Picture the scene: it’s the start of 2020 and your 13th birthday is approaching. The endless possibilities of teenagehood are on the horizon. The parties, the first kisses, the laughter, the tears – all that formative stuff that looks so romantic and appealing in coming-of-age films.
Then, suddenly, it’s all snatched away from you by something straight out of a horror film: a virus infecting the whole world.
On 11th March 2020, the World Health Organisation declared Covid-19 a pandemic. On 16th March, BoJo went on telly to tell us to “stop non-essential contact and travel”. A week later, on 23rd March, we all shut our doors on the outside world as a new reality, and a new word, entered our lives: lockdown.
You’re forced to stay home, isolate yourself from your friends and do nothing but log into Zoom for school everyday. Fast-forward two years and you’ve now spent almost half of your secondary school experience under the shadow of Covid-19. Talk about an endless bummer.
Or perhaps you’re 21 at the start of 2020, in, or approaching, your last year of uni. Or maybe you’re looking forward to your first summer as, by that traditional measure, a Proper Grown Up. You’re on your way! And then…
In the last two years, that 10-year cohort of young people has slipped into teenagehood and adulthood, largely robbed of the milestones that attend – and celebrate – those rites of passage.
That’s why we here at THE FACE are marking the two-year anniversary of the UK’s first lockdown with Generation Covid, a week-long series dedicated to honouring the sacrifices of young people during this time.
The pandemic has, of course, impacted the entire nation in myriad ways, from mask mandates to illness, unemployment to bereavement. But for young people still figuring out themselves and the world, this stolen time will shape the rest of their lives. How do you enter adulthood when you’ve barely had the chance to be a normal teenager?
Well, that’s what we’re trying to figure out – in part, at least. Throughout this week, we’ll be publishing features that reveal what it’s like to be a young person in the age of Covid. We’ve hit up Parliament to speak to the UK’s youngest MP, Nadia Whittome, travelled to the Scottish Highlands to meet teens living far from population centres, and surveyed more than 300 people aged 14 – 23 about how the pandemic has affected them.
The results have been eye-opening, to say the least, a vividly diverse range of experiences from up and down the country that are nonetheless united by one thing: the creativity and resilience of the nation’s youth.
To kick it all off, writer, youth worker and education consultant Ciaran Thapar speaks to THE FACE Consultant Editor Craig McLean about how the pandemic has impacted at-risk youth. As Thapar notes, “2021 saw the most number of teenagers killed in London ever: 30.” Yet that barely made a dent in the news cycle. His work with young people now feels more important than ever before, and we hope you find the conversation as enlightening as we did.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. There have been pockets of joy throughout the pandemic and we believe it’s important to celebrate them, too, from the freedom of lockdown fashion to the make-shift flat raves that helped maintain the sanity of students trapped in halls. Keep your eyes on the site for more of that as the week progresses.
But for now, here’s to Generation Covid, the young people who kept calm, carried on and made it look easy. We owe you a lot. The least we can do is listen to your stories.