In Spring 2021, LeftCoast were invited by Groundwork Cheshire, Lancashire & Merseyside and Arts Council England to create a project that would directly and regularly engage with isolated, digitally excluded elderly people living in Blackpool.
For many people, the transition out of lockdown and the gradual lifting of restrictions will bring the longed-for opportunities to see friends and family, to get back to the shops, to work, and to doing many of the things we liked to do before. But for some of us, particularly those who have been shielding because of their age, or because of a medical condition that could make them vulnerable to the Coronavirus, the adjustment back to real life might not be as straight forward. For some, the end of lockdown might be as hard as the start was.
We were keen to create something joyful that would provide gentle support to Blackpool’s most socially isolated and encourage fresh opportunities for real connection and meaningful interaction with others to help people, once again, feel part of the communities that they have been physically excluded from for much of the last year.
Working with Creative Director and Writer, Alex O’Toole, we developed the idea of a beautiful limited-edition, accessibly designed newspaper called The Upside, to be hand-delivered to residents by a group of volunteer ‘Upsiders’ via LeftCoast’s SOS Rescue Ship as part of a series of neighbourhood ‘curtain-twitching’ events across Blackpool during April – June 2021.
As well as featuring mood lifting news and stories from neighbours, life shifting support and advice from local organisations and time twisting creating challenges, each edition of The Upside also includes a sequence of beautiful, original artworks from artist and illustrator, Cait McEniff, which translate the phased return to life beyond lockdown and elevate the design of the newspaper.
Alongside Cait, and Alex, we also commissioned Steve Fairclough as Field Reporter to draw out stories from the community; designer, Nick Steel, to develop the newspaper’s visual look and feel; and photographer, Claire Griffiths, to capture residents in their homes and gardens, with careful social distancing measures in place.
And because we knew that many of our readers were likely to be visually impaired and may also have lost some dexterity due to age (and being cooped up inside their homes throughout lockdown), we made sure that every aspect of the newspaper was designed to be as accessible as possible. From the format, layout, colourways, font type and size choices, to the method of distribution and the choice of access options.
If you don’t manage to pick up a physical copy from one of our community partner venues, you can now read the first two editions online:
Read The Upside Issue 1
Read The Upside Issue 2
Check back soon to listen to a talking version of The Upside.