“We retreated behind our windows, afraid of the virus. But out of lockdown came a great positive – increased community support.”
When lockdown came, Steve Lewis took to his camera to record the response of residents in his neighbours on South Street in the town of Lewes, Sussex. The result is a wonderful photo book, Our Street in Lockdown that transforms those everyday contacts and concerns into a little bit of magic.
Janet was self- isolating over the lockdown, but would come out in the afternoon to chat to the neighbours across the street. At the end of March, neighbours Sue and Susie convinced her, Steve, Kath, David and many others to come out at 3pm to dance in the street. Jan and Michele brought their dogs to the dancing. The street kept up the music and dance for 100 consecutive days.
Even so, loneliness was an enemy for many people and, delivering the post, Gary never missed a day keeping everyone in touch. Lariola was responsible for some of the elderly – the pay for a care assistant is so poor that she also worked extra hours in Asda. Both have a copy of the book now, dedicated in thanks to those key workers who kept working over the time.
The street self organised too in response to the needs for food and for contact. Serena set up a mutual aid WhatsApp group, so that volunteers could go shopping for the neighbours. Caroline purchased vegetables in bulk, to parcel around. Janet made scrubs for nurses, while Bill raised cactus plants for sale to raise funds for charity. Dilly (pictured) and others with allotments shared rhubarb and fresh vegetables with those in the street.
Algerim, who is originally from Kazakhstan, said of the street during lockdown “I’ve lived in the UK for four years and rarely met my neighbours before. Now I know all my neighbours and have many friends in the street.”
You can see many of the photos on the Instagram account for Steve Lewis or you can purchase a copy of the book. With a donation from every book sold going to Lewes Coronavirus Volunteers, who support shielding families, there are only a few copies left to sell and it has sold particularly well on one Sussex street. Stocking the book is neighbour Rachel who took on running a children’s book shop, Bag-of-Books, in town in March, opening on Friday March 13th, just days before lockdown…
Our Street in Lockdown is a social record of an extraordinary time. As cases soared and families retreated often in fear into their homes, many also rediscovered through self-help and mutual aid the power and magic of community.