Like many other cities around the world, London is beginning to open, to move again, awakening from its hibernation. As welcome as it is to see friends and neighbours again, and to sense the back of a haunting fear felt by so many, there’s also a creeping sense of nostalgia for lockdown days. The stark inequities exposed by Covid-19 meant that not everyone revelled in the quieter skies and newly discovered birdsong, not everyone enjoyed a lull in business and busyness. But we’ve all heard of new kindnesses, a renewed sense of community.
We began to see it with the powerful BLM protests against racism, where protestors black and white defied the guidance against large gatherings to collect in peace and call for change. How poignant to see the facemasks the protestors wore – many creative expressions of rage and hope – and how poignant too that as the protests were building, we were all learning more about the systemic racism underpinning the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on black and minority ethnic members of our communities.
Early on we had the feeling that the coronavirus would hang over us for a very long time. Literally, it’s clear that this virus won’t be eradicated – we’ll just have to find new ways to keep it from killing so many people, through ongoing distancing measures and hand-washing, eventually a vaccine, hopefully effective treatments. But I hope it’s with us in a different way – as a reminder of our collective vulnerability; of the fact that we are guests of, not keepers of, nature; of the damage caused by frequent flying and driving. Many of us want to see long-lasting change to the ways we live, the ways we treat each other, and the way our governments treat us.
During lockdown we started making coronavirus linocut prints, in paper and fabric, on cards and facemasks, and recently have been using them in our Bledsoe Bags. Anticipating a return to what cities do best – opportunities for serendipity and spontaneous public interaction, what urbanist Jane Jacobs called ‘the dance of the streets’, we’ve been using handprinted coronavirus fabric for small Oyster card wallets and as linings for our festival bag, the Jackie. We know for some people the virus is still a terrifying image, but we hope that others will see it as a symbol to remind us that, sometimes, stopping the world is a gift we might never be given again.