Levy Lockdown – the participatory project

I’m currently working in a different way to usual. Since late January I’ve been facilitating a socially engaged approach to documenting the pandemic in my neighbourhood, Levenshulme.

Last year – before the world changed – I was awarded a commission by Peshkar, an arts organisation in Oldham, to make some participatory work with migrant-origin communities in the town. Their funding is coming from InterMEDs, a stand of the Erasmus programme. Sadly the UK will no longer be benefitting from Erasmus due to Brexit.

My original proposal had been to work face to face with Roma groups but inevitably this plan had to be abandoned. After lots of thought and a fair bit of worry about how I could fulfil the requirements of this project – which has to be delivered in September – I decided to build on the lockdown book project I developed last year.

Having had children at home from Christmas until 8 March  – and aware from bitter experience that they could be told to self isolate at a moment’s notice – I’m doing all of this online. But I’m now encouraging (and occasionally cajoling) people in my area to submit their own images (photographic and otherwise) and personal thoughts about what the pandemic and lockdown has meant to them.

The hope is that I’ll end up with a huge mishmash of different material from a wide range of residents about what the past year has been like and how they’ve coped. I can then hopefully pull at strands and develop some narratives which fit the original brief. But almost more importantly, we’ll have created a fascinating and worthwhile community archive about this later stage of the pandemic – which will complement what I did before.

I actually started off with a core group of six people from the original window portrait series – I created a small box of creative materials and a series of prompts and asked them to get stuck in. Then I realised I could broaden the project out, so I created a Facebook group on a whim and started using the Instagram hashtag #levylockdownproject.  I’ve been posting occasional prompts into the group and people are dipping in and out as they want.

It’s fairly organic and I’m trying to be relaxed about the lack of control – not something which comes that easily to me! That’s where we all are at the moment and what I’m able to do is limited by our circumstances.

Here are a few of the wonderful bits shared with me so far:



Roma Source participatory project

“It would be an understatement to say they liked them … absolutely loved them would be closer. They were clearly delighted and very VERY proud of their children. The teachers loved the way they tell a complicated story so eloquently. One never gets those vocational ‘I’ve been part of something worthwhile’ buzz moments as often as one might wish, but I definitely have one now” (JD, Roma Source)


Earlier this year I was offered a project which ticked loads of boxes in terms of the direction my work has been taking. This was to lead a series of photography workshops with Roma children attending a school in Leeds, with the final output to be multimedia which said something about the children’s new lives in Yorkshire.

I’ve wanted to do more participatory work for a while and attended a Photovoice training course in preparation for this 18 months ago, but although I’ve introduced some of its concepts into my independent work I haven’t – until now – found the right partners to support a wider project.

This project was funded by Roma Source, with support from the EMTAS team at Leeds City Council, and of course the staff and young people at Harehills Primary School. I was able to rope in my friend Gemma Thorpe – a photographer with much more teaching experience than me – to help run the workshops, and then I took all the materials we generated away and used them to make photofilms. (More about the project here)


Now we have finally had feedback on the finished product from the children and their parents, and have been given permission to share the films, which will be used as an educational tool by some of the people in Yorkshire and beyond who work with Roma. Please check them out….