Blackhorse Responders: Life in Lockdown

So far 2020 has been one of the most surreal and tragic years in living memory. Just a few months in, we were forced into lockdown to protect ourselves and our loved ones. Now we are over halfway through the year, and can dare to hope for the freedom to reconnect with the people and city we love. Meanwhile our Blackhorse Responders have been incredible, by continuing to meet and create work around social change.

We began Blackhorse Responders, our new youth programme in creative activism, just a few weeks before lockdown. But this did give us enough time to meet each other, visit local community artists Hoe Street Bank Job, social enterprise Steel Warriors, and get workshop inductions from Enrique and Toby to boot!

Then everything changed. Schools shut, exams cancelled, youth clubs closed. We moved Blackhorse Responders online, and began getting to know each other virtually. We were amazed by the commitment and resilience our Responders showed, completing challenges that took resourcefulness to a whole new level. From making protest pieces with cereal boxes, creating poems to share online, to replacing paint for nail polish. Baaba, 16, tells us about her experience:

“This lockdown has been one of the best things that could have happened in my life. Time has been an important tool that has given me the ability to reflect. I’ve had to be creative with my time and doing Blackhorse Responders during lockdown has boosted this creativity.

I made objects using household goods like nail varnish and delved deep into topics that I’d have never looked into. I’ve felt a plethora of emotions from confusion to anger to joy! And now looking back I’m not the same person at the start of lockdown.”

The last few months has seen communities creatively mobilise behind a cause, both locally in London and nationwide. From rainbows for the NHS to Blackout Tuesday, collective action is making headline news.

Despite lockdown, there’s been huge numbers protesting on the streets and online against police brutality and racism. The Black Lives Matter movement is causing society to open its eyes to systemic racism, to challenge the history we’re taught and condemn Britain’s colonial past. 

We were privileged to receive an online presentation from V&A Curator, Catherine Flood, curator of Disobedient Objects. She talked us through examples of protest objects from around the world throughout history, and critiqued our Protest Placards. She showed us truly inspiring examples of how others have triumphed in the past – by being resourceful and brave – to overcome adversity. Her observation that: “many of the rights and liberties we have today have been won through brave disobedience”  felt poignant as we witnessed protests that challenged the rules of social distancing, and turned the wheels of progress during lockdown.

Over the past few months we’ve seen hundreds of ways people are making themselves seen and heard, despite unimaginable limitations. From protest placards, claps for carers, to running round and round a garden to raise £14m. Now is as urgent a time as ever for young voices to be heard and for to them to be creative about how they share their messages.

The themes that arose in the Responders’ work have included Anti-Racism, Knife Crime, Mental Health, Equality, and Climate Awareness. The many ways they’ve chosen to express and articulate their thoughts has included posters, clothing designs, poetry, song and cooking. 

Left to right: Amaar, 16, Shareen, 18, Baaba, 16

Blackhorse Responders’ motto is “Pick Up Tools”, but that’s been hard to do whilst the workshop has been closed. Despite that, we’ve seen some incredible talent emerge using computers as a tool, from video to graphic design:

Left to right: Daisy, 19, Candis, 18 

We’ve been so impressed by their participation – on all levels – because sometimes just showing up is work enough. 

“The next chapter of my life is Sixth Form and I’m excited, as I’ve had a change in how I create work and think, no longer just surface level meaning, but deeper levels. The future may be uncertain but that doesn’t matter, what matters is the now, living in the present. As individuals and a community I believe that we are unified, unified in responsibility, change and love.” Baaba, 16

We are witnessing an incredible moment of modern history – and the choices and actions of our Responders will shape the future. We are looking forward to kickstarting the programme in September, back at the workshop, finding new ways to keep engaged and create real change. We can’t wait to greet Responders past and future in person, and pick up tools with them again!

Above: Meeting Steel Warriors in Finsbury Park

You can see a full celebration of the Blackhorse Responders’ work in our online Zine.

Follow us on Instagram and APPLY HERE to be in our next cohort of Blackhorse Responders.