“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