Fred Cooper news

Suffering from the ‘Lockdown Blues’? Share your experiences online

1 September 2020

Share your experiences of loneliness and Covid-19 as part of a major new creative project

People in the South West can now share their experiences of the considerable isolating impact of the coronavirus pandemic, as part of a major new project designed to collect stories of loneliness and community.

The Lockdown Blues is an online scrapbook where anyone can contribute their thoughts, feelings, or reflections on loneliness in any format – whether through poems, songs, paintings, stories, sketches, videos, letters or a few brief notes. It has been designed to promote empathy and creativity, with the hope that reading, writing, and creating may help visitors to the website feel less alone. It will also act as a public record, so that people’s experiences of difficulty during this important time aren’t forgotten or overlooked.

The website is designed so that anyone can easily submit their contributions and share their thoughts with others. It was developed by three researchers at the University of Exeter’s Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health, Charlotte Jones, Olly Clabburn, and Fred Cooper, as well as their community partners, Devon Libraries and Exeter Phoenix to celebrate Exeter’s designation as a UNESCO City of Literature.

Dr Olly Clabburn, University of Exeter, said: “We’ve created a community space where people can share their experiences, get creative, and read about how others are feeling. Loneliness is something that affects people very differently. The Lockdown Blues is a safe space for anyone in the South West to share what loneliness has meant to them during the global pandemic.”

Dr Fred Cooper explained: “The website isn’t just about experiences of loneliness, it’s also a place to celebrate friendships and community during lockdown. We understand it can be difficult to talk about loneliness, as it often feels like an individual failing. It isn’t, and we hope that this project will emphasise that, and help make it easier to discuss. If solidarity can be found in shared experience and expression, we hope we’ve made a space for that to become possible.”

Dr Charlotte Jones added: “We know that many people’s experiences of loneliness and isolation didn’t begin with Covid-19, so these reflections may go back further than the last six months. We’re also interested in hopes and anxieties for the future; many restrictions are in the process of being lifted and this will impact people’s well-being in very different ways.

Contributions to The Lockdown Blues can be anonymous and in any format. People can also contribute using the hashtag #lonelycovid. Charlotte, Fred, and Olly hope that as many people as possible will take part. The website also provides details of charities, services and community groups in the South West if you feel in need of support, or just want to meet new people.



Fred Cooper news

WCCEH announce a creative collaboration on LGBTQ+ loneliness and history with the Northcott Theatre and Natalie McGrath

12 June 2020

Following an initial seed phase in which three artists were granted funding to think about loneliness, theatre and performance alongside scholars at the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health, we are excited to announce the direction that this collaboration will take.

Working closely with the Centre and with Exeter’s Northcott Theatre, the acclaimed playwright and activist Natalie McGrath will create an original piece of work for production, drawing in part on creative exchanges with Centre researchers and LGBTQ+ people with lived experiences of loneliness and isolation.

Conceived before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, one aim of the work was to think critically about the loss of hard won social and emotional spaces which LGBTQ+ people have created to share with one another. Running deeper than this present, dislocating moment are stories and histories which reverberate through queer experiences of isolation, quarantine and distance in 2020.

Natalie McGrath

Natalie McGrath will work with WCCEH and the Northcott Theatre on LGBT+ loneliness and history.

As Natalie put it:

“Working with Drs Fred Cooper and Charlotte Jones from the University of Exeter’s Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health on the subject of loneliness, in partnership with Exeter Northcott Theatre, is an exciting new direction for my work as a playwright and socially engaged artist.  LGBTQ+ stories have historically been erased or silenced due to hatred, ignorance and prejudice, whilst structural legislation and lack of rights have caused harm to many lives.  This opportunity to explore some of the pivotal moments in LGBTQ+ history through the lens of loneliness will enable an exciting new play to emerge for an ensemble of LGBTQ+ performers in the future life of the project.”

For Fred and Charlotte, this project goes much further than simply engaging new audiences with academic research that has already been done. Fred had the following to say about the importance of the project for his own work, and why Natalie’s ideas stood out:

“A significant aspect of what we want to do is to push back against ways of working which create artificial hierarchies between university academics and the people they collaborate with. Natalie is not here to ‘translate’ our research into something more accessible, she is here to determine an agenda, explore the questions that she knows are vital, and participate in a meaningful process of exchange which will alter and enrich our practice as academics. Natalie began the project with a clear idea of the direction she wanted our work together to take, and a keen sense of the historical and structural harms which are embedded in LGBTQ+ experiences of loneliness. We’re delighted to be working with such an accomplished and talented artist.”

Daniel Buckroyd, Artistic Director & Chief Executive of Exeter Northcott Theatre added: “Artists such as Natalie have an extraordinary ability to pose questions, stretch our imaginations and create a space for considering new possibilities. Through projects such as this and the Northcott Futures programme which supports local theatre-makers, the Northcott aims to make meaningful exchanges between artists, audiences and practitioners across a number of disciplines and lived experiences. We’re delighted to take this project forward and excited to see how the play evolves.”

_________________

Natalie McGrath is a playwright, poet, occasional performer, producer of arts and heritage projects, and Co-Director of Dreadnought South West who curate the Rebellious Sounds Archive.

Natalie is currently Writer in Residence and Cultural Heritage Producer at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum for Out and About: Queering the Museum, a National Lottery Heritage Fund project in collaboration with the University of Exeter’s Dr Jana Funke.

Fred Cooper and Charlotte Jones are research fellows at the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health. Fred is a historian of medicine with particular interests in loneliness, estrangement, and solitude. Charlotte is a sociologist of gender, sexuality, disability and health.



Fred Cooper news

South West Loneliness Network

12 August 2019

The South West Loneliness network was founded by Fred Cooper and Charlotte Jones in 2019. It connects academics, students, university staff, community organisations, charities, public health experts, and people with lived experience of loneliness. It provides networking and knowledge exchange opportunities through discussions, meetings, and seminars, and works to foster transdisciplinary collaborations and partnerships.

For biographies of some of our members, see here. For more information on WCCEH’s work on loneliness, see our Beacon page.

We have a rolling call for events and contributions, so please get in touch with Fred or Charlotte (via the links above) if you have any ideas or questions. If you would like to be added to the Network mailing list, please email wellcomecentre@exeter.ac.uk

Other projects of interest:

The UCL Loneliness and Social Isolation in Mental Health Network run frequent digital workshops and events, mostly from a psychiatric perspective.

Solitudes: Past and Present, a Wellcome-funded project at Queen Mary. This project runs thoughtful events and has an excellent and wide-ranging blog.



Fred Cooper news

New Centre podcast series

6 August 2019

Explain it to me …

Pete Hodges, the Centre’s Comms Assistant, invited researchers around the Centre to talk about their work. In the first of this podcast series, Fred Cooper talks about his work on the Centre’s Beacon Project ‘Loneliness and Community‘.



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