Saturday 26and In February 2022, THE FACE took to the streets across the UK to speak to 14 to 23 year olds about the impact of the pandemic on their lives. Covering all countries of origin – Sheffield in England, Belfast in Northern Ireland, Merthyr Tydfil in Wales and Helmsdale in Scotland – each report reveals a different facet of the challenges presented by Covid. Accompanied by a national survey of over 300 people, these stories mark two years since the UK first went into lockdown on 23rd March 2020. And as you will discover, a lot has changed for young people in the UK during this time.
It’s one o’clock in the morning on Saturday afternoon in a shabby Sheffield student house, and its second-year residents are still on the verge of getting their act together.
Leo and James are two of eight who live here, and it shows. The creators of Fresh meat have done their research in terms of scenography: it’s a riot of dirty sports equipment, ashtrays and open cereal boxes. James, a 20-year-old bioengineering student, tells me that the big chair he’s leaning into “costs £5 at the charity shop”.
Despite all the chaos, the experience of living in this house marked a time of calm for the two students, who faced their most formative years amid the pandemic, the most cataclysmic mass event in our history. life. Leo, a 21-year-old genetics student, felt his surge most keenly, two weeks into a gap year he had been saving up for.
“I had planned everything: Thailand, Vietnam, everything, for three months,” he says. “I managed two weeks in Bali before the Foreign Office told me that if I didn’t come back right away I might be stuck there until God-knows-when. Instead of taking a break from academia to explore and relax, he worked full-time at Sainsbury’s during the height of the pandemic, a stark contrast that did not escape him. “I’ll be honest, it was disgusting.
Leo and James met during freshman week in September 2020 after both opted for a gap year that ultimately didn’t give them the space they were looking for. When the opportunity for fun presented itself, they threw themselves head first. “He gave me Covid that week! Jacques tells me. “But everyone got it then. I think 75% of our student village self-isolated after the first week.
Their freshman year couldn’t have been more inopportune, starting with the paranoid second wave that followed the weird, half-free summer of 2020. Authority was ubiquitous and deadly serious. “It was like living in a police state,” says Leo. “We had vans parked outside our village three days a week and cops patrolling, rounding up people for infractions.