Creating Heritage: A diary during Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Part Eight

Over the last year, I have had numerous requests from my team for me to write my ‘Talking Heritage’ blog, and unfortunately I have told them that I was too busy each time. Now, following a week that is sure to go down in history, I have stopped and taken the time to reflect.

My job at Canterbury Museums and Galleries is to preserve our City’s heritage and culture, making sure it is relevant and engaging to all. We spend time thinking about what and how we ‘collect’ objects that help uncover our history and tell our story, as well as which we might dispose of, so that we can make room for the new. 

In this time of uncertainty and unorthodox decisions, I have decided that instead of choosing an item to talk about from our collection that I will start a new collection. From today, Saturday 21st March 2020, we will document the everyday lives of our community as we pass through this point in time.

Michelle Moubarak, Museums and Cultural Programme Director

Day 50: Saturday 9 May 

My day began in much the same way as it does most days of the week– my little four-pawed pooch, aka Nellie, woke me up at 6.00am – not for any urgent reason – just to say good morning! Then she hopped back into her bed and went to sleep. The sun is already up and it is going to be a beautiful day. I switch on Radio 4 and catch Open Country and Farming Today before listening to the Today programme. For breakfast we have toast and lots of tea while we read the local and a national newspaper – coronavirus dominates both and does not make happy reading. After coffee and cake we head outside to play football with Nellie (her favourite activity). 

Excitement! A parcel arrives for me –it’s a first edition of The Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ – my original copy has disappeared…and I need Adrian in my life during lockdown. I spend the afternoon in the garden doing some serious weeding and afterwards Nellie and I head out for our daily walk over the marshes at the back of the house. This is my favourite time of the day at the moment – it’s early evening and quiet. It’s been amazing watching the spring unfold and to witness the arrival of the House Martins. Some young bullocks have arrived in the first field we pass. In the stream there is evidence of beaver activity. As we walked we heard the skylarks and the cuckoos too. Bliss.

By Karen Braysha, Special Collections and Archives Manager, UKC

Brown cows in a green field

Day 51: Sunday 10 May

This is now the eighth Sunday since ordinary worship in the Cathedral ceased and we have grown used to putting our services on line each day. Sundays are slightly different for during the week the clergy of the Cathedral film a section of the Cathedral Eucharist in their own homes or gardens and these sections are joined together to make a complete service with pre-recorded hymns added to give music. On other days we put on line a newly recorded morning and evening prayer.

This morning the weather was much more cloudy than the clear warm days of the VE Day celebrations of Friday and Saturday but we were able to film morning prayer under the ash tree in the garden. As so often happens one of the cats chose to join us. It was Leo this morning and as the services are on line across the world he has become quite a popular addition to cathedral worship! By the time we were ready to film evening prayer the day had turned windy and wet so we sought shelter in the chicken house where the hens made an attractive background to the psalms and readings. The background of the garden in springtime seems to give pleasure to those who are locked down and I feel sure that this kind of ministry will continue in some way even when the present crisis is over. It will be good to get back into the Cathedral but I feel that it will be a long time yet before congregations come join together without careful distancing to sing their hymns. In the meantime we are doing our best to bring prayers and reflections to people at home.​

By The Very Revd Dr Robert Willis, Dean of Canterbury

Canterbury Cathedral

Day 52: Monday 11 May

I have been home schooling my children, which is so much harder than I expected it to be, even still in week..what week are we in now?  Rather than teaching new things, and potentially confusing the system, we have been concentrating on revising what they have already learnt at school.  All those things I have forgotten.  Today I googled “what is a fronted adverbial?”

Last night, Boris Johnson advised that children will start to return to school from June.  Although I would welcome some time alone, I do worry about the children going back so soon, it’s only a few weeks away. Social distancing can’t continue in a regular classroom setting, and just the thought of the dreaded drop off/pick up makes me want to vomit (no change there actually). But the proposed changes from Boris Johnson last night have confused and angered many, they believe he is moving too quickly in easing lockdown, but also that he is not being clear enough with his proposals.  

Apart from home schooling today, I have achieved very little.  We took the dog for a walk in the sunshine, watched some Disney+ and now I’m researching how to make face coverings. Wish me luck.

By Sam Goodwin, Visitor Services Office

Dalmatian dog in a green field

Day 53: Tuesday 12 May

I started the day with four hours of information governance training, delivered to me virtually via the magic of Google Meet. I am helping out with Freedom of Information requests at the Council – and yes, there are still plenty of them coming in, with many concerning Covid-19. Next week I’ll be back to assisting with virtual Council meetings. It’s been good to have work I can do from home, to keep me busy and away from scanning the news. But I’m also glad I only work part-time; video meets can be invasive.

In the afternoon, my husband and I took our elder son out for a drive and a walk. He’s 22 and in the ‘extremely vulnerable’ category due to severe learning difficulties and multi-sensory impairment. He’s been home since 17 March, when his specialist college closed. He can’t go into shops or have any contact with other people which is really hard, as he’s a sociable person. I miss being able to give him little treats like ice-creams at seaside cafes. We took some snacks in a backpack and drove to St Margarets. We walked down the steep cliff path, and all the way back up again. The views of France were amazing; so clear, you could make out buildings in Calais. There was no brown fug over the channel — a small positive from the lockdown, I suppose.   

By Andrea James, CCC Governance Officer

People standing on the seafront looking out to sea

Day 54: Wednesday 13 May

Generally speaking, us lot that work in the arts are a pretty resourceful and adaptable bunch. That’s not to say it’s easy, but we do turn to our inherent creativity genes in times of needs… and it turns out, it has been my saviour during lockdown. Creativity is definitely an advantage when it comes to problem-solving, resourcefulness when supplies are down (paper recycling bin is my go-to craft shop) and it provides much comfort, purpose – and frankly joy, when every lockdown day feels as hard as the next. 

So I’ve spent last few weeks making and creating things that I wouldn’t normally have the time or reason to do. Today was no different. It’s another day in front of the camera. I’m learning how to present, facilitate and run creative sessions on digital platforms. I’ve taken for granted the ease of delivering art workshops (pre-lockdown) to people when they are there in front of you; gauging their reactions, sensing if this project inspires them, whether they need extra guidance. On camera, in contrast, you just have to go for it and hope people are watching. So today I filmed (with the help of my wonderful partner) another online creative session. Lights! Camera! Action! (Actually, and a bit of make-up and more suitable outfit – ie. not PJs). I’m filming these sessions and putting them out on social media for free. I want to do my bit to support families who are trapped in their house, with limited supplies and ideas to keep busy. It also really makes people smile when wonderful, home-made creations are shared online… really you must check them out to see what I mean. Creativity is important (and it’s not just for artists – it’s for you too!)! Now for the shameless plug #CardboardCapers. 

By Jo Dyer, Artistic Director for Animate Arts Company CIC

Woman wearing an apron with her hands up being filmed by a camera in the foreground

Day 55: Thursday 14 May

My day starts at 730am, get up after a coffee. Let the dogs out. Feed the chickens. I drive to my 90 year old friend to milk her 2 goats, a lovely little farm, we always now say, on greeting ‘how are you? Alive!’ The goats are giving nearly 7 pints and I have 4 pints from the day before, enough to make yogurt and have milk until my next milking time. With the whey left over from yogurt making, Justin will make bread and pizza dough.

I always have a coffee and chat with the farmer. Today we reminisce about staying with our Grandparents. Her, in 1935 similar to me 1970, the love of feather mattresses and how backbreaking shaking them out in the morning was, but you felt like a bird in a nest. We are very careful and sit 6ft apart in her garden!

At 11am I have a video meeting with Mitch from The Beaney and Chris from Christchurch about organising a future Smallfilms exhibition, which was supposed to start in May. We have hopes it will start this year! Mitch comments on our sparrows, how loud they are. Justin has filled the Garden with bird boxes. The recent one is a Tudor house. The box outside our backdoor is the busiest but 2 dead fledglings have been thrown out, which no doubt the dogs will roll in later!

At noon Robert the beekeeper delivers the honey I ordered, some from his hive in our garden.  He leaves a box with the honey in on the lawn and stands back. I have left an envelope with the money on the table outside. He gives us some honey for designing a lino cut label and printing it on our 1869 Albion printing press. After lunch, I start making a commission of a bearded collie in paper mache (very hairy). Even though all our selling outlets are closed, we are getting a small amount of work via the internet.

Today is the first day the government says it’s allowed to walk with 1 member of another house. I meet 2 friends at a place I know where you can hear Nightingales. Walking In the woods feels so different, normally I quite enjoy seeing other walkers. Now it’s worrying, I change direction. The dogs have noticed my reaction to voices in the distance. Also the litter in the woods has increased and some mountain bikers have started digging trenches and ramps, removing top soil, altering the landscape. Such a shame.

I feed the chickens and water the vegetable garden with the hose! It hasn’t really rained for ages. I have 9 waterbutts  and they are empty. We are eating Swiss chard, lettuce and purple sprouting from our garden. Justin has cooked dinner after finishing the large picture commissioned by Kent College school, made by the children from our workshop in February. We crack a bottle of wine and listen to some records, then bed.

By Emily Firmin and Justin Mitchell Artists

White goats in a field

Day 56: Friday 15 May

It’s week 8 of lockdown and it’s been a mixed bag. A complete change of routine, the ongoing concern for friends and family, the claustrophobia of confinement and the uncertainty of the future, but I count myself as one of the lucky ones. Gratitude, gardening and dancing are getting me through this.

I’ve never had time to really commit to growing veggies, and was fortunate to have a stock of seeds when lockdown hit. I have a little garden, and now anything that can hold soil has got something growing out of it. It’s a joy to see things grow, changing a little each day, if you really have the time to look. And boy has there been time.

After a quick rearrangement of my dining room (the table and chairs are now unceremoniously wedged into our shed) I have a home dance studio. There has been an incredible show of generosity from the global dance community; sharing their practice through online classes, keeping us creative and connected.… and I too have joined the virtual dance world, sharing inclusive classes with folks with and without learning disabilities.

My Friday morning is spent with ConfiCo, our professional dance company. It keeps me grounded, creative and connected, and I was surprised how quickly we all adapted. There is something new emerging from having to quickly re-invent my work, which was all about bringing people together, but necessity is the mother of invention as they say, and we have found a new way to connect. Friday afternoons are time to relax, and thankfully the sun is out after a few gloomy days, so it’s back to the garden to see what else I can find to plant some more seeds in.

By Jo Frater, Artistic Director of Confidance

Screenshot of children participating in a virtual dance group

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