North East artists create 24-hour loneliness project

Published: 15 June 2020
Reporter: Peter Lathan

24 Hours in Isolation

Artists from across the North East join together to create 24 Hours in Isolation, a 24-hour project about loneliness.

Starting at midnight on 21 June, on the hour, every hour until 23:00, the project will release a micro-episode of no more than 3 minutes of music, spoken word or drama by one of 26 artists, including singer Beccy Owen, Journal Culture Award winner Jessica Johnson, Royal Court writer Mhairi Legerwood, Stand Comedy Club regular John Scott, broadcaster Viv Wiggins, award-winning poet Rachel Burns and BAFTA crew member Allison Davies.

Some of the episodes are pre-COVID—supermarket staff heading off for an early morning shift; nervous joggers circling parks; confused older people waiting for care workers; autistic children singing to themselves—and others—sports coaches losing their online audience, nurses pinning doves on the doors of dying patients, parents hiding from home-schooling and lonely neighbours having “just one more bottle of wine”—are set during the pandemic.

Individual episodes will be released on the 24 Hours in Isolation web site every hour or people will be able to listen to the full collection to be released as a single 45-minute collection on 25 June. Claire Tustin’s song One More Zoom, an anthem for 2020 with an epic lump-in-the-throat moment, and John Scott’s Nurse Story, a closely researched insight into the impact of working in intensive care, have been released early as a preview of the full collection.

Conceived by producer Ben Dickenson and poet Sky Hawkins, the project is a response to self-isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic and to the epidemic of loneliness that was already growing in British society before the virus arrived. A 2019 YouGov study found 53% of adults in the North East felt lonely.

Speaking about the inspiration for the project, Ben Dickenson said, “COVID-19 hit unexpectedly, bringing sickness and death but also separation and hardship. I was furloughed from my Executive Producer role with City of Dreams. As a creative with a social mission, having nothing to get up for was hard. Being cut off from my family was too. I talked to a lot of people who had it worse than me—nurses, parents, shop workers—we all had similar feelings. What stood out was that all of us had felt some kind of isolation before COVID arrived and not told anyone.”

“I was working on a project about women’s identity for the British Library and had to finish it in isolation,” Sky Hawkins added. “It was weird but I could get it done from home by using digital media. It's amazing how connected everyone is online now and how separate we are in reality. We wanted to take the digital tools creatives are using and do something different—bring people together through stories about how it feels to be apart.”

The episodes in 24 Hours in Isolation have been recorded by the creators or actors in their own homes, using whatever equipment they could find and with advice from sound supervisor Matt Tuckey. All artists are working without fee, as is the production team. As Dickenson puts it, “the queue to get involved was long. The commitment to tackling loneliness and working together during a tough time for the arts was inspirational.”

The artists would appreciate donations via the Acast web site.


12:00 When the kids are in bed (song) written/performed by Emily Wiseman

1:00 On the ventilator (drama) written/performed by Oli Welham

2:00 Mulberry House (I can’t sleep) (poem) written/performed by Rachel Burns

3:00 Cold air (song) written/performed by Lindsay Hannon and WHO benefits (poem) written/performed Viv Wiggins

4:00 We all wake up alone (spoken word) written/performed Tracey Tofield

5:00 Shop worker leaving for work (drama) written by Allison Davies, performed by Jessica Johnson

6:00 Joggers in the park (drama) written by Claire Tustin, performed by Steve Byron

7:00 Breakfast alone (song) written/performed by Beccy Owen

8:00 Good morning gabba (spoken word) written/performed by Don MacDonald

9:00 YouTube home fitness (drama) written Mhairi Legerwood, performed by Sarah Boulter

10:00 Another bloody Zoom meeting (song) written/performed by Claire Tustin

11:00 Home schooling (drama) written/performed by Kelly Rickard

12:00 Talking to my carer (drama) written/performed by Allison Davies

13:00 Nurse story part 1 (drama) written/performed by John Scott

14:00 Young, broke, on benefits (drama) written by Sky Hawkins, performed by Luke Maddison

15:00 Leaving school (song) written/performed by Emily Wiseman

16:00 Here we are now (spoken word) written/performed by Tracey Tofield and Nurse story part 2 (drama) written/performed by John Scott

17:00 6 feet apart at the supermarket (drama) written/performed by Oli Welham

18:00 Normal or now (drama) written/performed by Amy Mitchell and The watch party (drama) written Mhairi Legerwood, performed by Bob Nicholson

19:00 Little songs (drama) written by Rachel Burns, performed by Luke Maddison

20:00 I left without the money (drama) written/performed by Claire Tustin

21:00 Another bottle of wine (poem) written/performed by Viv Wiggins

22:00 Grief (the nurse) (poem) by Ben Dickenson

23:00 The comedian (spoken word) written/performed by John Scott

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