Artist Hwa Young Jung on revisiting her Take Care St Helens project during COVID and reimagining new futures.
Around this time last year I had a market stall in Church Square, asking people to suggest spaces of care in St Helens (both formal spaces, for example support services, and informal spaces such as cafes and shops). It was also a great chance to talk about the meaning of care, who receives it and why. These conversations conducted over 4 months formed the Take Care St Helens map, officially launched at Heart of Glass' arts festival for mental health Madlove Take Over in the former Argos store (Nov 2019) and featured in Wetherspoons News (March 2020).
Seven months into the pandemic, the days of sharing stories over a brew and a biccy seem like a distant dream.
Seven months into the pandemic, the days of sharing stories over a brew and a biccy seem like a distant dream. During this time we’ve seen a lot of suffering, disproportionately amongst the more vulnerable in our society. On the flip side, we’ve given and received tremendous acts of generosity, support, mutual aid and care for those around us.
That heady period of constantly adjusting to new norms or waiting for things to ‘blow over’ has given way to accepting we are in this for the long haul. Accepting this is the new reality gives me comfort, because we can imagine a new future, without spending effort to ‘go back’. Instead we can shape the new normal - to be fairer, equitable, better for as many of us. Could we do it from a place of care?
When we choose care, we are actively rejecting fear, opening ourselves up to the possibility to be hurt.
I see care as a deliberate act. It is a ‘choice to connect - to find ourselves in the other’ as bell hooks says in her musings about love. When we choose care, we are actively rejecting fear, opening ourselves up to the possibility to be hurt. Choosing to be vulnerable, to consciously take part in society through care gives us agency about the future when the blueprint for ‘normality’ has gone out the window.
Acting with care means taking care of the people around us, but also holding to account the people we have trusted and given consent to look out for us. This means examining the structures we have in place through a lens of care. And if they are not doing this, knowing we have the power to change it.