The Pandemic Diaries and other projects

A selection of the wonderful range of Pandemic Diaries produced by local students.

In November 2020 at the start of the second lockdown our Education officer David Beech began to meet with students and their tutors to discuss collaborative projects relating to the experience of Covid-19 and the constraints imposed by the lockdown.

The projects included The Pandemic Diaries and The Pandemic Home and it is the creative response from 12-year-olds to final-year degree students that forms the content of our exhibition. In the same way that the Mass Observation Diaries of World War 2 provided an invaluable record of life in this country, the exhibition illuminates the lives of (mostly) young people in times of shared adversity.

The diaries, dioramas, poems, photographs, posters, and ceramics reflected the makers’ thoughts, feelings and observations of this often distressing, period in their lives. Frustration, boredom, anxiety, and stress are common themes but there was also resilience, warmth, humour, insight, and the talent of almost 100 people who contributed to this exhibition.

The Ken Stradling Collection supports art and design students and those at the beginning of their careers through its Education Programme and by providing a showcase for their work in the Stradling Gallery.

The show was open from 2 October – 13 November 2021.


The aim of the diaries is to visually record the thoughts, feelings and observations of the diarist. Students were cut off from the usual support of their tutors and colleagues, the workshop and studio facilities of school and college, museums, libraries and galleries, and some were often confined for most of the day to a single room.

Students were given up to five concertina booklets (420mm x 60mm) made from good quality white card that had been scored to make seven folds. Each page represented one day, each booklet one week. The idea was to offer short, manageable, daily creative tasks. Students were required to make a daily entry about their personal experiences of the people, events, places and things they had encountered that day.

Entries could be made using any suitable material or process and experimentation with text and image was strongly encouraged. Students could work directly onto the card or make entries separately and then paste into the booklet. The emphasis was on making something each day. This would require not only creativity but management of time, workspace and materials. The project was to encourage the development of ideas through a process of observation, experimentation and reflection.

Finally, it is the intention that the diaries help us to recognise what we have in common; and what we as individuals experienced during the lockdown was also shared by others.

And Other Projects

There are a whole range of other projects within the show including diaries, dioramas, poems, photographs, posters, and ceramics…

Lockdown Pottery

Tanya and Clifford Martin’s Lockdown Pottery backyard kiln. Virtually all the materials for making, building the kiln and firing were obtained from local builder’s skips.

Students at Bristol School of Art were suddenly unable to access studios and equipment. With the help of ceramics tutor Ollie Kent through online videos and social media, guidance was provided to the students using the pottery to forage ‘wild clay,’ process it, make with minimal tools and fire pots in the back garden in dustbins and kilns built from skip-collected materials. Several Foundation Diploma students were able to submit ceramic work (online) for their final assessments and part-time class members were able to go on working. The sense of achievement was so rewarding all round.

David Beach (KSC Education Officer)