‘Keep your distance for virus resistance.’ - Chester Gigg, Sprowston Junior School
‘Every minute spent with people you love is not a second wasted.’ – Jessica Rout, Cliff Lane Primary School
As the region enters a second national lockdown, young people from across East Anglia have used their previous lockdown experiences to unleash their creative talents, brought together in the Lockdown Diaries Story Collection, published today (Monday 9 November).
The collection pulls together poems, prose, proverbs, scripts and comic strips straight from the imaginations of 10-16 year-olds in East Anglia. It’s all part of the University of East Anglia's (UEA’s) Festival of Literature for Young People (FLY), an annual literature and creative writing festival for students.
This year’s festival was held remotely due to Covid-19. However, the consequences of the pandemic – lockdown, social distancing requirements and health concerns – was the inspiration for a theme that all the students could identify with and draw creativity from.
The Lockdown Diaries Story Collection is the culmination of a six-month project, with students initially taking part in the FLY 8 Week Challenge, an eight-week programme of short-form creative writing challenges set by UEA’s School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing (LDC) and previous FLY authors, including worldwide bestseller Alexander Gordon Smith.
Each challenge asked the students to reflect on lockdown in 50 words or fewer, using a different creative writing technique each week, which included acrostic poems, proverbs giving guidance and advice on Covid-19, and observations on nature during lockdown.
This was followed by The Great Escape competition, which encouraged the students to tell the story of a great escape in one of four forms; poetry, prose, a comic strip or a script. The competition was supported by The Craft of Storytelling creative writing resource, which featured tips from top authors on how to write compelling and imaginative stories across a variety of mediums.
Over 250 entries were submitted across the two challenges from young people from 28 schools, as well as some home-schooled students, with the Lockdown Diaries Story Collection pulling together 35 of the best submissions from both. FLY is delivered by UEA’s Outreach team, which supports children who come from underrepresented backgrounds in higher education from Norfolk and North Suffolk.
Gracie Ashley and Lindsey Guardado are students at Smithdon High School who took part in FLY Festival and both had their acrostic poems selected for the collection (see below).
Gracie said: “The Lockdown Diaries really helped me to express everything at once, how lockdown made me feel but also how I knew we would come through this time. Lockdown is difficult for us all but if I could bring a bit of light to myself or to others, I would feel accomplished. The challenges tested my creativity and I allowed myself to have fun and let all my thoughts take over.”
Lindsey said: “I really enjoyed doing the Lockdown Diaries challenges as they've enabled me to express myself in creative ways, improve my writing skills and expand my ideas. I could show how I felt about lockdown and how hopeful we can be for life to be more normal again. I realised how much we take for granted. Therefore, I have been more appreciative of what I have and I find much enjoyment in the little things in life.”
Lauren Starkey, Outreach Events Officer at UEA, said: “We were overwhelmed by the positivity, resilience and creativity shown by the entries from students and we felt that, collectively, it would be a missed opportunity not to share them. Giving the students a creative outlet during a challenging time was something they really relished and that resulted in some brilliantly inventive stories.
“These students are living through extraordinary times and these diaries will stand as a creative record of what it’s like to be a young person in East Anglia in the year 2020.”
You can see the Lockdown Diaries Story Collection in full on the FLY Festival website.
Gracie Ashley’s acrostic poem:
Life flipped upside down
Overwhelming to all
Key workers doing all they can
Dedicated to the job they love
Only we can explain
Walks keeping us sane
Never forget the NHS
Lindsey Guardado’s acrostic poem:
Life’s at a temporary stop right now
Our key workers fight, making us proud
Children bored, home from school
Kindness is shown to me and you
Dreams are vivid and weird but
Our mother nature’s speedily recovering!
When will lockdown end? We may ask
Nobody knows, only time will tell.