Alumnus Andrew Davidson who graduated with a BA in Visual Culture in 2000 imagines life in lockdown back when he was studying…..
In 1988, the year I started secondary school, Morrissey released his single Everyday Is Like Sunday. I always liked it, but in lockdown I feel like I finally know what he meant. I’m lucky to be healthy and to have work, but time has become a vague concept as my mind wanders. One place it has repeatedly wandered to is my student days in mid-to-late 90s Brighton. I can’t help thinking about what lockdown would have been like for me and my contemporaries then.
Some things don’t change, of course; I dare say the daily permitted exercise would be much the same, even if the seafront was a little less fancy then. Information was undoubtedly harder to come by before the internet. There was no such thing as online shopping. Binge-watching would have been restricted to my VHS collection and even I could only read Bridget Jones’s Diary so many times. Phone calls and texts were expensive and I’d never seen a bottle of antibacterial hand gel. Mental health was much less talked about in the 90s and, when it was, it tended to be one-dimensional. Even in Brighton, LGTBQ+ acceptance and rights were still limited.
But late 90s students had one clear advantage over today’s Covid-compromised cohort. Long before the threat of a no-deal Brexit made it fashionable, we learned all about stockpiling from Richard Madeley, who amused us each day on This Morning with talk of his Millennium Cupboard. In fact, the (as it turned out, completely unfounded) worries about the so-called Millennium Bug were the closest that students of my generation came to planning for a crisis. Apart from first-generation alcopops and genetically-modified vegemince, I can’t say that I ever panic-bought anything.
But 1999 is not 2020. Some barriers and prejudices may have been broken down in society, and it may be easier to access information and to stay in touch in our digital age, but it’s also easier to see what you’re missing out on. Isolation and a lack of resources, financial or otherwise, hurt people and they need help.
The writer Damian Barr portrayed it poignantly in Summer Son, his recent radio play about a university student estranged from his family. The ‘son’ in question lives on an empty campus during the holidays. His lonely and isolating experience is greatly improved when (plotspoiler!) he strikes up a friendship with a cleaner in his halls, reminding us that a little kindness and support go a long way.
That’s why I’m supporting the University of Brighton’s special Support Fund for students who are suffering in this time of crisis and uncertainty – students who are stuck hundreds (or even thousands) of miles from home because of the travel ban, students who rely on university facilities that are suddenly unavailable, and students who have lost the wages they rely on from retail and hospitality businesses that have closed for who knows how long.
#StayStrongBrighton. I can’t wait to see you again soon x
Andrew Davidson FRSA (Visual Culture, 2000)