Northern Stage presents Scroll, a series of digital interventions which aims to replace moments of mindless scrolling ‘with tiny stories about us.’
We’re a little late to the game (this project first started at the end of January) but what really is time in a national lockdown, amiright?
Our writers checked out Week 3 of Scroll, which included 3 interventions: one for your first toilet trip of the day, one for when you’re doing your nightly skincare routine, and one for when you switch the light off.
I’m going to admit something to you here reader, I am a guilty scroller. I envy the people that can look at their screen time without shuddering or those who can skip off to bed, book in hand for a quick read before their allotted 8 hours of peaceful dreaming. I don’t necessarily think I have a problem, it’s more that I’m craving connection. In the same way that we all tuned in to watch Joe Exotic and his Tiger “Kingdom” (prison), downloaded Tik Tok as a joke (cut to us crying in our beds at 2am to a labradoodle learning to speak with push buttons) and dedicated ourselves to the art of indoor exercise, the search for something that binds us together that isn’t just our unfortunate situation has led to some of the most successful media of all time, because what else is there to do? Enter Scroll.
The first story I tuned into was Nighttime Visions by Sampira. With this story, the viewer is requested to watch and listen before you switch your lights off at 10:47pm. To me, this speech with its accompanying news-reels from centuries of political turmoil reminds me more of 4am. You know when you wake up and you can’t stop thinking about the news and the state of the world. That spiralling feeling of history’s repetition? Maybe just me. The reels of iconic imagery that matches the beautiful lyricism of Sampira made me shiver in my sheets. In these times, we’re all hanging in the balance waiting for that number 10 door to swing open and to hear the words that will trap us or set us free. So, when the images of past ruins flash over my screen; 911, Grenfell, the Cambridge Analytica scandal and so on I am reminded of a continuing world, and that hopefully this too will be added to the long list of disasters we can work toward preventing.
Adding to the great list of activities for your lockdown is skincare. At 12:32am Bridget Minamore gives us a peek into her routine in Wash Face Keep Face. The slight echo of her speech immediately plonks us straight into the bathroom with her. I almost feel as though I’m on a phone call with Minamore, the speakerphone quietly chattering as her words settle into my own bathroom, I find myself itching to reply. Of the three stories, Wash Face Keep Face is the most relatable to me, the invasive thoughts of someone who has been left alone, been inside and pondered too long and the struggle in the realisation of why we do the things we do. Is it self-care that we prune ourselves, scraping the hairs off our bodies and lathering on chemical peels for “sensitive” skin or are we just told it is? Minamore says it best “This ritual is not about beauty”. Maybe for some it still is, but I agree that what I’m doing when I place my own sheet mask on my tired face on a Sunday night is just giving time to myself.
It is 8:30am and I am watching Amber talk live on Instagram about her…routine. I’m glad I saved this one until last because it perfectly sums up what Northern Stage and Scroll have done for me. It is almost an excusing of everyone’s weird and wonderful coping mechanisms for this dark time. It is a window into the lockdown madness of others and a mirroring of some of our own. The invasive intrusive thoughts of doom, the scrubbing away of days not spent and the humour in something that has to be routine (no. 1’s and no. 2’s). I am so glad to have tuned into these stories and am now a little more at peace with my own lockdown routine.
Throughout the weird, low-level dystopia that has been the past year of our collective lives, it’s fair to say that technology has been my lifeline. It allowed me to keep my job, to send voice notes to my best friend, to video call my parents, to attend webinars, to talk to my doctor, to order grocery shopping to my slightly too rural household, to watch, to donate, to (over)share, to connect in absolutely every way I could think of to fill the gaping void that having no physical contact with my loved ones had left (not a great time for physical touch to be your love language…), and inevitably, to scroll.
You can often find me flicking through every app’s homepage in rotation, greedily guzzling every morsel of menial content without really absorbing any of it. More often than not, the timelines are overwhelmingly negative – side note: is this the new normal, or has it always been this bleak? – and as I gorge on the content, I swallow the bad vibes along with it. Sadness, anger, fear – all wolfed down as I ‘engage’ without actually engaging at all. You could plonk me in a Black Mirror episode and I’d probably fit right in.
Scroll posits itself as an ‘antidote’ to doom-scrolling, and (luckily for me), it fulfils that exact brief with ease. Week 3’s collection points out the absurdity of the content we’re willing to mindlessly consume, whilst speaking to our deepest truths and even our deepest shame – discomforts that we are often carrying alone, because we think that there’s no way that anyone else is feeling the same (how could they be when they look so happy on the gram?).
Wash Face, Keep Face was the biggest success for me; a poem by Bridget Minamore designed to be listened to whilst doing your nightly skincare routine. We all tried to commit to a skincare routine during lockdown (to varying degrees of success), right? Bridget’s voice felt like it could have been my own conscience or internal monologue, questioning why it is that I’ve stayed unwaveringly committed to skincare throughout the past year. Am I really primping and pampering to look after myself, or is it a byproduct of internalised male gaze? Is this purely a commitment to a healthy habit, or a feeble attempt at having control over something in my life when I’m surrounded by chaos? In fact, often Bridget’s voice unsettled me with its accuracy and relevance to my life and psyche – like when leg hairs were described as “sparse grass scattered over an overly-scarred accident-prone childhood canvas”, or stating that my “skin has always been as sensitive as the person inside of it”. Often, Bridget would describe an action just after I had done it, or mention a thought moments after I had thought the same thing. Eerie. Perhaps I’m just predictable, or we are all really just not as unique as we think we are. Listening to Wash Face, Keep Face left me feeling unnervingly vulnerable, but ultimately, lovingly understood and validated.
It’s worth noting that I was also impressed with how well Northern Stage had considered diversity and accessibility for this project. Scroll platforms the work of some fantastic black and global majority & LGBTQ+ creatives, who I can guarantee you’ll want to find out more about after engaging with their work on Scroll. Each video is captioned, all visual films have audio description, and all audio pieces have downloadable transcripts. All in all, Scroll is a purposeful project, delivered to a high artistic standard, with diversity, inclusion and accessibility considered throughout: in short, well worth your time.
My mornings usually are nice and slow. I wake up to my sunrise alarm clock (the best thing I ever bought) then I walk our dog. After I’ve created my calm, perfect space, I get stuck into social media, and all that calm goes away. Not today! Week 3 of Northern Stage’s Scroll has me covered. It was easy to do as my first piece of the day was on Instagram. They ask you to watch this one during your first visit to the loo. My anxiety around germs precluded me from watching the video during; however, I thoroughly enjoyed the first piece on the next step in my morning routine. It was refreshing to do something different during this time and step away from mindlessly flicking through Instagram. Instead, I went there with a purpose. It added intention. After watching, my itch to scroll scratched, I put my phone down and started my day. Which avoided the extra half hour I can end up losing to these apps. The piece itself was hilarious. It’s all about how we will watch any old shit whilst the character is literally doing a shit. I loved this monologue and how it calls out the things we watch through social media.
The next pieces were at night, which is my other ‘doom scroll’ moment of the day, when I’m left with my thoughts. I had the second piece by Sampira on in the background whilst sorting out some clothes and putting them away. It was a brilliantly written piece that carried me from moment one. I ended up just sitting and listening in the end. I loved the stillness of allowing my task to fade away for the moment so I could hear the words and take them in.
I love the comments these pieces had on routine. How little things like a daily shit that happens around the same time, or washing your face and having a skincare routine can help you and keep you going. It feels weird to have something so small to keep you together, but these things can be so important. I love how the final piece, Wash Face Keep Face, comments on how these simple acts can hold us together. How we explore ourselves by what routines we choose to hold and why. Like when she questions whether she shaves her body hair for herself or men. The lockdown has given us time to ask ourselves these questions, looking at what we want to keep.
I enjoy my routines, but I became aware of how much I was using my phone during the pandemic. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, I was using my phone to reach out to people I couldn’t see. However, I also used it to connect to the onslaught of bad news pouring onto the internet. If I found myself not doing much, I’d wander onto social media. What I loved about Scroll was picking up my phone with intention. I knew what I was going to do, and I enjoyed having that.
Over the pandemic, there has been so much exciting creative content coming to online spaces that it can be hard to find it and then choose what you want to watch. You end up scrolling through the choices, not sure what to do. Scroll gets rid of this pressure. Sometimes you simply want to watch something. You want something to be communicated to you, to learn, to empathise. These pieces do that and more—all whilst reflecting on how we are all dealing with our present.
To engage with Scroll, head to Northern Stage’s website. All videos are still available (and still just as relevant!).