LockdownLIVEs: Co-Production and Creative Advocacy during Covid-19
By Katy Rubin, LockdownLIVEs
When the pandemic hit, the first priority for the Greater Manchester Homelessness Action Network and the GMCA was to ensure that GM residents in hostels or rough sleeping would be able to self-isolate and stay safe. The next priority has been to direct food, health care and other essential services to these emergency accommodations. While this urgent work has been underway, the needs for creative expression, co-produced research, and a sense of connection were also increasingly pressing.
In mid-April, the LockdownLIVEs project was born, in collaboration with the GMHAN and Street Support Network. LockdownLIVEs is a docu-series co-created by GM residents in emergency and temporary accommodation during the pandemic. The project aims to creatively connect people who are self-isolating in emergency accommodation; and help the broader public understand how this crisis affects those who don’t have their own homes. All GM residents experiencing homelessness are invited to submit 1-minute videos, poems, drawings, and photos about what life is like right now. The submissions are edited into twice-weekly, themed episodes that air on social media (@StreetSupportUK and @LockdownLIVES) on Tuesdays and Fridays at 3pm. LockdownLIVEs aims to offer an opportunity for viewing and discussion online, to help build community over the weeks and months that the lockdown continues.
In the first three weeks, five episodes have been released addressing the challenges of communicating with GPs and support workers over the phone, and the resulting feelings of isolation and anxiety; the experience of food insecurity, and not having choice about your own diet; the frustration when those around aren’t observing social distancing; and the added anxiety when the government is unclear about their response. There have also been examples of collaboration, beauty and hope: residents in hotels bringing music back to the lockdown; working together (with masks and gloves) to build planters for flowers; and sharing humorous poems about what to watch (or not watch) on TV.
Project coordinators have heard from staff at front-line organisations that watching these videos at the end of a workday has been both emotional and encouraging; overall, the project has been received with enthusiasm from staff and residents. Some residents don’t have access to devices or data to send content, so staff are helping to coordinate the submissions; additionally, the Mayor’s Charity and other groups are endeavouring to distribute more devices and data, as internet access is crucial in the current moment.
The LockdownLIVEs team is working with other groups conducting research, so that co-produced reporting and artistic expression can support more formal evaluation efforts. A final video product will tie various themes together, to be used as an advocacy tool. Upcoming episodes will dive deeper into the experience and help shed light on what’s working in the GM response to covid-19; what’s not working; and what GM residents experiencing homelessness hope will happen next.
Currently, the team, consisting of Jez Green of Mustard Tree, Katy Rubin, an arts-and-policy strategist, and Alex Bower, video editor, are working to spread the word to include a diversity of voices in the project. Any organisation supporting emergency or temporary accommodation is very welcome to participate: new prompts go out on Tuesdays and Fridays, and staff or residents can send any content – videos, images, poems – via WhatsApp or text message to Katy at 07926 358983, or email. Watch and share past videos via Vimeo.com/lockdownlives, and reach out with any other inquiries or suggestions.