Story ten –
‘Individualism,’ writes a pre-COVID School of Life, ‘has made us sick; our consolation lies in a culture that properly respects the notion of dependence’, arguing that we would do so much better to focus on how we benefit through the efforts of others. As example, it shines an admiring light on 5th century BC Athens, on a time when, under Pericles, collective – and not individual – achievement was what really mattered.
It’s exactly this notion of dependence that underwrites In Good Company’s Posters for the People campaign, a British initiative that surfs the outpouring of support for the National Health System, and which has since the first week of lockdown seen artist’s posters of gratitude take over giant billboard sites the length and breadth of Leeds. The irony – an art dedicated to dependence occupying sites usually dedicated to individualism – apparently a step too far for the (unnamed) corporations approached for help, Posters for the People is a strictly indie-public venture, the coming together of Leeds City Council and a bunch of likeminded creatives, and is much better off for it, the ‘joy, art and colour’ it brings to the streets unsullied by logo or product or sponsor. It is what it is: a poster saying thank you, from the dependent us, to an institution we love.
This is marvellous. The pandemic its catalyst, we are beginning to feel the meaning of the civic fellowship as advocated by School of Life. Today the NHS, tomorrow the air we breathe, the food we eat, the quality of our homes and public spaces. The culture if dependence is upon us. And none too soon. Here’s to a truly collective future.
Words by Adam Scott and Dave Waddell
Illustration Jessica Watson
The historian Peter Hennessy recently observed that future historians will divide post-divide society into BC and AC – Before COVID and After COVID. It is in exactly this spirit that AfterCOVID seeks to celebrate how the world’s largest shared experience has given us the most extraordinary stories of what it means to live beautifully. Together, they are the clues to creating the future we all hope for.
FreeState is planning for a post-COVID future. Share your story with us – really, we’d love to talk. In the meantime, stay well.