This autumn we are asking people in York to send us poems and drawings that reflect their experience of living through the Covid-19 pandemic, that we will use to create a lasting record of 2020 for future generations in York. We are calling the project World Turned Upside Down 2020 #haiflu edition.

We have made a short film about the project.

Get involved!

Share your experiences of lockdown, good and bad. What’s inspired you? What’s challenged you? How have you changed? What are your hopes for the future? Absolutely no experience is necessary, as we are running workshops to help people to knock their ideas into shape.
We would like people to send us 2 haiku, or #haiflu ( poems that are 3 lines with 5, 7, and 5 syllables, no rhyming) on the topic of no news and strange news, but with a flavor of lockdown. The first one should be about something commonplace and the second something that makes the commonplace strange. York poets Janet Dean and Penny Boxall have written some pairs of haiku to give you an idea.

To note a blackbird
colouring inside the lines
from a hedge – no news;

but the air scribbled
crayon-bright by every bird…
that was strange indeed.

Wearing a two-piece
lounge suit / subway / working-lunch downtown – was no news.

Lounging / a three-piece
suite / weekday sub sandwich with
Downton – strange indeed.
Penny Boxall

Geese own the river,
honking their arrival. Sleep
on one spindly leg
…no news!

Lonely Geese visit,
stake out my garden, nest in
fluffy pampas grass
…strange indeed!

Rats take the rubbish,
run through the sewers, do their
worst undercover
…no news!

Broad daylight rodents
desperate for lunch, go bonkers
up the old pear tree
…strange indeed!
Janet Dean

At the same time we are inviting people to send in doodles or cartoons, which illustrate aspects of lockdown. The drawings should fit in a landscape (A5) rectangle of no more than 210mm wide and 148mm high. People can do either or both and we will match them up. Or you could illustrate Penny and Janet’s haiku.

We have created a simple guide for you to download to help you on your way.

After the deadline we will choose 20 pairs of #haiflu and 20 doodles that reflect York’s Coronavirus experience. Stephen will create a 20 page limited edition chapbook printed in the traditional way on handmade paper. Each of the contributors to the final piece will receive a copy, a copy will be given to every library in York and one will be lodged in our archive alongside the original World Turned Upside Down Chapbook from 1820 . We will also make a digital copy available for people to download here.

Where do I send my poems and drawings?

The deadline for sending #haiflus and drawings to us is 30 November. There is no upper or lower age limit for submissions.

You can tweet your #haiflu and drawings to us at @YorkLibrariesUK, send it on Instagram to @exploreyorklibraryandarchive, email them to or hand them in at your nearest York library.

Where do I start?

York writers Penny Boxall and Janet Dean are running fortnightly Zoom workshops to help people to write their #haiflus; Stephen Lee Hodgkins is running fortnightly Zoom doodle/cartooning workshops to help people to illustrate the #haiflu that people have created in the workshops.


12 November 7-8pm Doodle workshop with Stephen Lee Hodgkins

21 November 2-3.30pm #haiflu poetry workshop with Janet Dean

28 November 11am-12pm Doodle workshop with Stephen Lee Hodgkins

What inspired us?

At the beginning of lockdown in March, spoken word artist Liv Torc posted on Facebook to ask how her friends were feeling when life-as-they-knew it stopped. She wanted them to tell her in haiku form (a poem that is 3 lines with 5, 7, and 5 syllables, no rhyming), or by posting a photograph, what they had noticed. She brought the words, pictures and some music together in a weekly film and Project Haiflu came into being. Liv made 12 weekly films, one overall 45 min project film and an extra film based on contributions for public libraries. The films contain over 600 contributions from over 250 people. Over 30,000 people have seen the films so far and project has been phenomenally successful. You can see the films and find out more about the project on Liv’s website

We are incredibly excited to be hosting an exclusive online poetry show and talk with Liv on November 10 called Haiflu Ever After .

Meanwhile in York, community artist Stephen Lee Hodgkins was making his own lockdown discoveries and creating drawings and printed work.

 Stephen was experimenting with an old Adana 8×5 tabletop letterpress printing machine and while searching for old instruction manuals he came across the York printer James Kendrew of 23 Colliergate who during the 1800’s had produced a series of chapbooks. These chapbooks, or ‘cheapbooks’ were small roughly printed booklets were adorned with intricate woodcut illustrations.

Chapbooks kept alive folklore, nursery rhymes, fairy tales and school lessons and were sold by travelling merchants across town and country.

The World Turned Upside Down, or No News, and Strange News is a fabulous example of nonsense rhymes and riddles produced in 1820, some 200 hundred years ago, and gives a bit of an insight, through a quirky lens, into life back then. We have some copies of it in the Archives at Explore York.

This title, and the huge impact the lockdown is having on us all inspired Stephen to create and hand print his own Covid Chapbook.