Photography: Liam Jones / @liamjonesphotie

When society opened back up in early July, the door to freedom was only ever left ajar. It was much closer to swinging back shut than it was ever wide open.

Not all of us were able to squeeze through the gap and sample a taste of the before times. For those who it was safe enough to do so, the life that greeted us on the other side was familiar. However, there were glaring omissions that added to its temporary feel. No live music, sport spectators, theatre. A weariness of being around older family members and members of the public persisted. For all the thrill of being back out, seeing people, places being open, there was always a niggling doubt in the back of the mind.

In March, it took a matter of weeks to transition from blasé keep calm and carry on to being one of the worst affected nations of a raging global pandemic. By July, it certainly didn’t feel like the fires were fully stamped out as we opened up. It only takes an ember to ignite the fire. Two months into our new future of mask wearing, signing in and sanitising, the door was already creaking shut.

Moving into tier three of new lockdown restrictions was met with a mixture of preparedness and fear. I’d done the three and half month stretch of lockdown already. Reluctantly, I told myself, you know what to expect. But there was a greater fear than the first time. In March, the blanket closure nationwide came with a partial safety net. It would keep the majority ticking over. Plans were then shifted until Autumn. Budgets reshuffled. We waited.

“Time to put on our masks and be heroes of our own”

The autumn months were where we’d turn a new leaf in a year deprived of so much. That new leaf didn’t have time to turn. Too quickly it was subjected to winter. It withered. Subjected to increased social distance. The safety net all but gone. Budgets decimated. All plans cancelled. So much of what so many have worked for hangs in the balance.

It was fitting that as Liverpool City Region ventured alone into lockdown a caped crusader would appear. Liverpool was in need of a hero. Someone to look to, to turn the tide, to make the people believe in good triumphing over evil. The stunt double of Bruce Wayne straddling the Liver Birds wasn’t who we needed. But it at least set off this train of thought. The first wave was defined by its heroes. We rightly stood up and took notice of Liverpool’s essential workers. They’re just as important now. And yes, they include our musicians, artists, community facilitators. We now have a greater understanding of what is an essential worker and the plaudits they deserve. Being out on our own is less lonesome in a city full of heroes. Those who don’t glow under the Hollywood spotlight, but are no less deserving.

History will note how we’ve been here before. The stagnation of the 1980s, the decline of Liverpool as a port. Once again, we’re out on our own. Those triumphs in the past, the city reinventing itself in the face of decimation, didn’t happen overnight. It took the city taking ownership of the situation and doing it its own way. We will need more help. Our politicians/representatives and community leaders will fight for this so livelihoods aren’t destroyed. We’ll be together, as close as we can be, but there’s no doubting the winter will be hard. Time to put on our masks and be heroes of our own.

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