Lockdown Unlocked

Posted On: 26/03/21

Digital Art Exhibition showcases the experiences of young people during lockdown

An art exhibition focussing on young people’s experiences of lockdown, organised by a young Colchester student, opens online this week after being forced to postpone last year due to lockdown.

Originally set to open at the Firstsite gallery in November 2020, the Lockdown Unlocked exhibition has been curated with artwork from the local and wider community, by 18-year-old Colchester student Freya Gascoyne, following a public open call for artworks created by 12–24-year-olds.

Currently in her final year of A levels at Colchester Royal Grammar school, studying Biology, Chemistry and Art, organiser Freya Gascoyne says: “We know that young people are likely to be the generation impacted the most due to Covid. This exhibition gives a fascinating insight into the lived experience of young people in Colchester and beyond, during three national lockdowns, showcased through an awesome variety of artworks.”

Initially set out to be a local open call, the exhibition is now composed of over 60 artworks – ranging from poetry and painting to digital art and videography – created by 45 different young people from across the UK and even India!

Freya added “I’ve tried to make the most of the flexibility provided by a virtual space. For example, giving artists the opportunity to curate their own wall in the gallery, providing an intimate local context for their artwork within the overall exhibition space. Many of the artworks are accompanied by short voice recordings from the artists about their feelings and experiences of the pandemic.”

“I hope visitors will come away from the exhibition amazed by the talent on display, and with a deeper understanding about what young people are going through just now.”


My original EPQ idea was to create a model of an exhibition – but as I researched this and developed my ideas, I realised that I may as well create a REAL exhibition that people can visit and be involved in. Researching possible locations, I decided to use my contacts with Firstsite (from their YAK group), to see whether something might be possible, and was delighted when they agreed to provide studio space for the event. I organised an open call for artworks to be submitted, back in October. This was initially intended as a local call for artworks but I received submissions from young artists across Essex, London, Wales and even India! The physical exhibition was due to take place in November 2020 but was unfortunately cancelled due to lockdown.

With another lockdown since then, I made the decision to convert the exhibition with all the artworks, online. I found the software ‘ArtSteps’ – which allows you to place walls in any arrangement you want, and used this to design a ‘dream’ gallery space, completely separate to the Firstsite space. Inspired by the themes that emerged in the artworks, I chose to create a circular gallery space to help craft a narrative and guide viewers around the exhibition – something that I haven’t seen anywhere else before.

When switching to an online event, I had the opportunity to decide whether for this to be stand alone or still in partnership with Firstsite – and decided that the extra contacts and weight of Firstsite would be beneficial, so I drafted press releases for their approval. On reflection, it may be hard to tell whether this is a Firstsite event or not, but the aim of the event was to provide as big a platform as possible for young people to express their experiences – and this has definitely enabled that to happen. I am proud that an organisation such as Firstsite has felt that the event was sufficiently professional, for them to be so closely associated with it.

When I discovered that I’d been given a Jack Petchey Achievement Award, I decided that this was an opportunity to further spread the benefits by fundraising for The Mix charity (that supports young people aged 13-25 with their mental health). After contacting them re. forming a partnership, I developed merchandise (with the young people support group I created – YEET) with all proceeds donated to The Mix. This is available on our Instagram page (@lockdown.exhibition).

I hope this provides a better insight into the organisation of the exhibition.

 -Freya Gascoyne



Stuart Tulloch, Firstsite’s Head of Programme says: We are delighted to be involved in this exhibition. Whilst it was disappointing that we could not hold a physical event, Lockdown Unlocked has been thoughtfully curated and provides a powerful and moving perspective on the Covid crisis from the viewpoint of young people.”

The exhibition has partnered with UK charity - The Mix (which provides essential mental health support for under 25’s). Using money from a Jack Petchey achievement award she won, Freya organised exhibition tote bags, with all earnings being donated to The Mix. The tote bags were designed by 19-year-old local artist, and member of the YEET (Youth Exhibition Event Team) Jack Dempsey (Insta - @smiletechnician).

Phoebe Mead, Partnerships Manager at YouthNet UK (The Mix) says: “Our whole organisation is really excited about this fantastic opportunity and we’ve also been encouraging young people to submit entries of their own.”

People can view the exhibition at https://www.artsteps.com/view/603d39cd75b9bd78b88a9469 , and take part in conversations via the @lockdown.exhibition Instagram page, on Twitter (@LockdownExhibi1) and on the Firstsite online studio space (@lockdownunlockedexhibition)

To purchase one of a limited number of branded Tote bags, and help support The Mix, people should email lockdownexhibition@gmail.com

Editor’s information:

The Mix is a UK charity that supports young people aged 13-25, with their mental health. To find out more about The Mix and their services for young people, see their website (https://www.themix.org.uk)

Exhibition founder, Freya Gascoyne, is a member of YAK (Young Art Kommunity) at Firstsite – to get involved, email Beth at (yak@firstsite.uk)

For more information, please contact lockdownexhibition@gmail.com