A guest blog for Shelter by Cara Lavan.
On 23 March 2020, the British people were told that for the health of the country and to protect the NHS, they must stay at home.
At the stroke of those three words, every single life changed beyond recognition. While many lost work, others had to make their way through empty streets, risking their own health to cover the basic needs of the rest. Children stopped going to school, and the sound of traffic disappeared from our streets. The present was an uninvited stranger and the future a complete unknown.
In collective shock, yet isolated from one another, each of us had to try to make sense of what was happening. A daily walk revealed rainbows in windows, small gestures of solidarity, and hope in the face of separation.
A community coming together
Before the lockdown, as neighbours, we mostly simply nodded and smiled at each other – but suddenly the importance of who lived in your immediate vicinity magnified. On our street, some of us met online and talked about how we could try to make sense of this experience and mark what felt like a historic moment in time.
The result was a film, created by over 50 people living on the same street – each offering momentary glimpses into their lives, through their gardens and windows. It navigates the varied and sometimes conflicting emotions and energies of the early months of the pandemic – the frustrations and anxieties, but also reflections, the gratitude and some little touches of magic.
Though every household’s experience of the lockdown would be unique – we quickly learned there were also many aspects which we had in common. To mark the National Day of Reflection we are now sharing the film that emerged from those conversations – with the intention of raising money for Shelter.
The film captures moments of the young and the old – literally from birth to death. The music was composed to match the film shot for shot. We hope the everyday experiences it shows gives you a chance both to reflect on your own lockdown experience and to remember the ways you have managed to come through it.
How do you make a film with your neighbours?
Making a film is tricky. Making a film with your neighbours is even trickier. How do you share the truth of what goes on behind closed doors? We all struggled in different ways, yet most of us knew there was always someone worse off than ourselves, and the lockdown limited our ability to reach out to others.
Every one of us knows that being asked to ‘stay at home’ is not always a straight forward request. For some, home is not a safe place. Home can be damp or cold; unstable and under threat of being removed at a moment’s notice.
And some do not have a place to call home. Whilst the government was suddenly able to find provision for those people, they are now risk being returned to the streets. Similarly the importance of giving people renting in the private rented sector security of tenure was finally recognised – but on a temporary basis.
We know that Shelter work year in, year out, to offer advice and assistance to people who don’t have a stable home life.
Shelter’s telephone and online advice services helped over 25,000 callers with urgent housing problems last year. In Bristol alone, Shelter’s Bristol Hub supported over 1,100 families who do not have a safe home. Between April and September 2020, we know that 75,970 households across England became homeless. Shelter’s advisers have helped callers who have lost their jobs and are facing homelessness, people who are fleeing violent relationships, families living in unsafe housing and individuals who are street homeless. We think this work is so valuable and some of us have called on their services at times so we wanted to take this opportunity to give something back to them.
If you enjoyed our film (or even if you hate it), we hope you would consider a donation to Shelter, who do incredible work to support people struggling with homelessness in the South West and nationally.
Visit the Clouds Hill Collective page to watch the film, or make a donation.