In June 2020, I conducted research into the experiences of university staff living and working through the first UK COVID-19 lockdown. You can find out more about that project and read the final report here: Living and working in lockdown: What's gender got to do with it? Inspired by the potential of the data but, as a qualitative researcher, somewhat overwhelmed by the scale of the response to the online survey and the statistical analyses required, I began to formulate the idea of five interlinking graphic narratives bounded by the period of the first pandemic lockdown in the UK (March-July 2020). I thought this might be a way of more effectively representing the complex, particular and affective data I had collected.
The graphic novella,Five 'Survive' Lockdown has been eight months in the making. It has been a steep learning curve and a labour of love! It uses a cartoon/comic format and tracks the lives of five female academics at the same UK university, through and beyond the first COVID-19 lockdown. The characters each represent a stage or phase in the conventional academic 'career' but their narratives also reflect aspects of individual experiences I'd learned about, not only through the research project, but through news coverage, social media, academic publications, as well as contacts with friends and colleagues throughout lockdown and beyond. As I myself, had been living and working through lockdown too, some of my own experiences also surface in those narratives.
As the novella developed, I realised my ambitions for it exceeded my (extremely limited) technical software skills. So I began a new and exciting phase of working with a professional graphic designer, Luke Thrush of ELT Illustration, to translate 45 large-scale hand-drawn and inked panels into Illustrator and pdfs.
The gallery presents a range of examples of work in progress and some notes on my practice. You can also follow progress on Twitter @drkcarrutherst and #FiveSurviveLockdown