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Open Access (free)
Pandemic geographies of dwelling and belonging
Alison Blunt
,
Kathy Burrell
,
Georgina Endfield
,
Miri Lawrence
,
Eithne Nightingale
,
Alastair Owens
,
Jacqueline Waldock
, and
Annabelle Wilkins

The home has been at the forefront of political and public health responses to, and people’s lives during, the COVID-19 pandemic. National directives in many countries to ‘stay home’, alongside border closures and other restrictions, limited local and transnational mobility to an unprecedented extent. In the UK, there were three periods of nationwide lockdown in 2020 (March‒May; November‒December) and 2021 (January‒March) where the majority of the population faced significant limitations on leaving places of residence. People experienced the impact of the universal directive to ‘stay home’ in very different ways, as explored by a growing body of research on home and everyday life during the pandemic. Across this wide-ranging and growing field of research on home and COVID-19, new forms of connection and disconnection with people and places beyond the household and the domestic dwelling have emerged as important themes. Drawing on research conducted as part of the AHRC-funded Stay Home Stories project (www.stayhomestories.co.uk), and informed by wider research on ‘home-city geographies’, this chapter explores pandemic geographies of dwelling and belonging on the domestic and neighbourhood scales for UK residents in London and Liverpool. Throughout, we argue that the home – porous and bounded, expansive and confined – is a site of pandemic dis/connection with the wider neighbourhood. Homes and neighbourhoods were formative in shaping people’s lived experiences of COVID-19 and visions for the future of both should be a central part of local and national pandemic recovery agendas.

in Knowing COVID- 19
Open Access (free)
Creative approaches to wellbeing during a pandemic and beyond
Karen Gray
and
Victoria Tischler

The introduction sets the scene for the volume and the contributions within it, offering a brief outline of their historical precedent within, and contribution to, the field of arts, health and wellbeing practice. It introduces some of the key theoretical concepts underpinning work in the volume, including ideas around ‘coping’, ‘resilience’ and ‘everyday creativity’. Individual chapters are summarised and the editors reflect on the value and contribution of the research presented.

in Creative approaches to wellbeing
Open Access (free)
Melanie Smallman
and
Caroline Redhead

The Introduction to this book takes the reader on a journey from the COVID-19 Downing Street briefing room, with its data, graphs, diagrams and supporting cast of scientific and medical advisers, offering advice from behind their protective podium, into the everyday pandemic world. In this much messier human world, people are more than data points to be studied, counted, governed and regulated. They are experiencing the effects of the briefing room decisions in everyday pandemic lives. This is the world in which the humanities researchers whose contributions shape this book have brought their expertise to bear, aiming to bridge the gap between the briefing room and the pandemic world, and to help decision-makers do better the next time. The introduction to Governance, Democracy and Ethics in Crisis-decision-making describes how the book brings together the findings from contributors’ research projects, linked by a focus on how decisions have been made, but looking at the pandemic from very different perspectives. These perspectives have in common an interest in whether (and how) values featured in pandemic governance and decision-making, and sometimes why they did not. The Introduction’s authors conclude by asking readers of the book to consider whether the pandemic was an extra-ordinary event from which we learn systemic lessons, or, rather, whether the tone set by those in the briefing room marginalised, disabled or ignored systems and processes that were already sufficiently dynamic and flexible to have enabled a different (better?) approach.

in Governance, democracy and ethics in crisis-decision-making
The pandemic and beyond
Fred Cooper
and
Des Fitzgerald

The introduction to Knowing COVID-19 sets out the challenge of making the pandemic knowable, and situates the work of the humanities in that collective epistemological project. In the face of often quite concerted efforts to make important meanings slip away, humanities research took a proactive, immediate role in exploring complexity, cataloguing particular kinds of adversity and harm, and rendering a swiftly changing world more legible. With specific attention to the Lateral Flow Test, Cooper and Fitzgerald reflect on the humanities expertise that makes 'good' - as opposed to obscured, constrained, or partial - knowing possible, even in something so seemingly scientifically bounded as detecting the presence of the virus in saliva. They then outline the eight thematic chapters, and place them in a wider story of epistemology in the pandemic humanities.

in Knowing COVID- 19
Harnessing the power of nature, enhancing resilience and learning lessons from the literary heritage sector
David Rudrum
and
Helen Williams

Across the UK there are over seventy museums in writers’ homes and birthplaces open to the public. These include world class tourist destinations as well as underloved gems. All were profoundly impacted by COVID-19, in ways unique to the literary heritage sector. This chapter draws from the UKRI-AHRC Covid-19 Rapid Response project, ‘UK Literary Heritage Sites and Covid-19: Measuring Impact, Enhancing Resilience, and Learning Lessons’. It describes the efforts of heritage practitioners from the UK’s literary house sector in responding to COVID-19 and in finding new ways for the public to access English literature at a time when it was never more in demand. Lockdowns and furloughs brought many changes in our behavioural patterns, including a reconnection with the importance of nature, brought about by stringent COVID-19-related restrictions, which curtailed the time we could spend outside. Simultaneously, there was an upsurge in the public’s appetite for reading – especially of longer, more demanding literature. Seemingly, these two trends were unrelated, since reading is often an indoor pursuit. However, as this article will demonstrate, UK literary heritage sites repeatedly found creative ways to connect them, with a view to mutually enhancing the benefits of both for health and wellbeing. We have long known that nature and exercise have positive impacts on health and wellbeing, and that reading literature can too, but COVID-19 lockdowns led many writers’ house museums to seek out innovative ways of combining the benefits of both, indicating a positive direction for the literary heritage sector to take in moving on from the pandemic.

in Creative approaches to wellbeing
Open Access (free)
Creative methods towards pedestrian equity
Dee Heddon
,
Maggie O’Neill
,
Clare Qualmann
,
Morag Rose
, and
Harry Wilson

Walking Publics/Walking Arts: Walking, Wellbeing and Community during COVID-19 was an AHRC-funded research project which explored how adults across the UK experienced walking during the COVID-19 pandemic and the role that creativity played in sustaining walking activities. Employing a range of methods, from a large-scale survey to walking interviews and artist commissions, the research identified the potential of the arts to sustain, encourage and more equitably support walking during and recovering from a pandemic. Engaging with the idea of ‘just walking’ – an activity that is presumed to be simple and accessible to all, and the need to advocate for equitable access to walking activities – this essay addresses a range of barriers to participation. Drawing on research collaborations with partner organisations and artists, including Sheffield Environmental Movement and Open Clasp Theatre, we share examples of how creative walking practices can engage diverse groups of participants and engender new connections between people and place, centring the knowledge and experiences of those often excluded. The artistic work produced through creative walking practices offers insight into and wider understanding of exclusions, and routes to ‘just walking’. Acknowledging the widespread benefit of walking to physical and mental health, we stress that the invitation to walk must be located within and used as part of wider movements for tackling systemic inequalities.

in Creative approaches to wellbeing
Open Access (free)
The pandemic and beyond

Knowing COVID-19 looks at how different kinds of knowledge and meaning have been created and communicated, and the repercussions this has had – and continues to have – for how COVID-19 is managed, experienced, understood and remembered. Knowledge-making, it suggests, took various forms, and these are reflected in the diversity of chapters this volume curates. In the first instance, it demonstrates a rich humanities tradition of constructive critique, as ‘official’ communications around ‘staying home’, ‘keeping distance’, safety on buses, lateral flow testing and vaccine hesitancy are tested and interrogated. Through this collective work, we see one of the clear, indisputable values of the humanities; their attentiveness to the human, and the clarifying or reflective power this might have had with greater embeddedness in policy and information design. In the second instance – and frequently both are accomplished in the same short chapter – this volume collects a series of interventions which set out specifically to create and sustain meaning, particularly when dominant cultural narratives about the pandemic rely on those meanings slipping away from political or popular memory. Thus, we have rich and detailed explorations of the experiences of museum workers, people told to ‘stay home’, older victims of gender-based violence, people with deafblindness and racialised nurses working in the NHS; as well as extensive reflection on what it was like to make the projects which formalised this knowledge work. Taken as a whole, this volume critiques and redefines pandemic epistemologies, assembling a partial blueprint for making future crises legible.

Open Access (free)
Challenges and opportunities
Qian Sun
,
Amy Corcoran
, and
Anna Jorgensen

This chapter discusses the challenges and perceived actionable opportunities offered by nature for health and wellbeing (nature-based health services) from the perspectives of the public, the local government and the third sector, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Using Walsall, a medium-sized urban area in the West Midlands of England, as a case study, the chapter suggests that nature-based health services operate in complicated ecosystems of overlapping jurisdictions, multiple sectors, uncertain funding and competing interests. It concludes that if the potential affordances of urban nature are to be actualised, the following four conditions must be met: (1) the value of nature-based health services and the key role of the third sector in their delivery must be recognised in policy and in the knowledge and expertise of stakeholder organisations responsible for commissioning and delivery; (2) nature-based health services must be adequately resourced, with funding pathways tailored to the specific needs of the third sector; (3) the provision of the high-quality accessible urban green infrastructure, which is the foundation for nature-based health services, must be secured; and (4) improved mechanisms for stakeholder collaboration are required, to enable effective collaboration and ensure equity in access to resources, knowledge and expertise.

in Creative approaches to wellbeing
More-than-human microbial methods on the bus
Charlotte Veal
,
Paul Hurley
,
Emma Roe
, and
Sandra Wilks

Over the last two decades, social and economic anxieties associated with antimicrobial resistance, food and zoonotic disease risk, as well as the recent pandemic, have prompted a surge in social and cultural studies of the microbial and the human biome. Human existence is always a more-than-human achievement, with its urgent need for further development of more-than-human methods that support sensing, understanding and ‘doings’ with microbial worlds. Amidst calls to develop new techniques that ‘allow us to engage with diverse and multiple worlds and non-human agencies’, this chapter advances a more-than-human microbial methodology, using the example of public health videos created during the recent pandemic. Taking the lead from geography’s ‘creative turn’ in research methods, the more-than-human microbial methodology presented here draws on three bodies of literature: filmmaking as research; affect theory; and artistic microbial methods. The main portion of this chapter is framed around a conversation that took place on the video calling platform Zoom between co-investigator and artist-academic Paul Hurley and co-investigator and landscape scholar Charlotte Veal in April 2022 as part of the project Routes of Infection, Routes to Safety: Understanding Risk and the Viral Imagination on Public Transport. Deliberately dialogical, the chapter raises questions about how stories of the trials and tribulations of research, particularly in fast-paced and fluctuating socio-political and scientific contexts, are told. Lightly edited, the format is also intended to be provocative and free flowing, creating a reflective exploratory space to think about and push thinking on more-than-human and microbial methods.

in Knowing COVID- 19
Caroline Redhead
,
Anna Chiumento
,
Sara Fovargue
,
Heather Draper
, and
Lucy Frith

The ‘Reset Ethics’ research explored the everyday ethical challenges of reconfiguring England’s NHS maternity and paediatrics services during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This ‘resetting’ created a unique context in which it became critical to consider how ethical considerations did (and should) underpin decisions about integrating infection control measures into the routine practice of healthcare. Ethical challenges encountered by decision-makers were often embedded in changes to working practices intended to keep staff safe, and to protect hospital communities from COVID-19 infection. However, these changes reduced healthcare professionals’ ability to ‘care’ for their patients, where care is understood as embracing the interpersonal relationships between the patient (and their family) and the healthcare provider. Offering such care was experienced as an ethically important dimension to healthcare delivery, and an essential component of patient-centred care. Research findings suggest that, although they protected healthcare staff and patients from COVID-19, infection prevention and control measures caused harm by creating barriers to relational interaction and engagement. Participants’ reflections are situated in a discussion about the significance of relationships in a healthcare context. The theoretical underpinnings of a logic of relationality in healthcare are described, which the authors argue should underpin healthcare decision-making. They contend that an explicit attention to relationships is required to support to healthcare professionals in responding both to the everyday stresses and strains of working in healthcare, and to the extraordinary impacts of a public health emergency.

in Governance, democracy and ethics in crisis-decision-making