Lockdown Landscapes will capture pandemic stories through art projects and engagement

On the second anniversary of the first lockdown in the UK, the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire in the National Forest has launched ‘Lockdown Landscapes’, a 20-month long nationwide community engagement programme commemorating the heroic key workers who have served the nation throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, and to remember those who have lost their lives during this period of national crisis.

Led by the Arboretum in partnership with the National Forest Company, Westminster Abbey and ArtReach, and supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Lockdown Landscapes will capture a breadth of stories and experiences of lockdown from diverse communities, particularly those disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Schools, care homes and community groups will be invited to take part in activities and share how they experienced local heritage places in the pandemic, when everyone was restricted to travelling within their local area.

“Over 175,000 people have died as a result of Covid-19, and people across the nation are grieving the loss of loved ones. Key workers have worked tirelessly to keep people safe, and communities up and down the country have made sacrifices during lockdowns and periods of restriction. It’ll take many years for us to understand the true impact of the multiple lockdowns and extended periods of self-isolation,” said Chris Ansell, Head of Participation and Learning at the National Memorial Arboretum.

“Lockdown Landscapes will explore how people connected with their local parks, woodlands, public gardens and historic landscapes during times of isolation and is a really meaningful way to share stories from some of the communities hit hardest by the pandemic. Being the Nation’s year-round place to remember, we are working with our partners to give communities a way to remember those that we tragically lost, support those living with the impacts of the pandemic and to learn about each other’s experiences through a nationally significant archive of community stories.”

Artists will be working with four communities heavily hit by Covid-19, to understand their experiences of lockdowns and encourage creativity in the wake of the pandemic. The projects commissioned by the National Memorial Arboretum, the National Forest Company, Westminster Abbey and ArtReach, will explore the impact of lockdowns on people’s mental health, education, daily lives and routines. New artworks inspired by the community stories will go on display in the grounds of the Arboretum in summer 2023.

“We will be working with Citizen housing association and a spoken-word artist to capture the experience of people living in social housing in Coventry,” said Chris Ansell. “After many months of isolation, we hope that Lockdown Landscapes will have a positive impact on the people taking part in the project, giving them a creative outlet, opportunities to develop skills and social networks, and a connection with nature.”

John Everitt, Chief Executive of the National Forest Company, explains further, “So many of us discovered the solace offered by woodlands and green spaces as we all made the most of our brief moments of respite during lockdowns. As part of Lockdown Landscapes, we will be working with communities in Burton upon Trent offering a creative exploration of the regenerated landscapes of the National Forest. We hope that spending time creatively outdoors will particularly help those that have felt the strain of Covid on their wellbeing and sustain a reconnection with the natural world.”

Lorna Fulton, Creative Director at ArtReach, said, “ArtReach is delighted to partner with the National Memorial Arboretum on Lockdown Landscapes. We will be working with Writing East Midlands and creative writers with communities in Leicester to gather stories, memories and experiences of lockdown, and how people connected with their local green spaces and historic landscapes during lockdown. We hope this project will enable communities in Leicester to tell their stories and have a positive impact on those taking part.”

Grazyna Richmond, Head of Learning at Westminster Abbey, adds, “Westminster Abbey will be working alongside St Andrew’s youth club and a local artist focussing on how engaging with the club helped young people during their experiences of lockdowns. We are excited to explore what Westminster means to them and how it has changed over time and how different it has been during the last few years. Working towards a final project which will be displayed for all to see is such an exciting opportunity to record young people’s memories of this time.”

Last year, the National Memorial Arboretum and National Forest Company announced their aspiration to create a new 25-acre memorial woodland. Transforming a tract of former quarry land adjacent to the Arboretum, donated by Tarmac, the woodland would serve as a living memorial in recognition of service and sacrifice throughout the pandemic, and dedicated to those who lost their lives.

Lockdown Landscapes was awarded £249,209 funding by The National Lottery Heritage Fund award, made possible thanks to National Lottery Players.

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