Lockdown life – the everyday impact on Bedford: Part three

Albany Road Art Collective
Emma Murphy

As the coronavirus ‘lockdown’ continues, Bedfordians have been sharing their experiences.

Some emotional, some heart-warming, all honest insights into how our neighbours are experiencing the coronavirus pandemic.

In chapter three, we hear from a collection of artists who have found each other over WhatsApp.

How to submit your own lockdown experience

Sharing your experiences, and how coronavirus is affecting you, will help others and also create a social record of how coronavirus is affecting us all.

How you write your experiences is entirely up to you. But here are some pointers:

  • Please submit photos to accompany the piece
  • Describe who you are? Are you a teenager, a parent, business owner or volunteer. Who you are will help readers understand your point of view
  • Write it in a way that’s personal to you and your experiences
  • You can talk about anything you want. How you feel, what you’re doing differently, how family life is at home, but be honest
  • You can write a diary style piece, a list of ideas, or simply a story, be as creative as you like
  • Try to keep it about 400 words

Send your article to news@bedfordindependent.co.uk.

Submissions from all ages are welcome. Please include your full name and what area of Bedford you live in. We won’t need your street address.

I would like to say thank you so much to my dear community for playing along

I and many of my neighbours have been taking part in an exhibition, entitled “Water”, displayed from the front windows of our homes.

Like many of our streets in “the Castle Quarter”, the inhabitants of Albany Road have been communicating via a WhatsApp group since the outbreak of Coronavirus.

Using this platform we have not only been getting to know each other, exchanging text conversations, providing emotional support and helping out with shopping but – more lately – have been quietly creating as well.

The idea had come to me the previous week, while I prepared to move my work from office to home.

In my work, for a supplier to museums, galleries archives, I knew that a certain amount of damaged museum mount board was occasionally set aside for recycling in the warehouse: so, at the very last minute, I hauled some out to the car.

After coming up with the initial idea, I sent out a video explaining the concept and garnering initial interest.

The uptake was strong. Using any medium, residents had the choice to work independently or jointly with their family.

hey could take 20 minutes or make it a labour of love over a period of days, then on a given day put it on display.

For those not participating I asked that they simply provide an enthusiastic audience – as they have been, and a very kind one, too!

All that remained before we could get started was to provide the materials.

My daughter and I left giant sheets of mount board in the porches of homes across our street, rang doorbells – then ran away. (Well, ran down the path more accurately – to wait at a responsible distance on the pavement.)

Unexpectedly, this part took several hours, as we enjoyed the opportunity to chat with our neighbours from doorstep to pavement.

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And so the Albany Road Art Collective was born! This was Sunday 22nd March (a date which now seems to belong to a different era before the official lockdown began.

It’s now Sunday 4 April, and artwork is on display from the windows of houses and flats up and down the street: from ground floor bay windows to upstairs flats.

Looking around and admiring everyone’s creative efforts, I am delighted at what we have together achieved.

Offering something that could include anyone who wanted to take part, whatever their age or artistic ability, was hugely important to me.

We are a diverse community; a mix of nationalities, jobs and professions, young families, families with grown-up children, older couples and many residents who live alone (and they too are a mix of ages).

Finding a task to help us connect and find common ground might, I thought, offer us the opportunity to step away, albeit briefly, from the news of the developing virus.

Turning our street into a living art gallery, to be enjoyed and experienced both from the outside, on the street itself, and from within (through each other’s windows) seemed a poignant and hope-filled idea, and so it has turned out.

The project is not about who is the best artist. In fact, it may not be about the final pieces at all, but about the feelings we had while we were creating them.

In the midst of the chaos and uncertainty of a growing pandemic, and faced with a challenging period of enforced self-isolation to protect ourselves and others, knowing that behind front doors, others in our road were also taking a moment to share in this spontaneous, collective activity was very special indeed.

I would like to say thank you so much to my dear community for playing along

I have already had themes suggested for the next one, so stand by. Stay home, stay safe and stay (collectively) creative.

Emma Murphy, Albany Road, Bedford

Articles edited for typos and grammar only. If you have a coronavirus story you’d like to share with fellow Bedfordians, you can find out how to take part at ‘Tell us your coronavirus ‘lockdown’ experience‘.

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