Lockdown: Have you been dreaming of your old flames? You’re not alone…
Artist collects love stories after leaving messages on the Heath
09 July, 2020 — By Tom Foot
The love stories website address was left on Hampstead Heath and Primrose Hill
SHAME-FILLED dreams about exes, confessions of sex-starved singletons’ random hook-ups in park bushes, to more wholesome tales of Zoom nuptials and romantic joy – all have been submitted to an art project about love in the lockdown.
Artist and writer Philippa Found invited people to send their experiences in anonymously by chalking webpage details on floors and benches of Hampstead Heath and Primrose Hill. More than 120 responses – some sent around 3am – show how many Camden relationships have taken an unexpected turn during the coronavirus pandemic.
Ms Found, who lives in Hadley Street, Kentish Town, said: “I think the pandemic has caused a massive shift for a lot of people’s relationships. There has been such intensification of emotions. There has been a lot of time for self-reflection – there are a lot of stories that have come in of people reassessing what they want. Some have decided ‘I am happy single’, others are more in love than they knew before.”
She added: “Some people have been finding a new calling of having sex in the bushes on Hampstead Heath – random hook-ups. A lot of people have turned into teenagers again, there are loads of stories about people sneaking around.”
Ms Found, who was a director at the Rollo Gallery in Fitzrovia between 2006-12, set up the project as part of a diploma course at Chelsea College of Art. She has published feminist short stories often focused on the “messy reality of womanhood”.
Ms Found said: “My art has always been about female desire, shame and different female stereotypes. When the lockdown happened, I thought this is heightening everything I have been writing about for my whole life. It could be the defining love story of our time.”
Ms Found said she had been inspired after reading about a huge increase in Google searches during lockdown for “why I’m dreaming about my ex?”
She said: “That show – that show! – Normal People had just started on TV, right at the start of lockdown and that had something to do with it. For women, particularly, it can be shameful to think about an ex. Don’t look back, self love, moving on, all that kind of stuff. We are conditioned into thinking this is the right way to be. For a woman to think about an ex again… it’s kind of not fulfilling the narrative that suggests our life is on track.
“Either way – I think a lot people were feeling really intense emotions, and they were shameful and embarrassed about it. I wanted to tell the story collectively. I wanted to create a safe space for people to share their feelings and to see similar stories to themselves. But it’s not just the sad or negative confessions that have been interesting, it’s how many positive stories have come in.”
One NHS worker got in touch saying she thought she would never find love but had done during the pandemic.
“When she saw the chalk messages on the Heath, she decided to take it as a sign,” said Ms Found. “There was one couple with one stuck in London, the other in New York – and they couldn’t get over for the wedding. Finally they got married on Zoom.”
She added: “One guy sent in a story late at night – he had a lockdown secret lover from his work. No one knew about it, they both had to be silent on office Zoom calls.”
Ms Found said the pandemic had turned established relationships on their heads with many couples spending a lot of time with each other for the first time in years. She added: “I think many people have learnt how to fall in love again, and got to know each other more deeply.”
The website is updated every day with new a story and is open for submissions. See www.lockdownlovestories.com