Lockdown Unlocked

‘Lockdown’ describes a capacity to confine prisoners to one location, in case of emergency, but it has made its way, lazily, from penitential institutions into everyday language. ‘Lockdown’ is now first among equals of phrases which define experiences of daily living, and its jump from prisons, via corporate culture, is, itself, a form of viral transmission. 

One undeniable reality of lockdown living is that features of normality which ‘keep on keeping on’ are actually social gifts of people for whom locked-down working conditions have always been normal. Today’s zero-hours philanthropists – warehouse staff servicing on-line shoppers, and takeaway delivery cyclists – know lockdown only too well. Under current necessary restrictions, however, they are essential workers, rather than degraded ‘units of human resource’, who demonstrate visibly, the extraordinary resourcefulness of their humanity. Forbearance, patience, selflessness, generosity, good humour, physical strength, empathy, kindness, and practical knowledge, are among many undervalued human capacities. They have long been suppressed in corporate workplaces, and dismissed by managerialists who venerate ‘toughness’ and competition above all else. The virus, however, is both tough and radically unmanageable – hence, a state of lockdown, mitigated only by the ultimate human resources: decency and solidarity.

I am very grateful to the directors and staff of WoWFest, for offering Everyday Phrases a platform for delight, disturbance, and reflection, in unprecedented times. Some of our writers are well established, many found ways to writing in local groups supported by Writing on the Wall. Responses to our invitation to contribute have come from Liverpool and the Wirral, from Dublin, and from as far away as Manila, Cape Town, and Los Angeles. The archive we publish here reveals, in rich variety, thoughts, feelings, and critical perspectives; unlocked under lockdown.

Victor Merriman is Professor of Critical Performance Studies, at Edge Hill University, and author – most recently – of Austerity and the Public Role of Drama: performing lives-in-common (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019). He writes here in a personal capacity.

See all of the submissions below