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Lockdown Experiences, Case Study, Fedora

My Lockdown Story
By Glyn Edwards, Director of Fedora

Lockdown-on Sea website

At the point lockdown was imposed our touring exhibitions on Punch & Judy were fortunately just back from their jaunts, leaving only one item still stranded at Aberdeen Maritime Museum. We were, however, in the final stage of a two-year HLF-supported project about seafront entertainment in the 1920s and ‘30s and had an ACE application in the pipeline to work with a number of coastal museums holding seaside collections. We’d never heard of Zoom.

Being, however, a small arts and heritage charity comprising a loose collective of practitioners (the name Fedora is a convenient contraction of Federation of Regional Artists) the ethos of ‘the show must go on’ is very present in our DNA. If there’s a challenge, then there’ll be a creative solution to be found.

Retrieving the final piece of the exhibition could wait until lockdown was over and HLF proved very supportive of our ideas on how best to amend the final phase of our heritage retro roadshow project. So what next? Out of the blue we were approached to do some skyped sessions on heritage skills to a class of university students on a puppetry course in the USA. This was very new to us but proved good fun.

After this we found ourselves involved with the transformation into a 24-hour online event of the annual Covent Garden May Fayre held in the churchyard of St. Paul’s (the Actors’ Church) and celebrating traditional entertainments. Our team members contributed some of the content and ran the May Fayre Online YouTube channel. A global relay of May Fayre Online page administrators ensured the event stayed live in all time zones. It clocked up 10,000 ‘engagements’ and opened our eyes to new possibilities.

Seaside Fedora Specials Postcard

Meanwhile ACE had announced that all applications were suspended while funds were diverted to a rescue plan, so we applied for a modest sum to cover loss of income from pre-booked schools visits; from activities linked to VE Day celebrations; and to keep our contacts alive with museums during lockdown. We were delighted to receive an award and set to work.

We soon discovered that with most museums closed and their staff furloughed this would not be a simple task. Zoom or no Zoom it was a fragmented landscape. So it occurred to us that creating a Lockdown-On-Sea website would be a way of retaining our profile and – hopefully – finding additional venues who might wish to engage now or in the future.

Not all our usual partner venues had any relevant online content, but we quickly realised that this didn’t really matter online. We could browse wherever we chose and ensure that Lockdown-On-Sea linked across to any external websites with material of interest. We could also create a dedicated YouTube channel and post our own short linked videos.

We wanted it to reflect a hint of the typical range of seaside attractions from piers and bandstands to museums and galleries. It wasn’t so much a meticulously thought-out project as an improvised response to being locked down. Something that found work for our suddenly idle hands. There was only so much time to be spent enjoying the glorious weather or binge watching Netflix.

We think of all this as creating a lockdown legacy. We’ve had some vertical learning curves whilst acquiring it but when we emerge into a ‘new normal’ we’ll still have our touring exhibitions, our project applications and a whole lot of new digital expertise to play with. And if anyone out there wants to join the fun we are always open to new initiatives.