdown. The project has been running for almost six months now, through the easing of restrictions and reopening of businesses and now on into a second lockdown.

When we put the call out for people to send us their experiences, we were open to anything and everything – and we’ve had a fantastic response, which have really highlighted the changes the city has seen.

From pictures showing rainbows in people’s windows, or the joy people found in nature at the height of lockdown when we could only leave our homes for an hour a day, through to empty streets, closed signs and warnings to keep your distance, the project has highlighted the strange times we’ve experienced. We’ve also been able to capture how people have pulled together and supported one another to get through. Family craft projects, new babies, and the first visits to grandparents in months were all shared with our project, and also the rise in food banks (see our Food Banks album on Flickr) – the fantastic response from communities, collecting and sharing to support people in need, and also the flipside, the growth in number of people needing support to feed themselves and their families.

We’ve been sent photos, poems, collages and writing alongside videos, from socially distanced Am-Dram VE day celebrations (watch the VE Day celebration video on Flickr) to a Commonwealth Games ‘Dinner with a Stranger’ project (watch the 'Dinner with Stranger' video on Flickr). We’ve also recorded our own videos, interviewing people over Zoom about their experiences of faith and worship during lockdown.

While the pandemic has meant we can only collect digitally, it was really important to us that we captured the experiences of people who might have barriers to working digitally, and we’ve had some fantastic support from local organisations. The Big Issue helped us, and so we have photos from one of their vendors who recorded the changed streets he had been selling the magazine on before lockdown. Refugee Action are planning to share songs about lockdown written by a group of Syrian women working with In Her Shoes CIC. Ageing Better helped us capture the story of older adults in isolation, and Birmingham Adult Education Service shared the work of their English Language learners (see the English Language Learners album on Flickr) who had written about their thoughts on lockdown and freedom.

While lockdown is continuing in some form for now, we are drawing the project to a close. We’ve now got almost 400 submissions on the project’s Flickr page – you can see everything at the Life on Lockdown Flickr page  –  and we’ll be making a short film with as many of these as we can, to launch in January. The final deadline for submissions will be November 21st, six months since months since the project started.

There is still time to be involved though! Every story, poem, photo or video helps build up a picture of what life has been like in Birmingham, that we can use to tell people in the future. Share a photo that captures your lockdown experiences, the highs or the lows; record a clip on your phone to tell us about your experiences; write a paragraph or a page - every story is important, so we’d love to hear how lockdown has been for you. Email us at Stories@BirminghamMuseums.org.uk

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