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Coping With Covid – Laois artist explores how people are managing the pandemic

Betty O'Brien, Lorcan Fitzpatrick and Trudy Nealon
Betty O'Brien, Lorcan Fitzpatrick and Trudy Nealon

In 2020 when the pandemic first began, Laois artist Annie Holland set out to create a new body of work titled ‘Coping with Covid’.

The previous year, the same artists worked on ‘Children of the Free State’ which was an artistic perspective on the disappearing way of rural Irish life in the 21st Century.

This culminated in a photographic series of portraits of elderly, rural people accompanied by a short film in Summer 2020 at Dunamaise Arts Centre – which was held virtually.

And now this project sees Annie re-engage with the very same participants from her ‘Children of the Free State’ project.

Since March 2020 all day care centres at nursing units throughout Laois have been closed.

For those living in rural isolation, many too old to drive anymore and some without children living nearby, the invaluable social outlet of the day care centre has been temporarily closed to them as a safeguarding measure for their own protection.

Initially, Annie began this project as a means to re-engage with the elderly and provide them with a platform to voice their worries and concerns.

The ‘Coping with Covid’ initiative also includes an urban slant and Annie has met and interviewed members of the Portlaoise Active Retirement Group who spoke about their loneliness and frustration during this time of physical and social isolation.

The Group spoke highly of the support and assistance they have received from Laois Sports Partnership since March 2020 and the subsequent Covid-19 challenges.

Annie accompanied Portlaoise Active Retirement Group members out walking and was impressed by their positivity.

She said: “I am impressed with their friendly positive outlook and their commitment to enhance well-being and mobility.

“Even when people can’t meet up in person Laois Sports Partnership continues to help by facilitating online support though Zoom at least twice weekly and supplying well-being manuals and exercise DVD’s.”

As 2020 progressed it became obvious that Covid-19 was taking its toll on all ages in society and in particular young people were missing out on quite a number of rites of passage.

Access to education socialising in pods, mask wearing and home-schooling have become isolating experiences for many teenagers.

The constant worry that they might transmit Covid-19 to an older family member whilst also being mindful to look after their own mental health.

Annie said: “In order to document the diversity of Covid-19 impacts, I have extended the remit of the “Coping with Covid” project to include participants of all ages and from all backgrounds to explore and capture how all of our society is coping during this strange period in our history.”

“Coping with Covid”, a participatory arts project will culminate in a visual document.

This will involve a short film and series of photographic portraits, documenting first-hand accounts (positive and negative) of people in Laois living within this pandemic.

And Annie says that it isn’t too late to contribute to it either.

She said: “If you have a story that you would like to share please contact Annie at annie@anniehollandart.com.”

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