Looking Back, Moving Forward: Stories from Covid Times

We helped Dudley Council get a better understanding of how the pandemic changed health and social care priorities by listening to and analysing local people’s stories of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as creating a participatory photography project and community quilt.

Dudley Council
facilitation, workshop design, creative storytelling, thematic analysis, participatory photography

What we were asked to do

In autumn 2021, Dudley Council commissioned the Ideas Alliance to help them get a better understanding of how the pandemic had impacted on people’s lives, in order to inform priorities for the future. The brief included the use of storytelling and one requested outcome was a visual representation of the experiences of the people of Dudley.

What we did

We decided to approach this project in three ways with:

A thematic analysis of stories – Stories were gathered from people on the streets of Dudley and in community groups about their experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns. These were then analysed thematically using a method for identifying, analysing and reporting patterns with data. 

A community patchwork quilt – In line with the value placed on crafting during the pandemic, we facilitated the creation of a Dudley Covid-19 memory quilt. Each square is a symbolic representation of pandemic memories. This quilt was then exhibited in venues across Dudley. 

A photography exhibition – The participatory photography project with Queens Cross Network was to reach people who find verbal communication difficult. We delivered a range of photography activities and practical and exploratory workshops in partnership with their existing photography club and tutor, designed to increase confidence and skill as well as to share how photos can be used to tell a story or communicate an idea. 

What happened

Each story was unique and personal, however some common themes emerged, which provide direction for the council and communities when setting priorities for the future. More on these themes can be found in the project report. 

77 people from across Dudley created individual panels for the quilt conveying the memories they felt were most important to themselves. Images include hearts, stars, rainbows and flowers as well as personal portraits and images of homes and nature scenes reflecting the importance of home, community and the benefits of nature and green spaces. The panels were then stitched together by a local group, called Crafting for Communities. 

People took photographs to represent what mattered to them through their eyes. They took pictures of their environment, the places that were important to them during lockdown and the people, pets and objects that helped them. 

The photographs were then blown up to large outdoor poster size to widen this conversation out more publicly. The photographs have been accompanied by captions agreed by the participants to frame the thought behind the photos and probing questions to prompt further reflection and dialogue from the people looking at them. 

You can view the digital exhibition here.

See all projects Next project

Download project resources

  • Looking Back, Moving Forward Project Report

    Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type bool in /home/ideasall/public_html/wp-content/themes/ideasalliance/single-project.php on line 98


It was about having somebody come in and lead the project with the expertise, insight and experience that the Ideas Alliance has. They didn’t just come in and facilitate a piece of storytelling work, they understood that it was part of an approach that we are trying to develop and embed strategically across our system. It helped having that back up when working in this way was being questioned.

Joanna Pritchard (Healthy Communities and Place)