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Universal common ground

I said at the beginning of this commission that I couldn’t determine an outcome before meeting the community I’d be working with. My practice is often so collaborative in nature, I honestly didn’t want to say where it may lead. I wanted to be directed by the people I met.

I felt more comfortable personally thinking of it like a residency, as that is a very familiar way of working for me. It was also paramount I had a base within the community too, so I became a familiar figure and could start getting to know people without the pressure of delivering a workshop or discussing the project ‘cold’ if you like. I find I work better on a slower burn, and able to build relationships with people naturally.

So, since October 2022 I’ve been going to a Westminster Community Centre, in Ellesmere Port, on Wednesdays. It’s a small hub in the heart of Westminster and it made me laugh (to myself) that I would be working in Westminster! Known locally as ‘Wezzie Wednesday’, there’s much activity there the whole time. Alongside a foodbank there’s people from other services offering advice, a crafting table and basically anyone who decides to drop by are made welcome.

I’ve been hearing about how people’s roles in work may have changed, loss of jobs, furlough schemes, new roles, losses of family members, friends, pets, how many have met new people, become volunteers, had to shield, had to care for people shielding, had to be on call for the ‘covid hotline’, care for strangers, experience the fear of catching it, experience the fear of having it, the aftermath, long covid, changed opinions, fall outs, demonstrations, more opportunities, less opportunities, inclusivity via zoom, isolation via zoom, walks, fresh air, calm, hectic, each person’s story is unique and yet it’s all intrinsically linked.

There is a universal common ground like no other looking at the pandemic, it is so vast a subject, it’s everything and everyone everywhere, but a project like this can start to build up a picture of people and their environment and how covid affected one town and go from there. I’ve realised that as I ask people to reflect on covid that I can’t put my finger on my feelings about it at all myself.

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