By Anna Woolman, Engagement Manager, British Science Association

With the British Science Festival in Chelmsford, hosted by Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) postponed until 2021, our work with Chelmsford Museum’s Chelmsford Creatives, a group of local 15-24 year olds who were working on a series of exciting events for the Festival, also had to be halted.

We’d worked closely with them and Sammy Oxford, coordinator of the Creatives, to develop some great events which, unfortunately, will no longer happen. However, we didn’t want that to be the end of the story for our partnership with the group.

Not least because, it was becoming all too apparent that young people were being significantly impacted by the pandemic. It felt wrong to cut ties with the Creatives at a time when their voices needed to be heard. So, we started considering alternatives…

…And we came up with ‘The Boredom Project’– a collaboration between the Creatives, ARU media researcher, Tina Kendall, Sammy and myself. Through a series of virtual workshops, Tina is inviting the Creatives to reflect on and creatively respond to their experiences of boredom during lockdown. There’s no steadfast idea of what the project will produce and we don’t yet know what all the outputs will be – but I think that just adds to why this project, and others like it, are so exciting and important.

After some time, we’re happy to be (virtually) meeting again and on this journey together.

Find out more about the project from the unique perspectives of Pat Lok (of the Chelmsford Creatives), Tina and Sammy:

Pat Lok – Chelmsford Creative

Pat Lok is part of the Chelmsford Creatives and a medical student studying at Anglia Ruskin University.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic spared most young people, we haven’t escaped one of the side effects that accompanied it: boredom. With travel restrictions and social distancing, most of my social routines changed and I’ve been limited to an arm's reach from home. Many have tried to navigate this new world with digital solutions, as evidenced by a boom in social media and online meeting software use – but social media fatigue is a very real potential consequence. To analyse how young people have been coping with boredom over the last few months, we’ve taken a deep dive into the digital content generated as a result of COVID-19 boredom.

A series of workshops, reflections and online research sessions into people's interpretations of boredom have brought in some refreshing insights within our group. Generally, 'boredom' has negative connotations attached to it, with a lot of my peers seeing it as the cause for the lack of motivation, productivity and low mood. However, a few of us regarded boredom as an opportunity – to slow down, practice mindfulness or try out new creative projects, which has in some ways been positive for our physical and mental health.

These workshops have generated some interesting discussions, helped us reflect on our lockdown experiences and created a sense of community during these strange times. I can't wait to see the final product of The Boredom Project!

Tina Kendall – Researcher

Tina Kendall is Principal Lecturer in Film & Media at Anglia Ruskin University. She is currently working on a book that investigates how feelings of boredom intersect with social media use.

This project evolved out of discussions Anna and I were having around my research into boredom and social media. In the first week of lockdown, Anna made a comment that it was an interesting time to be studying boredom, and this certainly chimed with me.

In the context of the global quarantines, boredom quickly emerged as a major preoccupation. Many worried about the mental health implications of having so much unstructured time at home. The Guardian even described the pandemic in early May 2020 as a ‘boom time for boredom’, with health and social organisations providing guidance and toolkits concerning how everyone - especially young people - should cope with boredom during lockdown.

I knew that Anna had been working with the Chelmsford Creatives prior to the lockdown, and along with Sammy, we began to discuss ways that we could involve the voices of young people in documenting and responding to this moment. A project developed to encourage the Creatives to reflect and respond creatively to the question: ‘How are young people coping with boredom during the COVID-19 lockdowns?’

Although media is more typically understood as a way to avoid boredom, with this project, we wanted to experiment with using social media as a set of tools for actively reflecting on the experience of feeling bored. In the first two workshops, we’ve been discussing how young people have been expressing boredom via social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram, and using social media as a space for them to reflect on their own experiences of boredom. Next workshop, we will be moving into the planning stages, and the Creatives will be deciding what shape the creative output will take. I can’t wait to see what they decide to produce – I already feel like I’ve gained such insight from our conversations but seeing the projects take shape will be amazing!

Sammy Oxford – Chelmsford Creatives Coordinator

Sammy Oxford coordinates the Chelmsford Creatives and is Outreach and Activity Officer at Chelmsford Museum.

In 2018, we developed Chelmsford Creatives to involve local young people as decision makers at the museum, improving how we represent the local community and elevate young voices. In the past Chelmsford Creatives have curated exhibitions, designed family events and produced community festivals, all made possible through generous funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

COVID-19 has affected every member of the collective in a different way, and it’s really important that the pandemic’s impact on young people as individuals isn’t lost through national debate and statistics. What has been clear from our first workshops, is that “boredom” has been a significant shared social experience of the pandemic. In the future, Chelmsford Museum will look back on this time and ask: ‘how did people cope?’, in the same way we do now with other turbulent moments in history.

This project gives the group an opportunity to engage directly with a leading researcher and local artists, as they reflect on the current and future impact of lockdowns, social distancing and boredom for young people. I’m really excited to see how they decide to creatively share their research and experiences as the project progresses.

Are you, or do you know, a 15-24 year old living in Essex?

We are looking for creative work by young people (aged 15-24) in Essex that reflects experiences of boredom during the COVID-19 pandemic.

THEMES: your boredom, your family/friend’s boredom, boredom & social media, the boredom economy, boredom & mental health, boredom & privilege.

Submit your poetry, art, photography, painting, short stories, non-fiction, comics, lyrics call-to-action, musings, doodles – anything we can put onto paper!

The zine will be available for free online and in print.

Submissions to [email protected] by 10 August 2020

A5 Size 1

2 pages max


Please include your name, age and town