It started with a fish. And a wish. Then a boat of hope. And, gradually, a stretch of the Durham Heritage Coast turned into an unlikely art gallery – conceived and curated by anyone who was inspired to contribute to a growing collection of transient creations using the flotsam and jetsam on the shores of the North Sea.
Social distancing doesn’t have to mean isolated. At lunchtime in Bean Social, a lively café on Durham’s North Road, the tables may be spaced out, but conversation still ebbs and flows between them. A couple of weeks after returning from lockdown, it feels appealingly normal; a space to meet and eat.
This weekend should have been Bootham Crescent’s swansong. Typically, though, things didn’t go to plan. York City, predictably unpredictable, saw the final season at the club’s much-loved old home turn into a characteristic roller-coaster. Top of the league when coronavirus struck, the Minstermen missed out on promotion from National League North via a points-per-game calculation that put them behind King’s Lynn. Next came a vociferous appeal to ‘promote two’, via a playoff if necessary, and York returned to action on July 25 against Altrincham. City hadn’t played a game since March 7 Alty defeated Chester in the previous week’s eliminator and recent form made the difference in front of a deserted Bootham Crescent. So, instead of a final showdown against Boston United, the season ends in Lincolnshire as York’s fans contemplate the club’s retained list and hope that next time – at last – the team might start climbing the football pyramid once again.
Four years ago, when ‘lockdown’ was merely an adaptation of the notorious catenaccio tactic beloved of Italian defenders for decades, the football season was getting underway just now. On July 30, I was off to Shildon to see the curtain-raiser for the Northern League season. Shildon, defending champion and league cup winner, took on Marske United, runner-up in both competitions, for the Cleator Cup. League action would resume the following weekend.
When lockdown struck, Teesside singer-songwriter Amelia Coburn was on the point of getting back to the recording studio. Nominated for the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Awards in 2017, she put the music on pause to complete her studies in Modern Languages at Nottingham University – only to re-emerge into a very different cultural climate.
It started as a project to highlight the failings of Britain’s care system. By a quirk of timing, it turned into something that captured the zeitgeist of 2020. ‘Home Alone’, Sharon Bailey’s exploration of the often-isolated lives of elderly people, unexpectedly tapped into a universal experience as the COVID lockdown struck.