Four Huge Billboards;

One of the first things I witnessed after the official lockdown broadcast, was the forming and pasting of ‘Our Super Heroes We Love You’ on four huge bill-boards outside of my Leeds bedroom window. These boards are on the other side of the street but face inwards, so that from any angle in my bedroom I glimpse the Capital letters, designed by Morag Myerscough for Posters for the People[1], all of the words are bright stripes of support, declaration and love for our frontline workers. Strips of yellow, pink and orange combined with sunlight coat my room in awe and continue to remind me. 

The View From my Windowsill, by Author, May 2020.

Here in Hyde Park, Leeds, things have changed. The hubbub of student life has been replaced for something more sinister. Masks and gloves now tread cautiously around stacks of booze in One Stop. 

No more shuffling into a crowded Royal Park Pub or nipping to Crispy for a cheap midnight snack. 

Reality has changed.

Billboard Takeovers, FYI, In Good Company and Morag Myerscough, May 2020. 

Still living in my student house often lulls me into a false sense of security. These are the rooms that used to house my flatmates, these are the stairs we ran up and down to get to university on time or to get ready for a night out in the city centre. The only drastic inside change is the noticeable absence of my house mates. Day to day, I could forget the monstrosity of this situation as my house is near-to the same. But those strips of colour, tinting my carpet, my duvet and clothes rack, remind me. 

I keep writing and writing to remember the days. There will be many stories like mine, gushing with nostalgia and fuelled by the indefinite future we have been dealt. But something else has changed. 

Sans – Audience, by Author, May 2020.

University, as we know it,has been swept from under our feet. Our third (some people’s fourth) and final year of University has vanished. No longer will we devour copious amounts of hummus and sit close to our friends in our last summer of Hyde Park. We can no longer be excited for the night’s plans of a BBQ with friends once it’s too chilly to sit in sundresses and shorts. I know I wasn’t the only one looking forward to spending my days in the Fine Art studios. To really get stuck into producing, making, spending more time together as a year group and realising our ideas for what we thought would be our degree show ‘Simmer’. I was even looking forward to biting our technician Pete Morton’s ear off over A/V equipment, possibly,even the helpful-sarcastic remarks I would get in return. 

GIRL-ISH IS SCREAMING, by Author, January 2020. Audio-visual still. 

These days, I no longer walk to university, or sit on the grass, or walk through the hushed halls at midnight with a cup of coffee before a deadline. I miss the 24hr access! Now, I spend my time in the park walking or running, but not stopping! Evermore aware of the people around me, wandering and wondering about their lives. Are they safe at home? How close are their loved ones? Are they able to be productive? What does life look like to them now? Are they hopeful this will end soon? I’m sure those who have returned to their family homes may still hold sweet memories of sun-kissed Hyde Park days but now, for me, the park holds a new bitter-sweet resonance…to get to the park, I pass the four bill-boards.They remind me. 

FYI, In Good Company and Morag Myerscough, Billboard Takeovers, 2020. 

Establishing a home-environment to work in has been testing, strange. My garden poses as a difficult distraction. Productivity comes and goes. Drinking tea and coffee remains above the average dose. My practice is predominately text based, from this writing I compose audio and performance works. This means my ‘artist’ life hasn’t really changed, you’d usually find me propped up on a high stool on the second floor of the school, typing away anyway. When no words came, from there I used to gaze and gaze upon red-brick rooftops smoke-worn and hazy, lining the outskirts of our campus. Golden hour luminous on my studio desk as the hours kept ticking by, finally taken over by smoky sunsets masking the studio in a pink-ish glow. 

GIRL-ISH IS SCREAMIN, by Author, January 2020. Performance still. 

My practice attempts to tell stories. I started exploring live performance this year at university and I miss it. I miss the heat of the floor lamps on my face as I delivered narratives through verse and movement to people watching. I miss the absurdity of peeling carrots in front of an audience and the dialogue the peeling noises created. Now performance space holds a new significance. It has been challenging to recreate physical immediacy as there are only screens staring back at me. But I have learned to tackle the digital or (rather shyly at first) pick up a mic and perform in my back garden. Poor neighbours. I miss chatting to peers in the studio and getting second opinions readily and daily, however I am constantly overwhelmed by how much support we are giving each other at this time. Emails and ‘Team’ video meetings are constant and helpful. Tutorials with tutors are still engaging. 

Sans- Audience, by Author, May 2020.

I keep writing and writing to remember the days. I find stories in everything.

Doreen Massey suggests: ‘Perhaps we could imagine space as a simultaneity of stories-so-far’.[2]This quote stays with me as I try to navigate narrative space in my home-studio. This quote stays with meas I write stories about my life in this circumstance, as you may be doing too. 

I write stories in my bedroom where strips of pink and green light lick my keyboard and fingertips. Those coloured words ‘Our Super Heroes We Love You’, glinting on my window-sill, remind me.

Remind me to be thankful. Remind me to find colour in the daily dance of home-life. Remind me our front-liners are saving lives. Remind me to not always trust the news. Remind me that it’s OK not to be as productive today. Remind me to call my loved ones. Remind me to get on with work. Remind me to go outside once a day (as per the rules).

Our Superheroes, We Love You, FYI, In Good Company and Morag Myerscough, May 2020.

These words are hoisted high and pasted across the UK to remind us that we are in this together. 

Four huge bill-boards outside of my Leeds bedroom window remind me there are still stories to be told.

By Olivia Tess Russell

[1]Morag Myerscough Billboard Takeover, Leeds, The installation is part of #PostersforthePeople — an initiative created by Laura Wellington of street art project @ingoodcompanyleeds in collaboration with renowned artists from across the U.K. 

[2]Massey, Doreen, ‘For Space’, p. 9.

#Days in Lockdown

By Olivia Savage

My practise revolves largely around notions of the inner self, whether that concern lies with myself or my viewer varies with each artwork. My time as a student in Leeds came to a very abrupt end on Monday, 16th March 2020. 

In England, the PM gave his first of what became daily press conferences, explaining the severity that was becoming of COVID-19. This prompted the chief minister of my home on the Isle of Man to do the same. The news from my home was that in a very short amount of time I would either not be allowed back to the island at all, where my parents and partner live, or there would be a lot of complications in coming home, in attempt to prevent the spread of the virus. 

In less than two hours of this news being released, I had booked myself on the next boat home and by 6pm on Tuesday, 17th March, I was in my house with my partner, my parents and my dogs. A lot of what were normal aspects of my life have altered since coming home. My step-dad is 71 years old and is considered “vulnerable” to getting coronavirus, so we have had to be extra cautious in terms of contact with public spaces and other people to keep him safe. 

Although I am back home now, my degree is going ahead and I am having to adjust to a totally new workspace, a lack of contact with students on my course and my tutors, and a new range of, and limited access to materials to use in my practise. As well as the above, I experience anxiety in my life without a pandemic being thrown into the mix, so adjusting to a new routine, new forms of pressure and stress, new restrictions and so on, has not always been easy to deal with.

I started producing pieces of writing each day since the island went on official lockdown and closed its borders. I do not intend to document the situation in any form. I do not intend for these pieces of work to be “read”.

They exist as demonstrations of my inner self during this crisis. They are visuals, each word expressing an emotion in its sound and display. The words on the page are often sporadic, thoughts that are floating in a blank space. Not one following from another, existing separately and all at once. 

They are my release.

Writing and Images by Olivia Savage

Degree Show, Revolution and Renaissance

Final year BA Fine Art student Kathleen Lagan announces the exciting plans for this year’s Degree Show, taking place in the virtual realm in June.

“In the present uncertainty and turbulence, the construction of a traditional, physical exhibition is no longer possible and we are unable to host our BA Fine Art Degree Show — Simmer — in our School.

“Social distancing and the ban on public gatherings seems a death sentence to the art world, and it has been hard for all of us not to be defeatist.

“However, as one door closes, another opens — and in true artistic revolutionary style we are presented with a unique opportunity: a digital door into a contemporary art renaissance.

“We — 63 fine art students at the University of Leeds — are taking charge of our final year show. The vast, intimate online world beckons and we intend to expand into its limitless space, unhindered by normal scholastic boundaries.

“In place of a traditional degree show, together we will conceptualise, curate and create an online interactive ‘degree e-vent’. We are developing a web platform through which we will display artists’ work in their own curated ‘rooms’.

“Works originally designed for the physical world now suspended in a digital realm — a two-week event, launching on 5 June.

Natalie whitney draw on me 2020 installation 2 5 x 2m

Natalie Whitney, Draw on Me, 2020. Installation, 2 5 x 2m

“Half of the fun will be witnessing our artistic actions and reactions to the circumstances of Covid-19 in the lead-up to our radical cyber-show. To be able to see how our final year students have had to adapt to isolation, home studios and witness the transformations of each individuals’ practice under quarantine — a novel experience.

“So we ask you to join us — on InstagramFacebook and Twitter — and follow our unconventional and unprecedented journey to our final online destination.

“Our new website — our archive of and homage to our temporal dissonance — charts our progress and, when the time comes, will offer a portal into our digital degree e-vent.

“Visit to dip in to the ongoing work of this year’s graduating artists, keep up to date with us on our blog and tune in to interviews with the artists in our Simmer Sundays series.Georgina Davis, Layers , 2020. Photogram collage, masking tape, cardboard, 30cm X 20cm.

Georgina Davis, Layers, 2020. Photogram collage, masking tape, cardboard, 30cm X 20cm.

“We hope to have a physical version of our degree show in a gallery space independently at a later date. But for now please embrace our new digital forms with us, as they simmer away under the surface of quarantine.

“Let it rise to the surface.
Show itself to the world in a state of disposition.
Let it rest, burn, destroy, simmer.”

Feature image

Lily Thomson, Infinite Drawing, March, 2020. Digital tessellation of a drawing with bleach on blue ink, ‘no size/infinite size’.

Simmer Sundays showcases work by graduating artists on YouTube

Screenshot of Simmer Sundays interview with Molly Higgins

Sarah Larby writes about the thinking behind Simmer Sundays, a new initiative launched by the social media team for this year’s BA Fine Art Degree Show:

Every Sunday, a new artist interview will be shared on our Simmer YouTube account and Instagram’s IGTV, as a teaser to promote not only our upcoming degree show but also all the amazing work of final year BA Fine Art students.

The artist interview project — Simmer Sundays — is spearheaded by one of my fellow students Molly Higgins, a fourth-year undergraduate artist with an interest in film and video editing, with support from our social media team at Simmer.

Each interview contains images and videos of the selected artist’s work (past and present), audio of the artist describing their practice and a glimpse into each artist’s working methods and environment.

Molly Higgins’ inspiration for this initiative came from TateShots: a video series on the Tate’s social media platform which explores artists’ practices in a more inquisitive and engaging way. Molly said:

“There has been a positive response to the project so far, especially from the public it has reached. I believe this is because the interview format has helped make the art readily accessible.

“Unfortunately we could not conduct all the interviews in our studios in the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies before the country went into lockdown. All the videos offer a way to take a behind-the-scenes look at artists in their various studio spaces which have drastically changed due to world events.”

In the midst of the current Covid-19 pandemic, people have been reaching out to the rest of the world through virtual space, therefore accessibility to a wider audience is critical. Molly said:

“Hopefully with these videos, we can expand our audience outside of the university sphere and reach new individuals with a keen interest in art. Particularly at this point in time, with the current social distancing measures, it has become more important than ever for artists to engage in the digital sphere and become the forefront of the rapidly changing art world.”

While our Instagram platform is already sharing images of this year’s graduating artists’ work, the new video format can delve deeper into each individual artist’s practice and give more of an insight into how they are working in their home studio environment right now.

Screenshots from Conversation of a Line: Hair Shirt (2019), Two Channel Video by Molly Higgins

The first artist video was shared on YouTube on Sunday 5 March, and featured Molly Higgins herself as the subject. Molly’s practice is heavily embedded in the digital sphere and the moving image, and she is interested in the politics behind authentically representing individuals within video. She said of her work and the wider project:

“I have found working on this initative to be very reflective of my own interests. In my second year, I helped edit a documentary for a society I was involved with, Women For Women International. This short documentary was about intersectional feminism and explored certain international women’s experience within the University of Leeds.

“It was from this experience that I realised that I have a passion for editing, in particular exploring how to authentically represent individuals within video in the context of how every film-cut made is political.

“This political nature of editing places a great deal of responsibility on the shoulders of the editor. In light of this, I feel very honoured that people trust me to edit and represent them on our YouTube platform.”
If you want to find out more about Molly Higgins’ work, her video can be seen here on YouTube.

To catch more of the artist interviews in the Simmer Sundays series, subscribe to our Simmer’s YouTube account.

The Simmer social media team — comprised of students Amy Myhill, Kathleen Lagan, Meri Croft, Victoria Shaw and me (Sarah Larby) — will be sharing final year artists’ work on a range of other platforms in the lead up to the Degree Show including InstagramFacebook and Twitter.


Screenshots from Molly Higgins’ Simmer Sundays interview, 5 April 2020

Showcasing our work on social media

Work by Henry McAlpine and Sarah Larby

With events cancelled or postponed for the foreseeable future, we are taking to the internet to showcase our work.

Erin Shields reflects on the lead up to Simmer in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic:

We are existing in a supressed state, a constant fear of going over the edge.
Overwhelmed by the existential and the mundane.
A never-ending condition which must be negotiated.
Release is only temporary.
We return to the calm.
It allows us to reach for air and become submerged again and again.
Beyond, within, against.
It builds.
The pressure of heat.
The whisper of thought.
The intention.
A meaning. An interpretation.
The feeling. Belief. Balance. Conclusion.
The world resides on a hinge.
We must feel, play, push, face, build, wear, stamp, destroy it ourselves.
Momentum never stops.
There is no answer, movement or solution.
It is agitated.
Let it rise to the surface. Show itself to the world in a state of disposition.
Let it rest, burn, destroy, simmer.

This is the blurb that was written for our BA Fine Art Degree Show Simmer which we were due to share with you in the coming weeks. It all seems rather fitting now.

The likelihood of our degree show taking place in a physical space now hangs in the balance. As you can imagine, we have all been working up to this culminating point over the three to four years of our degrees so rather than cancelling our show, we have had discussions with our university, faculty and staff to decide how we are going to move forward with Simmer.

We have been working collectively as a group to come up with innovative and creative ways to present our work, and we are excited to share all our ideas with you in the coming weeks as they begin to take shape.

In the meantime, we are using our social media channels to help lift the spirits of all those isolating and social distancing by sharing images of work by our talented artistic cohort and our new studio spaces. We will share stories of how we are all working to stay positive and creative through these unusual times.

Follow us on @simmer.leeds on InstagramTwitter and Facebook and YouTube or keep an eye on our School website for updates and articles about our work.

Please look after yourselves and we hope you will enjoy engaging with Simmer in its new forms over the coming weeks.


From left: work by Henry McAlpine and Sarah Larby