Capturing lockdown legends
- Credit: Marilyn Laws by Simon Tootell
We’ve been talking about them in exalted terms: those everyday people that have been coping in difficult circumstances often in roles we don’t usually think about – and even take for granted. And then there are those who simply exhibited the empathy, care and consideration to those in need.
A new exhibition of photographs attempts to scratch the surface: Over the summer, members of the public were invited to nominate their coronavirus champions, submitting both their stories and photographs to illustrate inspirational accounts of hard work, compassion and selflessness.
Those nominated ranged from refuse collectors to face mask creators, fundraising heroes to taxi drivers-turned-delivery men, parents, grandparents, young people and many more. Lockdown Legends celebrates the resilience of the people of Devon, showcasing those who have given so much during the coronavirus crisis, helping some of Devon’s most vulnerable populations. It brings their stories together to be shared with everyone.
Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery (RAMM), alongside Liveable Exeter and Exeter City Council, opened Lockdown Legends - a celebration of local people who have shown particular kindness, courage, humanity or ingenuity during the coronavirus pandemic.
Among those chosen included David Spicer who was nominated for providing much-needed and free entertainment. “My very good friend David Spicer is a Lockdown Legend because every day for the first 50 days of Lockdown he played a virtual ‘Guess the song’ keyboard rendition of popular hits for his vast number of followers,” says his nominator Dax Oliver. “It made everyone smile in a really tough time when people were scared and stuck indoors. His little chat, some jokes and keyboard skills were a daily highlight and made lockdown an easier thing to get through.”
“I have been featured amongst some truly inspirational people and am honoured to be recognised alongside them, even though I don’t feel I have done anywhere near as much as them,” he says.
Another nominee was Paul Mouland from Freemoovement Exeter who was nominated as a Lockdown Legend for delivering food and medicine across Exeter on bicycle. “When the pandemic hit, I knew we were well positioned as a local fitness community group to respond in a community-focused way,” he says says. “Our volunteers really stepped forward – not just the ride leaders and physical activity leaders, but also our normal members. They were keen to put the exercise they were missing out on during lockdown into a voluntary format. Seeing them so keen to lend a hand in any capacity has been really inspirational, and they deserve this nomination.”
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Other nominees chosen to feature in the exhibition includes Dale Hall who founded, organises and manages the Ashford Society bringing together this small and somewhat disparate North Devon village was quickly drawn together by presentations, workshops and exhibitions, all relying upon local talent and attracting surprisingly large audiences. At Lockdown, Dale launched the Ashford Lockdown Society Helping Hands network, using his now extensive local communications system.
Marilyn Laws raided her sewing supplies to make an array of masks for the community, and in the process raised money for an organisation where terminally ill children have come to spend their last days during lockdown. The generosity of people has been overwhelming and she quickly raised £1,000 for Children’s Hospice South West. YMCA Exeter Support Worker, Peter Hall went above and beyond to support young people as he toured the building, responding to any fears and connecting from a distance – ensuring every young person knew that they weren’t alone, says his nominator Clare Bird.
Award-winning broadcaster and presenter Angela Rippon CBE, Julian Tagg President of Exeter City Football Club and a member of the Liveable Exeter Place Board, Cllr Amal Ghusain, Exeter City Council’s, lead Councillor for Communities and Culture, and Camilla Hampshire, Museum Manager at RAMM, formed the panel which reviewed these stories, which will be recorded for posterity.
“There have been many uplifting stories about the heroic and selfless actions of individuals who have gone above and beyond to help others during this unprecedented time,” says Angela Rippon. “This exhibition is an opportunity to celebrate and honour them and provide those that have been supported, or seen the lives of others improved, a chance to thank those individuals.”
“I was humbled by the generosity, creativity and inclusivity of the entries, and the lengths people went to, to help and lift the spirits of the vulnerable and self-isolating,” says fellow judge Cllr Ghusain. “These ‘legends’ show us that good communities are not something mythical, but are realised in citizens’ empathy, care, and neighbourly attitudes.”
The exhibition is hosted online, on RAMM’s digital exhibition venue Showcase showcase.rammuseum.org.uk/lockdown-legends You can also view it at a series of pop up touring exhibitions around Exeter including Exeter Guildhall on 30 October and Exeter Library on 1 November.
Further dates and venues for November will be announced in the near future.