A Covid-19 Conversation Capsule by Alice Proctor


A Covid-19 Conversation Capsule

A close up photo of a white woman with long brown hair and a fringe. She has a warm smile and is wearing a mustard roll neck jumper. The photo is framed inside a free flowing shape with round edges and small black lines border on 3 edges to give the shape a sense of movement. This photo sits on warm a teal backdrop.

Amongst the tumbleweed of local lockdowns, fading furlough, too much twitter and the erratic Manchester weather, this summer for 5 Tuesdays I had something written in my diary. In pen! Confirmed. A plan, a job to do. The simplest job description in the world, to connect. A 45-minute phone call once a week with someone I’d never met before.

Sitting in my office bedroom, armed with questions to start conversations and ideas of how to get creative over the phone, week one was spent getting to know each other and what the world was looking like for each of us in these weird times.

I would have no problem chatting to a lamppost and one participant said they ‘could talk the hind legs off a donkey!’, another ‘I’m aiming to be eccentric’, and another ‘everyone’s got a story to tell’. So, after week one I was sure we wouldn’t run out of things to chat about. And we didn’t…

Photograph of worn brown notebook, open on the first page with remnants of several torn our pages on the spine of the book. On the plain paper is a drawing in biro. At the top left hand side of the page are three speech bubbles moving in sync with one another. In the centre of the page on an diagonal upwards angle; the word Dial is written in capital letters. To the bottom write is a drawing of an old fashioned corded telephone. In the background of the photograph is bedroom furniture, photographs and a wall hanging.From supermarket stresses to sharing life lessons,

Family relationships to staying cool in 30 degree heat,

Careers in nursing to the power of song,

A KFC 9-piece bucket to what love really means,

Maps and their meanings to The Arctic Monkeys,

Reusable sanitary towels to ‘have we known each other long enough to swear yet?’

Book club thoughts to social care reform.

These conversations made me laugh, cry and get angry. They reminded me of the absolute truth that we have far more in common than what divides us. We were 7 women with a phone call appointment in common and that was enough.

To celebrate the simplicity of picking up the phone and sharing your voice, and to preserve this chapter in our history below is a collection of moments to cram into our Covid-19 Conversation Capsule.

First up in the capsule is a short podcast including the voices of Doreen, Lesley and Rachel. Click here for the audio transcript.


One moment I am sad we weren’t able to capture from my conversations with Elaine was the call where she put on a backing track and sang for me. It was the most moving moment of the project for me and I had a little cry! There is such vulnerability in singing for someone and it was an absolute privilege to hear Elaine’s fabulous voice. She explained she had only recently discovered her ‘gift of being able to absorb classical music’. Here’s hoping Elaine can get safely singing with others again in the near future and here’s one of her favourite songs to keep in the Capsule – though I’m not sure which of the many versions is her fave!


Janice and I spent some time talking about how to keep busy during lockdown and what she had been up to. Here’s a poem I wrote using her own words:

A poem titled 'Painting' is typed in white font onto a photograph of brightly colours abstract painting. The poem reads: When you come in my flat you need sunglasses, Tango and grey in the living room. I paint by numbers. My hands – they’re busy, Because the moment I wake up my heart is racing, chasing. Chasing ideas. My head clings to everything someone says. Purple in the hall, My daughter comes to call, “Mum – you need to reign it in”. I painted my nails bright orange, Even them. And lime green in the kitchen, A wake up colour with my morning brew. Cos my thinking is like my smoking - it’s a habit. I can rationalise, yeah, But the bedroom needs glossing if there’s chance of these thoughts slowing or stopping. 28 years of anxiety, A prisoner in my own head. Everyone has a story to tell, don’t they? I could gab all day, I could write a bestseller, And it would be a bestseller!














“That’s mint. I’ll keep that forever cos that sums me up down to a tee” – Janice.

We also did a bit of drawing together where Janice described an image over the phone and I had to draw it.

Photographs of 2 drawings, both black and white and created using a black biro pen. To the left is a sketch of mountains, with trees and fields in the foreground. This sketch has been drawn by Alice. To the write is a sketch of a speech bubble with the words "Draw your mood" and Janice written in capital letters inside. This has been sketched by Janice.


Not all my conversations were about lockdown. Janet, a self-proclaimed adventurer, told me about how she likes jumping on a bus and seeing where she ends up. She is a Salford flag flyer and keen to let people know how much greener the city is than they might realise. After chatting about her recent interest in maps I suggested we made a map of Salford with hints and tips from her. I introduced her to a digital content website and she made this ace flyer instead – Life Begins at 60!

Life Begins at 60 leaflet by Janet Reygan available to download here. If you would like an audio version of this leaflet, please contact rachel@artwithheart.org.uk and she will provide one for you.2 images of the front and back of a flyer titled 'Life Begins at 60' There are pictures of a map of Salford and information about walks around Salford. If you would like a talking version of this leaflet, please contact rachel@artwithheart.org.uk and she will provide one for you.


Doreen, like all my participants said so many things that inspired me including describing being alive as ‘the climbing frame of life’. Below are a few snippets of wisdom and joy I want to remember.

Two separate graphics containing quotes from Doreen and Lesley- Dial participants. They are written in capital letters in a bold, modern typeface. The font is white and framed by a hexagonal shape consisting of 2 solid white lines and a series of white dots between them. To the left the quote reads "How do you know you're in love? No doubts, no worries." by Doreen. To the right the quote reads, "Art is important, creativity is important. You have to have beauty in your life" by Lesley. Two separate graphics containing quotes from Doreen and Lesley- Dial participants. They are written in capital letters in a bold, modern typeface. The font is white and framed by a hexagonal shape consisting of 2 solid white lines and a series of white dots between them. To the left the quote reads "There's a commonality in even the most obscure of places." by Rachel. To the right the quote reads, "I'm a joiner, I join things" by Janet.


A serious of haikus written in a leaf green font on a petrol blue backdrop. The poem is framed above and below by bright yellow and green illustrations of leafs. The haikus read: Every act impacts. Smile with your eyes, let the mask Be your gift to all. Every act impacts Think of all the three toed sloths when you run the tap Every act impacts see the girl beneath the skin before you decide. Lesley.

Lesley and I spent the first three weeks talking all things politics and pandemics, philosophy and art. We kept pontificating over what we could create. We even considered re writing an Arctic Monkeys song together. (Are you sad we didn’t do that?).

In the end we decided that what we wanted to capture was the overall tone of our chats: anxiety and powerlessness in a scary world but served with a huge dollop of hope on top of it all.

Lesley wrote an opinion piece inspired by a quote she had mentioned to me one day, ‘whenever you propose to do anything, you should stop and ask yourself: ‘If everyone did this, what would the world be like?’ alongside it she sent a trio of haikus on the same theme.

Every Act Impacts:

Lesley’s beautiful and timely opinion piece, Every Act Impacts was so brilliant we thought it deserved its own dedicated space. Read it here.

An extract from Lesley’s piece:

“I can’t remember when I first read Nicholas Monsarrat’s book ‘The Time Before This’. Probably as an adult. It had been one of those books that had been on the shelves in my childhood home… Re-reading it recently, it’s a quiet book, it broaches a huge subject with massive understatement, and, I have to admit, a bit of a cop-out ending. But one small passage stuck with me, and continued to resonate through the years.

It is when a very old decrepit, desperate man recognises the moral imperative that drives another’s actions towards him and says,

“That’s right, whenever you propose to do anything, you should stop and ask yourself: ‘If everyone did this, what would the world be like?’ You will soon discover the right answer”.

A Call for Change

The final thing I want to squeeze into the Covid-19 Conversation Capsule is inspired by 6 women’s words that clash and meet. I want to put it in last so it’s on the top of the pile because we’ll need to keep reaching in to have another look as we begin to move forward.

A poem called 'A Call for Change' is typed in dark grey font onto a pale grey background. The test in the poem is written sporadically with different indents on each line. In the background of the poem is an illustration of 2 pale pink telephones attached by a pale mint green wire. The poem reads: They closed the door after the horse had bolted They shut it down too late They have not listened We’ve not been heard If we’re gonna pick on somebody We’ll pick on the old people I feel 14 inside I panic Politics, I’ve learnt to step back People fight between themselves It’s not gonna go away fast I want to leave the world having made a mark on it We have to build back better Not just physically But build with kindness A new climbing frame for life I believe it’s left to the younger generation I think we should have done more I don’t believe in war I would have loved to have brought about change I miss meeting up with my friends I’ve blossomed in this pandemic I feel let down Social care, it’s not there I hope this government are held accountable

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