#CollectingBrent: creativity and kindness during Covid-19

We are delighted to share images, objects and stories from the #CollectingBrent initiative. They are inspiring, touching and thought-provoking.

In this exhibition, we are celebrating kindness and creativity in Brent, during the Covid-19 pandemic. We also want to look at ways the pandemic has affected our lives.

Rainbows and light

Many people across the United Kingdom drew and displayed rainbows in their windows to celebrate the National Health Service and key workers and to show their support.

Members of the Willesden Temple community made posters and displayed them outside the Temple in May 2020.

The posters combine the symbol of the rainbow with particular images and words linked to the person’s own life and faith. They contain messages of hope, love and support.

Click into the below Flickr album to explore a selection of the posters in detail. 

#CollectingBrent : Rainbows and Light

 View more posters >>

What symbols represent hope and light for you?
What did you or would you include in your poster?
Did you find different ways to celebrate festivals and other days that are important to you during lockdown?

A key worker is anyone who helps to maintain basic front-line services for members of the public. Hospital cleaners, paramedics and nurses are all key workers – and the posters also celebrate delivery drivers, teachers and train drivers who increase their own risk of infection by doing their job.

Willesden Temple, on Willesden Lane, is actually the first purpose built temple outside of India. Its full name is Shree Swaminarayan Temple Willesden, after Lord Swaminarayan, a Hindu yogi and inspirational leader who lived between 1781 and 1830.

Helping local communities

willesden-temple-volunteersWillesden Temple have been doing amazing work to help feed people in their local communities. Their videos documented their work and also shared individual stories from volunteers involved.

The Temple also worked with other organisations, such as Mutual Aid Food Willesden (MAFW) to provide support as well as food.

(Pictured: Two volunteers, Chetna and Sandip, from Willesden Temple, helping at Mutual Aid Food Willesden, at the Pakistan Community Centre in Brent.)

Many other communities, organisations and individuals have been involved in helping local people in need.

Mutual Aid Food Willesden (MAFW) was set up in March 2020 in response to the pandemic. It was set up by a group of volunteers who came together, coordinated by Dione Southby, with support from Councillor Tariq Dar. Mr Dar, as Chairman of the Pakistan Community Centre, helped to secure the centre as a space to operate. The organisation started as a food bank in March 2020 this included an emergency food delivery service during the first lockdown. It continues to offer a food bank service on Tuesdays, in partnership with Sufra. The Centre has become a community hub and is now offering a range of support, working closely with other local charities and organisations.

Many people from different walks of life have been volunteering immense time and energy to assist those in real need in our local communities. Some of the volunteers with Mutual Aid Food Willesden (MAFW) feel that the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted issues of inequality that already existed, that still need to be addressed.

Click into this Flickr album below where we are celebrating some of the wonderful volunteers involved in Willesden Mutual Food Aid

#CollectingBrent : Mutual Aid Food Willesden

Making the best of it

When you look back and remember your experiences during the Covid-19 lockdowns, perhaps it might be a personal event, or a family moment that comes to mind, where you had to find a different way of celebrating it.

Here are some donations we have had from local people, finding ways to mark special days, during Covid-19 lockdowns, in 2020 and 2021.

Click into the Flickr album to see more.

#CollectingBrent: Making the best of it


If you would like to share a memory of a special day during lockdown (or a regular day), do get in touch!

Self defence and self care

covid-19 maskLocal artist Warren Reilly shared some art projects with us that explored his own experience as a young person living in a time of ‘social distancing’, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Warren created new wearable objects by re-using his old face masks. He customised and decorated the masks using studs from an old jacket. Warren said he found the studding process therapeutic, during a difficult time in lockdown. Warren has kindly donated one of his studded facemasks to Brent Museum and Archives (pictured right).

How does the experience of wearing a mask make you feel? Do you feel protected? Do you feel that you are protecting others? Do you feel trapped? How do you think Warren feels?

Do the studs remind you of anything else? How about a suit of armour? Or an expensive piece of jewellery?

Warren then created two photography series, using the masks. They explored the tension between closeness and distance; how intimate photographs might make you feel closer to others when shared on social media, but at a time when we are all asked to keep physically distanced from each other. Does the experience of using digital technology during lockdown make you feel closer to others, or further apart?

Click into the Flickr album to see more.

#CollectingBrent: Self Defence/Self Care - A local artist in lockdown


In Filling the Void Warren used a home digital scanner to make self-portraits. He wanted to deal with the feeling of isolation during the national lockdown in March 2020, and used his home scanner as he had limited resources. He wore his customised studded face masks to distort his face and body. He said he wanted to find a way of sharing how he had felt anxious.

What can you see in the images? What do they make you think or feel?

With photographer Zuzu Valla, Warren made a series of images over a Zoom call, titled Covid Kaleidoscope. The artists reflected on the anxieties and benefits of using digital technology as creative tools. They aimed to celebrate artistic making in a time of crisis and how artists might overcome difficult times. Their images have a rainbow effect, which might, like the posters by Willesden Temple, suggest a hopefulness.

Have you used video calling platforms such as Zoom during Lockdown?
How does it compare to other ways to connect with friends, colleagues, and family?
Had you used video calling before the lockdown? Will you keep using it, after this time?


So, it doesn’t end here. If you have a story, a picture, or an object you would like to share with us from these times, please do get in touch.

As the Borough of Brent’s Heritage Service, Brent Museum and Archives’ mission is to ensure that residents can enjoy and learn about the history and diverse cultures of the Borough by collecting, recording and making accessible Brent’s past and present.

We are here to care for and share the stories of the people of Brent, not only giving a voice to the experiences of those who have gone before such as social activist Jayaben Desai and pioneering footballer Cyrille Regis, but also of the current residents of Brent who are living through unprecedented times. We are keen to hear about your experiences during this extraordinary period and how you have been affected so that these stories can be preserved for future generations.

Whether you are an individual person or a community group, a family or a group of friends, young or old. Tell us about life during lockdown for you or how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected you.

We’d love to hear from you.

More information on #CollectingBrent

How can you contribute?

We are looking to collect first-hand experiences and objects of significance that reflect the lives of Brent’s residents during this time. This might include:

  • Journals or diaries, letters and scrapbooks
  • Digital media e.g. photographs, videos, audio recordings
  • Artwork e.g. rainbow pictures
  • Physical ephemera including leaflets, posters, government directives, newspaper cuttings

We are keen to find out how you have been personally affected by the pandemic. How has the situation affected your relationships with others? What has been a source of hope for you during this difficult time? How have social restrictions affected interactions within your local community?

While we would like to collect as much material as possible relating to the pandemic however it may not be possible to accept every single item.

If you would like to donate an object or story please send an email to museum.archives@brent.gov.uk

For more information about Brent Museum and Archives, explore our website and follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook