Britain in lockdown: Confined yet creative

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Inside and outside the creative community, people have been expressing their creativity through challenging times in a multitude of ways. Wunderman Thompson's Strategy Director, Will Humphrey, explores the boom in creativity we're seeing everywhere.

Remarkable creatures, people. You can no more hold back their ability to imagine and create than Canute could hold back the tide.

It’s often said in our business that creatives enjoy the freedom of a tight brief, and it’s certainly been true for the general public (otherwise known as those people who don’t have ‘creative’ in their job titles). Being stuck inside, it seems, has grown the UK’s appetite for creativity. 

Given confinement, we’ve seen a mixture of everyday heroes coming forward. From those who have been bringing lightness to the situation (ranging from an entire street singing Happy Birthday to a little girl worried her birthday was being called off, right through to virtual pubs being set up on Facebook) to those who’ve created something to bring people closer together (mutual support groups have scaled in ten days to 2.5m members supporting since 13th March, right through to a Dyson engineer challenging the nation with ‘lockdown challenges’), the nation’s making the best of the situation.

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People are keen to use their expertise to create something which really resonates. For example, a games company has open sourced their board game remix cards. Even Doctor Who is getting in on the act, filming an encouraging message to her younger viewers to keep strong, wash their hands and keep on listening to the experts. What’s more, in our field, designers and copywriters have been creating public information posters, aiming to drive behaviour change around the country.

Even if people think their expertise isn’t applicable, they’ve been trying to creatively respond to the situation. From support dogs, right through to Zoom choirs, people want to encourage social interaction. It’s perhaps why the video chat app Houseparty is now number one in 17 countries across Europe; people crave creativity and sociability more than ever.

What’s most amazing is how the situation is inspiring lateral solutions to common problems; just look at how a Newcastle school, upon shutting, has encouraged children to put rainbows in household windows in order to keep their morale up during this unsettling time. It’s since gone national.
Additionally, a grandmother called BBC Woman’s Hour, explaining her approach to getting her grandchildren to open up - as, typically, they’d be reluctant to talk on the phone or by video. So how best to encourage them, and to inspire other grandparents? She decided to set a daily quiz for her grandchildren, asking them to spot particular birds in the garden, find capital cities, work out sums, and so on. From short, stilted affairs, her chats with the grandkids turned into enthusiastic exchanges and have inspired many other families to follow suit.

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Of course, the current poster child for everyday heroism is Joe Wicks. His daily ‘PE Class’ fulfils a clear need for parents trying to juggle their own work with their children’s schooling. A million people watched the first, and over 10 million people have watched the first four days. Joe’s activity fulfils a clear need for time-poor parents and those wanting to keep up their fitness - given that most people are locked down in their homes, it’s no surprise it’s had huge success.

Grayson Perry’s Art Club has launched on Channel 4, where the famous artist will attempt to get the nation thinking more artistically. Jack Monroe’s teaching the nation how to feed themselves from tins (and on a limited budget!) over on Twitter, with the hashtag #JackMonroesLockdownLarder. Creativity is being fuelled by everyday consumers’ needs and behaviours, with influential experts responding in kind.

Even the gaming community is getting involved in the fight against coronavirus. Leading video games companies have opened up their platforms to allow targeted government health messaging. A ‘folding’ game has even been developed to crack the way the coronavirus proteins are organised and, therefore, how the virus spreads. It works by harnessing the brainpower of tens of thousands of players so that research results can be uncovered quicker.