So, everyone is now in isolation, only going out for essential supplies and one government-mandated walk per day. It’s now even harder for PhD students to get away from their studies and relax. Giles Penman offers a possible solution to the seemingly unending loneliness.
As I sit writing this post, it is the end of the second week of ‘lockdown’ in the United Kingdom. Schools and universities have closed. Shops, restaurants, gyms and cinemas have shut their doors. And, we are left with our research, but with otherwise nothing to fill the interminable period until we are let outside again. Yes, we could all just focus and use this time to write chapters of our theses, if nothing else to distract from the bleak reality of the present public health emergency. This, of course, is a very sound plan, and a useful activity. But, is there anything else we could be doing to relieve the isolation?
I think I have found a solution. I am a member of a choir based in the West Midlands called ‘Pop Voices’, which specializes in performing choral arrangements of pop songs and has weekly practices across the region. I have really enjoyed singing with the other members, and leave every session feeling uplifted and refreshed, loneliness but a distant memory, ready to tackle the next research assignment. I have also gained a whole group of new friends, who love singing together.
However, the outbreak of COVID-19, and the social distancing regulations needed to beat it, have meant that we can’t meet in person as a group. This was a real blow for me! As a PhD student, I’m often studying by myself without the opportunity to chat to anyone. And so, not being able to meet with my fellow choristers, or ‘Poppers’ as we call ourselves, was very disappointing. Suddenly, I felt very alone without the opportunity to sing with my friends in the choir.
But, all was not lost! By the ingenuity of our director and choir-mistress, Anya, and her assistant, Sarah, we are back singing again, except this time online. Anya and Sarah have organised meetings on Zoom. We all connect to see and hear Anya and Sarah teach us the individual choral parts of some of the best pop songs ever written, such as ‘Mamma Mia’ by ABBA and ‘The Show Must Go On!’ by Queen. We are now a virtual choir! Unfortunately, Zoom won’t allow us to hear each other coherently, so I might be singing the wrong notes without knowing it (Sorry Anya!). However, crucially we can see each other, and feel as though we are singing together as a choir once again. We even had an 80s themed singalong together last week. We donned our best 80s wigs, legwarmers and multi-coloured sunglasses and performed and danced to songs like ‘Gold’ by Spandau Ballet, and ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’ by Cindy Lauper. We had a wonderful time singing the upbeat pop hits of the 80s. For me personally, these sessions have been a great tonic. The stress, tension and anxiety of this uncertain term inside my flat has slipped away. My loneliness has evaporated, and I am very happy. I may be singing out-of-tune but I’m having a blast doing it!
At this difficult time, singing has helped me to conquer the inexorable weight of lockdown isolation. Maybe, it could do the same for you.
Are you feeling isolated during the COVID-19 outbreak? What are some of activities you are doing to stay connected at this time? Tweet us at @ResearchEx, email us at email@example.com, or leave a comment below
Giles Penman is a PhD researcher supervised by the the Classics and History Departments at the University of Warwick. His research concerns the roles and audiences of ancient imagery on British civic cultural artefacts of the Great War. He has a background in Classics, Archaeology and Numismatics.