This blog is written by Lateral North as part of their work on the co-creation project Remembering Together (Argyll and Bute).
During September and October 2022 we, at Lateral North, undertook a series of workshops and consultations throughout Argyll and Bute. We visited and worked with people from Campbeltown to Oban and Islay to Helensburgh.
The purpose of these workshops were to garner people's ideas around what a ‘covid memorial’ could be for the region. This approach (32 designers co-creating an art installation alongside people from each of the 32 local authorities) formed the design brief of the Remembering Together project.
As such, we prepared a number of ways people could engage with the project and develop their ideas of what a ‘covid memorial’ could be. These included; mapping out their ideas on a large map of Argyll and Bute, reflecting on their lockdown experiences through engaging with infographics (that themselves represented people's emotions during the pandemic), or picking up an inspirational card that they thought could be replicated and adapted in Argyll and Bute.
It was this third option that became the most engaging with people picking up precedents and images of projects from elsewhere and saying “this would be cool and could be adapted in x, y and z way for our region”. The most interesting part of this exercise though, was that almost unanimously no-one wanted to see a physical sculpture or installation. Indeed, we had already predicted that this might be the case and had as such prepared some options which were ‘intangible’ as a memorial or installation (for example, a music festival or community workshops).
There were other key factors that became apparent very quickly:
(1) why are we remembering a really difficult time in a lot of people's lives?
(2) if there is to be a memorial then where is it going to go? These things always go to x, y and z community and never to us?
(3) covid isn’t over.
Reflecting on this - and all the comments and feedback we received - we realised that the design brief needed to be adjusted. While a physical memorial remembering covid - and those lost to it - might work in other places (for example, a city as an installation is easy to access for many people), this was not going to be the case in Argyll and Bute. Instead, it was clear that the majority of people wanted to remember the positive elements of lockdowns and build a memorial around that theme.
As such, a ‘Covid memorial’ for the people of Argyll and Bute is something which is geographically spread across the region, celebrates the positive elements of lockdown (community spirit, walks in nature, family time, etc), and which brings people together.
Building on this - and making it as accessible as possible to as many people as possible - we at Lateral North have developed a number of ways that you can engage in the next stages of the project. From the feedback we have received there are several clear frontrunners for what people would like to see as a ‘Covid memorial’ within Argyll and Bute. These are as follows:
At each workshop we hosted people discussed how the pandemic brought people and communities together and that during lockdowns people helped through individual actions such as helping a neighbour with shopping through to communal activity such as keeping their community tidy or creating new growing spaces/etc. As such, the main idea which has been highlighted throughout the engagement workshops is the idea of dedicating a Saturday or Sunday each year as the Argyll and Bute Covid Community Day which would allow people to come together and make their community better through voluntary action.
Nature, Flora and Fauna
While Argyll and Bute is a region which has a wealth of access to the outdoors, due to the rules of lockdown(s), and being restricted to such a small portion of it geographically, people highlighted that their love of new walking routes in their local area or spaces for reflection and contemplation within nature was a hugely important part of their lockdown experience. As such, people suggested that small pockets of trees or growing spaces could be provided to communities throughout the region.
Travelling Art Installation
The third most proposed idea was around the opportunity to create a travelling art installation / performance which would visit communities and be used to continue to tell the story of the region during lockdown and look forward towards other challenges being faced and how communities can respond to them.
The fourth category of ideas proposed was around the development of a digital installation which was reflective of the fact people in the region have found that access to Zoom / Teams and other digital software has broken down barriers of ruralness / remoteness. As such, the potential to develop a webXR space or a series of digital installations was suggested a considerable number of times.
If you have another idea of what you would like to see join us online and make your voice heard!
We are now asking you to help us decide on which of these should be taken forward or if you would like to see something else. You can do this in a number of ways.
Firstly, we have an online digital drop-in on the 9th of February (more information on that event is here). Secondly, you can contribute through an online questionnaire which is here. And thirdly, we have developed an online immersive exhibition of the ideas generated so far where you can walk around the exhibition and find out the ideas created as part of Remembering Together Argyll and Bute; this builds upon the fourth idea proposed above, which suggests a digital installation. You can access the virtual exhibition here and how to use the space with both your computer and a virtual reality headset is highlighted in the video below.