Oldham’s Lockdown Museum: One year in Janis Bowie

It is a whole year since lockdown began in the UK on 23rd March 2020. Soon afterwards, we began Oldham’s Lockdown Museum. The project asked local people to send in pictures and tell us what they were doing in a time of monumental change. Over the coming months, photographs poured in and together they create a fascinating and sometimes moving snapshot of Oldham during lockdown. The Lockdown Museum tells amazing stories of how people came together to help one another, adapted their lives and businesses and found the strength to keep going in the most challenging of times.

To mark the anniversary of lockdown, we have contacted some of the contributors and asked them to reflect on the last twelve months. Today we are looking at how a local artist responded to the situation.

No. 3, Janis Bowie, Artist

  • Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who are you, what do you do? Where are you from?

My name is Janis Bowie and I live with my husband in Greenfield. I have lived in the area since childhood, worked in local industry and taught at the nearby Secondary School. I now work part time in a small Art gallery / picture framers and am a practicing artist.

  • Thinking back to 2020… What were you doing in March, when the first lockdown started?

Last March we were planning to visit our daughter, who lives abroad, then go on for a holiday somewhere.

  • What suddenly changed for you when the first lockdown started? How did you adapt?

All plans for a visit abroad were cancelled and I was furloughed from my job. I tried to spend more time painting, but found it hard to find any motivation. The Exhibitions I was involved in were cancelled, so I felt I had nothing to work towards.

  • What helped you through it, personally and professionally?

I heard through the media that some artists were painting portraits for the NHS staff and decided that as I enjoy painting people, I would try this. The daughter of my next door neighbour worked at the hospital, so I asked her if she would send me photos of any colleagues who would like their portrait painted. I completed 12 small watercolour portrait paintings of the NHS staff and passed them back to them. I really enjoyed painting them and found it very satisfying.

  • What has changed between the first, second and third lockdown?

When the weather was good in the summer lockdown I spent more time outside, walking and gardening and taking photos of the local landscape. During the latest lockdown I have spent more time inside, finding some inspiration to paint by using my photos as subject matter.

  • What, if any, have been the positives?

I feel very honoured to have an image of one of my NHS portraits included on the banner attached to the outside of Gallery Oldham. I had been planning to retire from my work at the Gallery this year, but since spending so much time at home, I have decided to keep on working for a couple of days a week, as I enjoy the contact with people and the challenges involved!

  • What are your hopes for the rest of 2021 and beyond?

I hope to be involved again in Exhibitions when Galleries open and get the chance to travel more, especially to see my daughter.

This is one of a series of blogs take a look at our blog page to read more. Visit the Oldham’s Lockdown Museum page to find out more about this digital project.