Lockdown Diaries: Children express themselves in the times of Corona

Children in times of Corona is one example of challenging usual pathways. It started as an idea to create an intercultural digital space that then expanded even further as a platform to co-create, co-produce creative content with children between the age of five and fifteen, mainly working with South-Asian community, nurseries and schools in United Kingdom. We understand the challenges that many parents face, balancing between working from home and parenting.

In response to the need for positive action during the COVID-19 Pandemic we have successfully launched a virtual ‘Children’s Stories’ platform for parents to enable their children to express themselves mainly through drawings and writing their stories. It has been very well received particularly by care homes, frontline Doctors working in the NHS who have gone on to express, to the administrators of the online platform, the power of this platform allowing them a ‘breathing space’ after returning home from the most difficult work situations they have experienced in their careers/life, by being able to spend time with their children allowing them to destress a little and taking away the horror of the internal turmoil and fatigue that inevitably shows on their faces.

Children taking part have shown so much enthusiasm and kindness towards key workers, nature and simple things in life in their submissions making this initiative a great success. In a short space of four weeks we have over 800 followers and ‘likes’ on our Facebook page posts and continue to receive excellent creations from children.

We are developing short digital stories in times of Corona with all the excellent art works that will stay forever in our digital memory box to remind us of the time and how we coped through creative expressions. These little creations are bringing happiness to the families and children. In our page we have children reading stories, producing origami works, singing, dancing for children. Parents coming back with great ideas of co-creation.

There are digital stories on little ones painting walls, helping at home, gardening, clearing rubbish, recycling. These are wonderful examples of sustainable living and brings back the hope that we are all looking forward to. These historical creations evidence the connection between creative arts, media and mental wellness. Parents can download and have as a ‘keep sake’ for the future and to share with their grandparents, children and other family, crossing borders.

The project is not only creating happiness but will feed into the governmental and non-governmental policies in the future in connection to town planning and help build the pathways to resilience. The project teaches us to understand life and different aspects of resilience in context of crisis and national emergencies by combining multi-disciplinary research lenses. We need strong digital societies led by communities who come together to reflect on our similarities.

We are collaborating with Celebrate our Similarities (COS), an ambitious project that aims to provide an unbiased open platform to explore shared human priorities and needs in the most diverse city in the UK, Leicester also including the surrounding county and Rutland. Examining how as a human society we can choose to recognise our shared similarities, working within two broad areas, well-being and climate change.

COS organises activities and promotes actions, whilst campaigning for issues such as clean air, reducing the use of plastics, raising awareness of food production and wastage, water preservation, promoting mental wellbeing and personal peace. Encouraging the public through individual and collective actions to be deserving custodians of our future generations’ heritage, that is planet Earth.

We are planning to run a digital exhibition, following our call for another round of creative work on planet Earth (April 22-April 26, 2020). The response has been fantastic so far as you can see from the artwork below. In the coming weeks, COS will be capturing narratives from common people as audio podcasts, in an endeavour to understand how the pandemic is impacting daily life of individuals.

Through this article we want to reach out to national and global audience and invite them to share their story with COS. This pandemic will be over at some point but we all stay as historical witnesses of this time. In response to the growing interest, COS is in the process of applying to the Charities Commission for Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) status.

In times of national crisis, it is important that we share and work together, in the interest of the nation. This is the best and the worst of times that we are living in. Positive vibes are central to survival, for both physical and mental health. The impact of government initiatives and restrictions definitely have a long-standing impact on socio-economic and cultural lives, that are felt at an individual level. Therefore, we need to have individual strategies aligning with the national strategies. The initiatives and restrictions can only bring in the results if we as individuals adhere to it and treat the advice as crucial in these unprecedented times.

There are challenges. We were not prepared. Our best endeavour so far has been to learn to adapt to the novel ways of surviving in crisis times. Crisis does not happen suddenly but it happens only when we fail to identify and address issues. This time it was a big challenge. In order to have individual coping strategies, it is important that we reflect on our lives and environment. The reflection then teaches us to unlearn and relearn some of our practices. In other words, this is the time to challenge preconceived pathways and navigate through the unexplored or under-explored territory in search of happiness, meaningful days within our confined spaces.

Dr Indrani Lahiri

Dr Indrani Lahiri is a Senior Lecturer in Media & Communication at De Montfort University. She holds an Associate Fellowship with the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London. She is the Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a Senior Fellow of Higher Education Academy and an Academic Consultant in public relations. Interested in developing interdisciplinary, cross-disciplinary research projects nationally and internationally, Dr Indrani's research focuses on digital media and society, exploring issues around mental health, education and technology.
You may contact her at ilahiri@dmu.ac.uk