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Coronavirus: Running a campaign from home in lockdown

Ava Roberts with her family’s plastic waste Image copyright Everyday Plastic/Andrew Roberts
Image caption Ava Roberts and her family got involved with Everyday Plastic's virtual workshops

With people stuck at home, you might think the traditional notion of a protest is impossible. But campaigners and supporters are still eager to further their causes and fight for what they believe in during lockdown.

'Starting a campaign from my bedroom'

Image copyright Sioned Freer
Image caption Sioned Freer said knowing the campaign has reached so may people "has been a little unreal"

During lockdown we have had time to "fight for our rights", said Sioned Freer, who started a student rent strike from her bedroom.

The campaign, against students having to pay full rent if they left their accommodation in Plymouth, began as a 20-member Facebook page and has amassed 750 supporters.

Despite the campaign being "frustrating at times", the masters student said: "I've had so much time to dedicate to the campaign that I wouldn't have had otherwise - and other people have had more time to interact with it.

"Now that people aren't exhausted from working all day we have the time to actually get involved with these causes.

"Sometimes it's difficult to gauge how much difference we're making from my bedroom - despite that, I think it's been a mainly positive experience."

The students have worked with unions and local organisations, met national rent strikers from other universities to discuss tactics and campaign strategies, and contacted MPs for support.

"We have activists, legal students, media students and people who've never been involved in a campaign like this before all working together to make this thing work," added the 26-year-old.

As a result of the campaign, university-owned halls have cancelled rent, along with a few of the purpose-built student accommodation blocks.

"Sometimes when I have a bad day engaging with the campaign, I think about the 750 people who are behind me on this and it's really empowering."

'This wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for lockdown'

Image copyright Everyday Plastic
Image caption Almost 100 households took part in the recent online project

"Lockdown has enabled us to take the project even further," said Dan Webb from Everyday Plastic, who has been running Zoom project workshops to highlight the plastic problem.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, he had been taking the project into schools and organisations in Kent, but since lockdown his project has reached a worldwide following.

Members collect all the plastic they use in a week, categorise and record it and then Dan calculates their plastic footprint, and the lockdown version has seen double the number of people participating.

"This wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for lockdown - we would never have thought to do it with 100 people at once," he said.

"The coronavirus [pandemic] has helped develop it as a new model as well, I've done a lot of work to adapt it for this situation so it's easy for people to do.

"I want to ensure the plastic problem remains on the agenda during the lockdown period and beyond it."

Andy Roberts and his family, including six-year-old daughter Ava, said the experience of getting involved in the project had been an "eye-opener".

"I think the lockdown presented an opportunity for Dan as a way that we could all be online together - it probably wouldn't have happened if everyone hadn't been at home."

Decorating streets 'sparks imagination'

Image copyright Lucia Whittaker
Image caption Lucia Whittaker decorated her garden with origami boats to mark a protest anniversary

Extinction Rebellion supporters have been getting involved in a Paint the Streets campaign during lockdown by adorning pavements, roads, houses and their gardens.

Decorating the streets "is an easy, accessible and beautiful way" to spread messages and "spark imagination", said activist Lucia Whittaker.

The climate campaigner from Derby decorated her garden with colourful origami boats to mark the anniversary of Extinction Rebellion's protest in April 2019, when rebels parked a pink boat in Oxford Circus.

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She also chalked a thought-provoking quote by Richard Powers outside her local park which she hoped made "people look at the trees a little differently on their daily walk".

Edward Pickering-Symes, from Extinction Rebellion Derby, said: "The protest is a loving and uplifting way of showing another world is possible and for people to call out this message visually to their neighbours."

Image copyright Mair Perkins
Image caption Mair Perkins has turned her fence into a canvas for the #PaintTheStreets campaign

Mair Perkins, who painted bees and vines along her fence, said the campaign was "all about creativity, community spirit and envisaging a better, more nature-filled future all while staying within the social distancing guidelines".

She plans to paint more of her fence as the flowers in her garden grow and document the re-wilding process.

Similarly, fellow Extinction Rebellion volunteers are making wind turbines and wind spinners and hanging them outside their homes as part of the Winds of Change campaign.

Community activist Shelley Castle said she hoped the activity "will bring an uplifting message of hope for positive changes post Covid-19".

'A sense of cohesion even though we are cut off'

Image copyright London City Voices
Image caption Richard Swan said "we want to help women and children who may be struggling"

"Although we are all separated from each other at this time, we really wanted to come together to do something positive in the crisis," said London City Voices director Richard Swan.

The community choir got together online to sing You've Got a Friend by Carole King to support survivors of domestic abuse and raise funds for Women's Aid.

The 276 members of the London-based choir recorded the performance and raised more than £70,000 for the charity's live chat service, which has seen a 41% increase in demand since lockdown began.

Choir member Dinah Tobias said: "It has given the choir a sense of cohesion even though we are so cut off physically, to know that we are doing something to help others whilst being so proud of the sound we make as a virtual choir."

Women's Aid also created a video showing the empty streets in lockdown and how dangerous home can be for some people.

Beating the plastic polluters

Image copyright Richie Graham
Image caption Surfers Against Sewage has been running campaigns during lockdown to expose plastic polluters

Surfers Against Sewage has been exposing plastic polluters with their #ReturnToOffender campaign during lockdown.

Activists have been taking pictures of plastic litter during their daily exercise and sharing it on social media to challenge companies on what they are doing to combat their waste.

"We can't meet up with all of our volunteers, but we can empower our volunteers in other ways," said the charity's chief executive Hugo Tagholm.

"People at home might be disconnected, but this is an optimistic way to bring people together to campaign."

He emphasised the importance of digital activism in modern protesting and said sharing the campaign on social media had been "very effective".

Image copyright Beth Kirkby
Image caption Beth Kirkby shared her #WavesOfOptimism on Instagram

The marine conservation charity has also been finding ways for children to get involved during lockdown such as the #WavesOfOptimism campaign.

Children have been drawing waves and filling them with colours and marine wildlife, explained education manager Emily Van De Geer, and she hopes the launch of their online lessons will help young people "discover the power of their voice".

'A symbol of resilience and hope'

Image copyright Leila Bousbaa
Image caption The Climate Coalition supporters made green hearts for Earth Day

On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, on 22 April, green hearts appeared in windows across the country.

The Climate Coalition asked supporters to make a green heart to show that they believe in a cleaner, greener future.

"The heart is a symbol of resilience and hope that we can build back better," said campaigns executive Leila Bousbaa.

The organisation dedicated to action against climate change has also been running a "Vitamin N" campaign to help people get their daily dose of nature during lockdown.

Activities have included building a bug hotel on the doorstep, bird-watching and learning nature-themed yoga.

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