Illustration by Ana O’Brien Pajuelo
A lockdown love letter to Norwich: Part 14 by Alice Lee

One of a series of love letters to Norwich during the coronavirus lockdown of 2020. A few local people reflecting on what they miss, about everyday life in the city.

Credit Joseph Hayes

My dearest Norwich,

Whilst your streets are now quiet and pace of life is much slower, I’ve been managing to keep busy. During lockdown, I have had the experience of being both furloughed and still at work (at different places, of course), as well as continuing with my creative practice. I have always felt the flexibility, closeness and security you provide allows me to be able to function in a myriad of ways. I’m grateful for that and happy with the belief that those things will remain true.

Being absent from the shop for over two months, I have to say, is a shock to the system! We haven’t been apart for that amount of time in nearly twenty years, can you believe it? I’m missing the interconnectedness of the place, the faces, the random chats… I hope we can get back to something close when we are able to return, even if it takes a while. It is a worrying time for independent, non-essential businesses and staff now that life has been reduced to simpler means. However, the forced time-out has become valuable. I have heard that no time has been wasted there, ideas and plans talked about for ages are finally coming into fruition and I’m excited to see what awaits. I know your people are loyal and will continue to support us.

As for my teaching work, that is coming to an end now that the academic year is nearly over. Like many others in the profession, I have been grappling with the move to provide education online. I’ve had to overcome my fear of video calling (still wince from hearing the feedback echoes of my own voice) and developed calluses on the ends of my fingers from the mammoth increase in typing emails! No technology can ever replace the feeling of the studio, the atmosphere, the company of others beavering away… it was that special feeling that drew me to you all those years ago. As a compromise though, I have grown to embrace it. But I, like many others, are concerned about those who may have become disconnected due to reasons intensified by the general situation at large. I suppose the only thing we can do is to let them know that we, as a supportive network, are still here and ready to listen.

And finally, you, my dear, will always serve to be my creative melting pot. It is a challenging time for artists and the arts in general. It sounds like we won’t be going to an exhibition opening or a gig in a real venue anytime soon. I’m not sure if social distancing measures will work at those kind of gatherings, which rely so heavily on that communal spirit, but we shall see what the new normal is. I’m delighted to report that I have heard rumblings in your underbelly that the local art scene is, as we should never doubt, seeking ways to reinvent itself. Do you realise that you have become one massive gallery? The tangibility of a painting, a print or a sculpture for me can never be replicated on screen so it’s truly lovely to see so much colour and creativity physically in the windows of people’s homes.

I really hope that you are doing well and enjoying a rest. And revelling in the sight and sound of all those birds! What I’m most looking forward to are those unplanned encounters when unexpected sparks and ideas reveal themselves; in those moments while I wait for my morning latte, have my hair cut, walk down the street en route to do something or other… it always seems to happen when I’m with you. I do miss those sparks. Can’t wait to see you back to your old/new self soon.

All my love,

Alice x

About the Author

A lockdown love letter to Norwich: Part 14 by Alice Lee
Alice Lee
Alice is a veteran member of staff at Sevenwolves/Dogfish/Catfish and a part-time lecturer in Illustration at Norwich University of the Arts. She also draws birds.