Here at the Centre for Contemporary Legend at Sheffield Hallam University we have been collecting examples of responses to Covid-19 in the form of new customs, interventions and displays from scarecrows, rainbows, stone snakes and curbside gifts to communal responses such as the Belper Moo. We are also interested in how traditional calendar customs have adapted to the lockdown and the limitations imposed by the pandemic, often taking their activities online.
You can find some of the responses we’ve documented further down this blog and CCL members David Clarke and Andrew Robinson discuss their interest (along with the Belper Moo if you’ve not heard of it before!) in the Podcast they produced for the Festival of The Mind also detailed below.
We would very much like anyone who has an interesting story about ‘Covid Customs and Interventions’ they are willing to share to contribute it to our collection, along with any imagery they are happy to provide. All contributions will be fully credited (if desired) and the results shared with all contributors.
“Dr David Clarke and Andrew Robinson explore the new folkloric customs and traditions that have emerged nationally and in the Sheffield / Peak District area as an outcome of the COVID-19 lockdown.” Listen to the Podcast HERE. Part of the 2020 Festival of The Mind (see HERE) and the Off The Shelf Festival of Words (See HERE).
In this podcast Dr David Clarke and Andrew Robinson from the Centre for Contemporary Legend research group at Sheffield Hallam University discuss the new folkloric customs and traditions that have emerged nationally and in the Sheffield/Peak District area in particular, as an outcome of the COVID-19 lockdown. Whilst traditional customs such as the Castleton Garland and numerous well dressings were cancelled, others events were held online and new rituals emerged such as the weekly #ClapForCarers. Rainbow artwork decorated windows, stone snakes appeared in parks and scarecrows in a range of guises popped up in front gardens across the country. David and Andrew reflect on these and other responses to the lockdown as forms of custom and legend in this socially distanced, remotely recorded podcast.
The podcast was written and presented by Dr David Clarke and Andrew Robinson. Andrew recorded and edited the audio and provided field recordings of a number of traditional customs.
A small selection of images of Covid Scarecrows collected by Dr David Clarke during the May Bank Holiday from Stannington on the Western fringe of Sheffield.
“I was out for a walk with my wife in late May in the Loxley Valley and we climbed the hill up towards Stannington and when we reached a back road we saw what appeared to be a person sitting on the top of a high stone wall. We watched as we climbed the hill and I thought this was an unusual person as they hadn’t moved for ages. It was only when we got close I realised that this was actually quite an elaborate decorated scarecrow. Sporting a tartan hat, dark sun glasses, bright red lipstick and fluorescent pink socks, all decked off with a flower garland and a ‘Support the N.H.S.’ rainbow hanging around its neck (see the far left image above). As we walked further into the village and along the main street we saw more and more scarecrows and increasingly elaborate designs and I believe a number of them have been subsequently photographed and featured in the local paper, the Sheffield Star.“
“It’s interesting how these and other scarecrows that appeared during the original lockdown and shortly afterwards have been decorated and the themes that have been used. Alongside the omnipresent rainbows and the showing of support for N.H.S. and care sector workers there has also been the appearance of heroes and villains with Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings masks appearing on scarecrows alongside representations of Captain Tom Moore the veteran solider who raised millions for the N.H.S. These are all interesting themes that are being played out through these local displays which seek to both provide entertainment but also personal and political commentary during Corvid.”
This commentary is taken from a Podcast entitled: Folkloric Customs in the Time of Covid-19 (available HERE) recorded by CCL’s Dr David Clarke and Andrew Robinson for the 2020 Festival of The Mind (see HERE) and the Off The Shelf Festival of Words (See HERE).
Moving a conference online is no mean feat: will the technology work? Will everyone feel engaged when they can’t make direct eye contact or network over finger food? How will Chairs and Speakers enliven the stilted atmosphere of the online world?
With Earth(ly) Matters 2020, Sheffield Hallam’s Humanities and Social Sciences Society have made it look fiendishly easy. Using the three thematic strands of the conference to organise presentations, Roots, Rebellions and Resolutions, Earth(ly) Matters was split over three Fridays in August to prevent Zoom fatigue and to enable attendance from anyone, anywhere.
The conference explored ‘what matters on Earth and how Earth matters’, taking Amitav Ghosh’s claim, that the current environmental crisis is ‘also a crisis of culture, and thus of imagination’, as provocation. What role, speakers were asked, can the humanities and social sciences play at a time of climate breakdown and a catastrophic decline in wildlife?
On Friday 7 August, under the banner of ‘Roots’, I was fortunate to be able to present my work on calendar customs and their link to the natural environment, exploring whether those involved in such calendar customs could become climate activists on a hyperlocal level. Presenters submitted a ‘verbal’ element (a written paper) and a ‘visual’ element (a recorded presentation with visual stimuli) for publication on the conference website to enable engagement beyond the ten-minute live talk on conference day.
Inspiring change remained at the heart of the day: how our work, actions, thoughts and ideas can contribute to a world where change is underway, and change is desperately needed. But there was also fun to be had. Once the conference came to a close, delegates were invited to try bingo – with a difference. Using the Zoom breakout room facility, we learnt more about the lives and research interests of our fellow delegates by collecting information on bingo cards. Finding someone that shares your preferred type of cooked potato has never been so urgent…
You can visit the Earth(ly) Matters conference website HERE and view Sophie’s presentation of her paper Cheese-rolling, Pace-egging, Soul-caking: Can Calendar Customs Engender Stewardship of our Natural Environment below. Sophie would welcome any feedback you might have – contact her at: email@example.com
A collection of images of scarecrows on the streets of Calow, Chesterfield photographed by Andrew Rodgers during May 2020. As can be seen from the central image residents were encouraed to create scarecrows to brighten up the streets of Calow and “everyone’s daily walks”.
The majority of Scarecrows feature N.H.S. and healthcare workers of made humorous reference to the pandemic (such as the judo scarecrow preparing to fight the virus), Union Jacks and the flag of St. George were also popular motifs, probably as the festival too place close to V.E. day but also as an expression of national resilience against the virus.
Special thanks to Andrew Rodgers for contributing the photographs and for permission to reproduce them here.
Above are a selection of images of Covid Rainbows collected by Diane A. Rodgers of the Centre for Contemporary Legend during the first lockdown of the Covid-19 pandemic in April 2020 while on daily walks around the Crosspool and Fulwood areas of Sheffield, S10.
An impromptu mini Scarecrow festival was organised by residents of Valley Mews and friends in to give thanks to care workers and entertain children on their daily walks.