Residents, Community Groups and Businesses of Port Sunlight tell their story of lockdown

Port Sunlight Village Trust (PSVT) has launched ‘Be Port Sunlight’ a new online hub containing an archive of audio and visual documents which convey a sense of life in Port Sunlight during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. 

Featuring homemade NHS ‘thank you’ signs, pandemic poetry and virtual pubs, provides a snapshot of the intimate and shared moments which occurred in one historic village and conservation area during this time. A series of themed podcasts present oral histories centering around four themes that reflect the foundations of civic life in the village: architecture, culture, economy, and environment. 

The launch of Be Port Sunlight represents an important start point for this new online hub. The Port Sunlight Community are being invited to contribute further content as lockdown restrictions ease in 2021. The documents will become part of PSVT’s museum collection as a permanent record of the pandemic’s impact. An exhibition is planned on-site later in the year. 

Be Port Sunlight is part of a wider project funded by Historic England as part of their Covid-19 Emergency Response funding. PSVT embarked on ‘A village in lockdown’ back in Autumn 2020 to better understand and document the impact of Covid-19 on the people and heritage of the village. Consultancy CounterCulture was commissioned to deliver stakeholder research and consultation and take a curatorial approach to documenting the project. The findings will be used to revise PSVT’s corporate plans in 2021 as part of the organisation’s recovery planning and will be shared with other planned communities and Section 19 Towns such as Bournville, Saltaire and Letchworth who face similar challenges in balancing heritage conservation with 21st century living.

Paul Harris, Chief Executive at PSVT comments, “We were delighted to receive this funding from Historic England. The pandemic has impacted life across the world in ways we could not have imagined and are yet to fully comprehend.

“As custodian of Port Sunlight, its critical for us understand the short, medium and long-term impacts of Covid-19, as well as the opportunities that have emerged, in order to support the recovery of residents and businesses in Port Sunlight and ensure our own long-term financial sustainability.”

Jo Marsh, Director at CounterCulture continues, “PSVT’s brief ‘A Village in Lockdown’ captured our attention as an opportunity to research, identify and share the impact of a global pandemic on the unique context and community of Port Sunlight. 

“The project had its own challenges, as we also had to work in lockdown, but we found new ways of working and it was a privilege to hear and document the many stories and repercussions of Covid-19 and to think through strategically what this means for PSVT and the story it tells. We have learnt a great deal about the resilience and creativity of people and how the pandemic has redefined how we live and work, what we value and how organisations need to harness this momentum of change.”

Historic England’s Roger Thomas said, “We were delighted to see local people embrace this project through sharing their personal experiences throughout lockdown.  An important historical record of life in Port Sunlight through the Covid-19 pandemic has been created for future generations to appreciate.”

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Image credit: Scott Woolley

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