BOREDOM-19: Reflections from a county in lockdown By Badriya Abdullah, Frankie Hudson and Claudia Wickham (Chelmsford Creatives) and Anna Woolman (Engagement Manager, British Science Association) When the 2020 British Science Festival was postponed, we repurposed our work with Chelmsford Museum’s Chelmsford Creatives, a group of local 15-24 year olds, to amplify their voices during the pandemic. Working alongside Anglia Ruskin University ‘social media and boredom’ researcher, Tina Kendall, the group produced a zine full of creative responses to COVID-19 lockdown boredom. Exploring themes of boredom privilege, boredom induced productivity and the creative, anxious and thoughtful places a mind can go when it’s bored, the zine and accompanying website provides an intimate snapshot of how the turbulent events of 2020 have affected young people in Essex. As part of this project, the group also wrote an open letter. In it, they emphasise the importance of arts and culture projects providing a unique platform for youth voices and their ability to "connect young people to their local community, reduce social isolation, and improve confidence to actively participate in national conversations." They hope "projects like this become a priority and ask you to consider what you can do to help young people feel included and visible." Below are further reflections from some of the Creatives of the last year, the project and the impacts it has had on them. Thank you for following this journey. Badriya Abdullah “2020 has been a whirlwind this year, and almost nothing feels concrete. However, I’m so proud that one tangible thing I’ve helped create is the BOREDOM-19 zine. Being able to regularly participate in Chelmsford Creatives gave me something to ground myself in the present for a few hours every week, and the fact that we came together to create something so unique, makes it so much better. I think there’s a misconception that the arts aren’t as valuable to society as academic pursuits. Creating this zine gave me something to focus on in the limbo between finishing sixth form and starting university, gave my fellow creatives a change from monotonous online learning, and honestly, it was just nice to catch up with people and have something to look forward to. It was wonderful to see different perspectives on lockdown and how that translated to art. Being able to hold the zine in my hands made me incredibly proud of myself and everyone involved and I hope that whoever reads it truly enjoys what we’ve made. We’ve all been struggling in different ways, and COVID-19 has highlighted how there’s still so much that needs to be done for young people around the country. That’s why we wrote an open letter asking everyone who reads the zine to consider what they can do to help young people feel visible in national conversations. It’s through initiatives like Chelmsford Creatives that I’ve been able to grow as a person and gain the confidence to participate in things that I’m interested in, and that’s an opportunity everyone should be able to have.” Frankie Hudson “I didn’t even know what a zine was before the Chelmsford Creatives project began. Much like everyone else, the COVID-19 pandemic was an incredibly difficult and stressful time for my family and I. Something that alleviated my worries during this tough time was working the boredom zine, and as it turns out a zine is basically a mini magazine... and they are a lot of fun to make! The zine we created is a reflection on boredom and how it has influenced our time in lockdown. BOREDOM-19 is filled with a collection of brilliant art, poetry, photography and a bunch of other talented creations which show the range of activities young people got up to during lockdown. Because lockdown was such a worrying time it was easy to feel anxious and bored, but the zine was a place to channel this negativity and boredom into actually creating something positive that focuses on community. Hopefully, the zine will be something to look back on in years to come as a positive reminder of lockdown.” Claudia Wickham “The opportunity to work alongside other young people across Essex, with the shared goal of voicing our concerns and promoting greater awareness of young people’s experiences throughout lockdown has been rewarding in the least and certainly not ‘boring’. The experience has not only been valuable in a skills-building sense, but I feel exceptionally more aware of the struggles which many of us have faced recently. Project management and collaboration are things which encompass what Chelmsford Creatives do as a group and working on this zine together has allowed us to further these skills. I never felt that I was unable to make my opinions and ideas heard. Beginning the project, I was apprehensive about how we could effectively turn boredom into art. But seeing everything come together, and all of the hard work that everyone has put into it, has created something truly insightful and memorable. Now that the zine is finished, we want to make sure it is accessible to as many people as possible through social media and in real life.” Spread the word - #FreeArtFriday To celebrate the launch of BOREDOM-19, Chelmsford Creatives are organising an Essex-wide Free Art Friday on 30 October 2020. Free Art Friday encourages artists and creatives to leave their art in public spaces (such as a high street, park, campus, bus stop etc) for anyone to find and take home. All you have to do to get involved is place an original creation (painting, poetry, zine, drawing, print, photography, lyrics, script, sculpture etc) somewhere in your local area for a passer-by to find, enjoy and take home. The Creatives will be placing copies of the zine in locations throughout the county on 30 October for anyone to find. There are no rules - just make sure the work is easily removable and does no damage. You should leave a note with your artwork so that people know it's OK to take it home, and include your social media details so the finder can tag you or discover more of your artwork. As a group of young people, the Creatives want to use this #FreeArtFriday to share the incredible talents of Essex's younger residents (aged 15-24) but absolutely anyone can take part.