Our luck story

María del Pino Guilabert, 23, feels relieved her grandparents are save, her uncle is healthy and she can get on with her life.

Anxiety was the leading feeling at my home for almost two weeks.

You can never know if you’ll be the next one. Going to the films, getting on a bus, having dinner at a restaurant, partying at a club… We’ve assumed COVID-19 only spreads in such situations where safety measures cannot be respected. 

But what about your home and your family?

Living with my grandparents, uncle and cousins means our coexisting group is formed by ten people, not three. Three times more chance of one of us getting the ‘bug’, thrice as probable to get infected and a risk exponentially higher for my grandparents to be hospitalised. 

Although, my family wasn’t the case; my uncle and I were the only ones infected. 

Often I wondered if we should have worn face masks at home – as many families do – but our trust in each other has overridden what is comfortable over what is safe. Luckily no one was harmed, but like my grandad said: “there is a fine line between luck and chance”. 

For me it wasn’t luck, I wonder if it just wasn’t their turn.

Now, they’ve been vaccinated – one of the first in the country, as they are over 90 years old – and some of us are immune, but looking back I thank our destiny for giving me more time with them. 

Reclaiming the night

Abbigail Hilton-Casey, 21, captured unrest in art when she photographed for Reclaim the Night Leeds’s ’97%’ exhibition.

I didn’t start out with the intention to do the project, I just had so much rage and I didn’t know what to do with it. 

I remember reading about Sarah Everard’s death on Twitter and feeling my heart sink. It was so grim I didn’t want to think about it, but it started so many conversations. 

I couldn’t stop thinking about every horrific story friends had told me and every time I’ve walked home at night with my keys between my knuckles. 

After days of hearing more and more stories from other girls my anxiety turned to anger. That’s when I reached out to Reclaim the Night Leeds and talked about doing photos for them. 

I put a post out on Facebook and was overwhelmed by the number of women who reached out and wanted to take part – I felt like we were taking the power back. 

I photographed the girls in places in Leeds where they’ve felt uncomfortable walking home at night. It was a really emotional project to work on but I was so proud of the girls who took part and the work I’ve made. 

‘Knot’ letting Covid stop creativity

Galit holding some of her macrame products
Galit can spend up to 10 hours a day making her Macrame pieces

From toilet brush holders to giant wall hangings, Galit Colombick has made over a thousand macrame products over lockdown.

In March 2020 self-employed active agent Galit Colombick was just starting to recruit new clients for her fitness business when the whole country was ordered to ‘stay indoors’.

“Then it hit us and I just couldn’t work, you see I don’t get furlough for my job because it was a little business. I didn’t want to worry, my husband said we’ll be fine and I tried not to worry”

With just her and her husband in the house Galit said she wanted to find something “creative” to do with her time.

“Im not sure why the Macrame came to me but it did and it soon became a sort of addiction”

Galit started to make the macrame products just for friends and family. When the demand increased she saw an opportunity to make some money and start to replace the financial hole that COVID-19 had caused by taking away her business.

“I think I must have made over a thousand products now and its meant that being in lockdown hasn’t seemed so bad to me”

With her Instagram following building Galit now has an Etsy store selling her products and a stall at the Leeds city centre market that occurs every second Saturday.

From barista To detective

Lockdown was tough, but I’m excited to start my career.

I went into lockdown feeling pretty lost, like a lot of graduates my age.

At first, I enjoyed it because of the novelty of the situation; I was getting furloughed by the cafe that I’d been working at, it was sunny and COVID was new and frightening for everybody in the country.

After a while though, I really started to worry about job prospects during the pandemic. I’d had no luck with grad jobs after my criminology degree finished in 2019.

About six months ago, I saw an opening for the Metropolitan Police Detective Training scheme so I applied for it. I genuinely wasn’t expecting to even get through the first stage, but they offered me an interview – along with a handful more. 

So, I went down to London, took part in fitness tests, completed psychological evaluations – you name it. It went silent after that, for a good month. It wasn’t until this Easter, the Met congratulated me via email, that I got the job! I literally couldn’t believe it, I hadn’t expected to get through the first stages, let alone actually get the job. My career is completely different to my pre-covid one and I’m so excited for it to start.

From a positive covid test to vaccinator

By Rachel Johnston
Sam Teesdale, a trained covid-19 vaccinator.
Sam Teesdale trained to be an official Covid-19 Vaccinator during the pandemic, alongside his studies.

During the first lockdown back in March 2020, I found it difficult to be productive in a world with no social interaction, especially after receiving a positive Covid-19 result and harsh symptoms.

I never anticipated at that point the country would go into two more lockdowns. So I got thinking, and knew that I needed to do something with myself this time round.

In January 2021, I applied to be a Healthcare Assistant. The process was long and after not hearing back for some time, I thought I had not been successful. Thankfully, this was not the case.

One morning, I received an email offering me training to become a Covid-19 vaccinator. I did not even think I would be allowed to vaccinate, but luckily, the laws surrounding this changed during my training process.

At first, the thought of vaccinating people scared me, with someone else’s safety being in my hands, but after months of training I felt confident and excited to start my new role.

It is so rewarding, some patients bring in snacks and thank me for vaccinating them. At the end of the day, it is a life-changing moment in their life. It is great to be a part of history.

Capturing life an image at a time

A young Photographer’s striking yet simplistic method of overcoming extensive homesickness

Kya stayed connected to family through photographs.

Kya Lofthouse, 23, moved to the UK solo in November 2019 to pursue her dreams as a professional photographer.

She explains the extent of her homesickness and how since the pandemic she has felt anything but hopeful.

“When the UK’s lockdown measures took effect, I had an impending sense of doom that I would not set foot in my hometown of Vietnam for a long time.”

“Home feels further away than ever, I miss the smell of my mother’s perfume when she hugs me and my father’s voice.

I have never had a feeling like this in my life” she recalls.

Kya decided to take up a challenge throughout lockdown to capture her life in lockdown, no matter how big or small the activity, she would log it through her photo gallery.

“I would take a picture each day of a singular activity or a snippet of my daily routine, it is the only thing in my life which I feel as though I have control over.”

The photos are simplistic yet powerful, ranging from her Facetiming her family to making her favourite Vermicelli dish.

“Me and my family exchange our everyday photographs with each other to feel a sense of connection to each other.

The accordionist

By Jacob Lyon

I got bored as most people did while stuck at home with nothing to do, so I thought let’s try something new? And then I bought an accordion.

Jordan looking down as he plays his red accordion with it's white flowing patterned engravings.
Jordan Partridge, engineering student, with his Galotta 48 Bass accordion

I must’ve seen an advert for one on Facebook Market place and thought, huh? This seems like an interesting instrument that’s pretty out there.

I’ve messed around on a piano a few times while my brother was learning to play, and my girlfriend studies music so since this talent seems to surround me then why not jump on board.

As far as niche instruments go, it’s certainly a conversation starter at the very least.

Picking up this new hobby meant I had to learn a little bit of music theory and the basics of sheet reading which I probably haven’t done since I was 13!

It was a challenge though, while you can quite easily find piano sheet music, you can’t find the accordion equivalent. It becomes a process of having to adapt what I can see from these piano sheets into the chords and melodies myself for the accordion.

I started with the basics of Row Row Row Row Boat and now just 2 months and a week later I’m learning whatever I like the sound of as well!

Jordan sitting in a park pictured with red brick houses while he holds a richer red accordion.
As I left, Jordan played me a sweet serenade to the tune of the Tetris theme.

Creating handmade cards with a ‘personal touch’

Sewing was a hobby that I sort of lost as a teenager but, lockdown helped me find my passion again.

Rachel Grady setup small business, Spider Plant Crafts in March 2020.

I started sewing again in the first lockdown because it was something that I really enjoyed doing when I was little. I then began making some of my designs into little cards to send to friends, who suggested I should start selling them. So, I thought why not? Let’s give it a go.

I never intended for it to be a business; it was initially just something for me to do, especially with college being closed and everything getting cancelled, it was nice to have something to fill my days.

Also, I was on a zero-hour contract prior to the pandemic, which meant I didn’t receive any furlough, so I didn’t have any money coming in either.

Receiving a personalised gift like one of my cards, means a lot more at the minute especially because people can’t see each other. It’s nice to send something a bit more personal and thoughtful, rather than just a text message.

The cards can be personalised by messaging @Spiderplantcrafts on Instagram.

It’s not been easy setting up a business during a pandemic but, people have been really supportive, and everyone has wanted to help by either sharing my posts or sending them to their family and friends.

The feedback I have received and the response I’ve got from people has been amazing. I’ll definitely be carrying on with the business even though the lockdown restrictions are now beginning to ease.

Mastering the Rubik’s cube

By India Rose

I graduated my dance degree with a first, and then took a leap into an industry that was collapsing.

Maddy Kirk decided that lockdown was the best time to learn a new skill.

Our final year performance was coming, we had all been working towards this moment since first year, and just like that, it was yanked from beneath us.

We had no choice but to resort to online, and the missed opportunity of a live performance had hurt.

I was lucky enough to have been furloughed from my bar job, and grateful that I was able to stay in Leeds, pay my rent and even save up a little.

I’ve been trying to make light of the situation that I am in, as I know that we are all in the same boat.

I began volunteering for a homeless charity in my spare time, and even mastered the Rubik’s cube.

It’s a great party trick, I can complete it in just two minuets now, it’s entertaining, although back when it took me longer, people would often be snoozing by the end.

It’s very therapeutic and it was great to have that feeling of accomplishment. Sometimes, it’s the little things in life that make the most difference.  

The feminist campaigner

By Georgia Spence

Horrified by the ongoing issues women face, one student turned a university project into a feminist campaign.

Kerry Eakins, 22, works with lino printing to normalise the natural female body.

Lockdown was a time of reflection for everyone. I was a second year student when the pandemic began and this ‘pause’ allowed me to analyse my time as a woman at university.

I looked back at my time in clubs when men would leer or not take no for an answer, only leaving you alone when you claimed to have a boyfriend. Increased time on social media was also an eye-opener. Women are shamed for celebrating their own bodies, by men who will later consume hours of porn.

I realised that women are a man’s commodity – something to be used and looked at rather than respected. This is when my project was born.

As a graphic design student, I wanted to create pieces of art that celebrated women’s over-sexualised bodies. I took nude images of women who wanted to normalise the natural form and destroy the ‘male gaze’ and began printing the images in lino and stickers.

This university work expanded and through lockdown on our daily walks, I posted the stickers on advertisement boards across Hyde Park. They gained traction and I saw them being posted on social media accounts.

I decided to create a campaign: ‘Fu** ur male gaze’. I will be selling bags and t-shirts on Etsy in which the proceeds will go to feminist charities such as Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement (SWARM). Art normalising the natural female form will be popping up around Leeds and my brand ‘Fu** ur male gaze’ will be printed in Headingley’s alley known for sexual harassment.

When Sarah Everard was murdered, it was a further example of the lengths that we as women are going to have to go to in order to achieve equality and respect. I hope my campaign will help to do this.