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June 15, 2020

Shine On!

When the lockdown began in March we had to stop many of the plans at Time to Shine in their tracks! It felt so sad and not a little scary to think that 2020 was not going to see us deliver on things we had carefully considered. But it did make us get creative – along with everyone else in Leeds who works to reduce loneliness and social isolation!

We had an interactive storytelling project lined up with Mojo Film who had scheduled several “story catching” sessions and had set up a “steering the story” group. Lockdown meant we had to look at this from a new angle. Tom and Rob from Mojo floated their idea – create a magazine! This could allow us to reach people who were socially isolated, to read stories from across the city – but was also a way of getting their stories and hearing their voices.

And so Shine Magazine was born!

Tom and Rob very quickly got to work to gather stories of Leeds and the people who live here. And what stories they were! We have so far heard about Holocaust survival, wartime espionage through playing cards, Bollywood movie- making, taming lions, learning the ukelele, the Beatles and the Who playing to Leeds audiences and how the Leeds West Indian Carnival was born. We have heard about how the third sector organisations across the city have rapidly changed the way they work, and heard how to stay physically and mentally well during lockdown.

So much of the Covid-19 response has been online. There are many really positive stories about how people have connected with the digital world for the first time due to lockdown. There has been so much innovation and imagination! But, not everyone is online – there are many barriers still to be overcome – and many simply don’t want to live in a virtual world!. Shine is available online but the overwhelming majority of the feedback has been about the paper version of the magazine.

Our biggest challenge was not producing the magazine, but how were we ever going to get this into the homes of the people we most wanted to reach – those without internet access. That was where the wonderful organisations across Leeds showed what the power of partnership can do!

Leeds City council has set up 33 ward hubs, each of which has been enthusiastic about distributing Shine. Thanks to their support we dropped off 100 copies of issue 1 to each hub and they got to work including it in food parcels, delivering it with medication and shopping and just sharing it wherever they could. They quickly started to contact us asking for more copies, other organisations asked to become distributors and here we are, about to deliver 4500 copies of issue 5.

We are delighted that Shine has been so well received. We are delighted that so many people have shared their stories, their artwork and poetry. We are delighted that we have strengthened so many partnerships in the city and forged new ones. We are very proud of Mojo and the passion and commitment that they have shown.

We are now reaching the end of the planned journey for Shine. We commissioned 6 issues – no6 will be distributed on 13th July. All being well, the tightest of lockdown restrictions will have eased by then and many people will be feeling less isolated. But we know that Covid-19 was not the only cause of loneliness. Loneliness existed before lockdown and will, sadly, still exist beyond.

This process has taught us so much. That learning will be part of our legacy. Perhaps Shine could carry on with a post-Covid view?

Linda Glew
Programme Manager (Legacy), Time to Shine