Spread Stories, Not The Virus

Spread Stories, Not The Virus

Students of the VUB master’s programme 4CITIES collect lockdown stories from the whole world

An international group of 12 students from the 4CITIES master’s programme – an interdisciplinary urbanism course in Brussels, Vienna, Madrid and Copenhagen – have created a platform on which citizens can share their stories and reflections on their changing cities.

“From one day to the next our universities have closed and our cities have gone into lockdown. As urbanists, we are intrigued by the new urban conditions that are emerging amid this global crisis. We decided to dedicate this period of quarantine to collecting and spreading stories about cities and citizens from around the world. Instead of repeating the dystopian images of deserted streets that have dominated the media’s attention, we want to offer a platform for citizens to share their experiences and reflections about the lockdown,” says Job Zomerplaag, one of the creators and a 4CITIES student at Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

The website www.spreadstoriesnotthevirus.com was launched on 16 March, followed by accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and received 85 stories within the first 10 days, in English and in many other languages. The stories come from across the world, such as the story of the midwife in a hospital in northern Italy who, surrounded by coronavirus patients, is bringing new life into the world. Or the German theologian who shares quarantine tips based on his experience of a monastery, or the drawings by a Syrian architecture student in Damascus.

Zomerplaag: “Our curiosity about the new living conditions in cities was answered by a chorus of voices that surprised and moved us. These stories offer exceptional insights into the sort of city that exists when people have to distance themselves and are forced to stay at home.” In the coming weeks, the students will continue gathering stories, and will reflect on how this collection gives an insight into the current situation in our cities, and what lessons can be learned for a post-coronavirus society.

The team behind Spread Stories, Not The Virus is made up of students and graduates from the 4CITIES Erasmus Mundus master’s in Urban Studies.



Job Zomerplaag, student of urban science at VUB

+31 6 1111 7521 

[email protected]



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Job Zomerplaag student VUB Master 4Cities
Lies Feron
Lies Feron Wetenschapscommunicatie Persrelaties
Job Zomerplaag student VUB Master 4Cities
Lies Feron
Lies Feron Wetenschapscommunicatie Persrelaties
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Vrije Universiteit Brussel is an internationally oriented university in Brussels, the heart of Europe. By providing excellent research and education on a human scale, VUB wants to make an active and committed contribution to a better society.

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The Vrije Universiteit Brussel assumes its scientific and social responsibility with love and decisiveness. That’s why VUB launched the platform De Wereld Heeft Je Nodig – The World Needs You, which brings together ideas, actions and projects based on six Ps. The first P stands for People, because that’s what it’s all about: giving people equal opportunities, prosperity, welfare, respect. Peace is about fighting injustice, big and small, in the world. Prosperity combats poverty and inequality. Planet stands for actions on biodiversity, climate, air quality, animal rights... With Partnership, VUB is looking for joint actions to make the world a better place. The sixth and last P is for Poincaré, the French philosopher Henri Poincaré, from whom VUB derives its motto that thinking should submit to nothing except the facts themselves. VUB is an ‘urban engaged university’, strongly anchored in Brussels and Europe and working according to the principles of free research.



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