'Reinvented Rituals' - A hearse carrying a coffin, led by a funeral director, turning out onto a street, with several people watching as it goes past

4 May 2020
Clubmill Terrace, Chesterfield, Derbyshire
Photograph (Digital)
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The Picturing Lockdown Collection was created during April and May 2020, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. During seven days the public were asked to submit photographs that they felt best represented their experiences of lockdown in England, and from these submissions one hundred representing all the different geographic regions were chosen to be archived with Historic England. Alongside these images, ten artists were commissioned to produce their own images over the course of five days, representing their lockdown experience. These were supplemented with images by Historic England’s own photographers. Together, the Picturing Lockdown collection forms a permanent visual record of this unusual time in history.

This photograph, taken at 14.27 on 4th May 2020, is the fifth of five images depicting the lockdown as experienced by the artist Bella Milroy, and represents the East Midlands region. The artist has written the following text to explain how this image documents their experience of lockdown: "Ceremony: the formal activities conducted on some solemn or important occasion – to commemorate, observe, respect, honour. These biomarkers of culture have become almost completely unrecognisable in this moment, transforming from celebrations and close festivities, to deflated scenes of separateness. Whilst we are finding new ways to adapt to the realities of the rituals we are used to, the distance between us in moments of deepest grief and glorious joys are achingly painful ruptures. Even in Lockdown when daily life has appeared to have slowed for so many, today our street witnessed a fond resident’s final departure down the road in a fleeting farewell that went past almost in an instant. The brevity compounds the distance felt; no tightly held hugs to smooth over the fast-pace, all the hallmarks of physical contact that accompany such points denied, the cruelness of those usual and expected outlets of grief disrupted and postponed. Yet within the strangeness of it all and complete lack of familiarity, standing there amongst the residents of the street waving goodbye one last time, this extraordinary ceremony felt rich in the smallness of it. We looked on as loved ones walked ahead weeping, and funeral director in top hat walking in front of the hearse captured the slightest moment of normalcy, the shiny steed gliding down the hill and away. We were connected by this reinvented kind of ceremony; a privilege of which I will remember and be forever grateful. Whilst loved ones reach out amongst the distance, struggling to find ways to connect in the void of these strange rites of passage, we can rely on the common ground found in the keenness of these shared experiences. The intensely felt inadequacy of a wave replacing a hug is a profound injustice, reflecting the harsh realities of the separations endured by so many for so long at borders and barriers across the world. Yet we do still have the capacity to find and feel these moments in one form or another, painfully, powerfully so. Waving in the street, the presence of our body’s signalling what we mean to one another in this moment, reinventing rituals together."


This is part of the Volume: HEC01/036/02/06 Picturing Lockdown Collection: Artists' Submissions - Bella Milroy; within the Sub Series: HEC01/036/02 Picturing Lockdown Collection - Artists' Submissions; within the Series: HEC01/036 Picturing Lockdown Collection; within the Collection: HEC01 Historic England


© Bella Milroy

People & Organisations

Photographer: Milroy, Bella


Health And Welfare