Jolly Josh lockdown photography project captures reality of vulnerable families during pandemic
Date published: 12 September 2020
Photo: Asia Burrill
The Jolly Josh lockdown photography project portrayed at-risk families through their windows whilst in isolation, representing the reality of children with complex medical needs during a pandemic
Jolly Josh, a local charity that hosts stay and play sessions for children with disabilities and special needs in Rochdale, has continued to connect and support its families during lockdown with a unique photography project.
Over the course of lockdown due to Covid-19, photo galleries have been posted on the Jolly Josh social media platforms that portrayed at-risk families and users of the Jolly Josh group through their windows whilst in isolation, representing the reality of children with complex medical needs during a pandemic.
Founder of Jolly Josh, Carole Kelly from Wardle, said the idea came to her after the Duchess of Cambridge was featured on This Morning talking about her project ‘Hold Still’, which aimed to create a portrait of the nation during lockdown.
Carole said: “I decided that we could make this project relevant to our charity and to our families and in doing so it would be a reminder to the public and the powers that be that our families are existing behind completely closed doors. It also reminded people of the importance of us shielding our vulnerable ones.
“We have realised how much power the photography project has had within representing our families within our community and within our society as a whole in what they are, unfortunately, not often represented.”
Carole Kelly teamed up with award-winning photographer Asia Burill for the project, who captured the beautiful moments through glass via social distancing.
Carole continued: “The hope was that in seeing our families through social media, other families in similar circumstances would be encouraged to access our charity, and it allowed us to provide an insight for our followers, sponsors and fundraisers to better understand where their support is going when they do support Jolly Josh.
“Asia actually volunteered her time to do this for us. I approached her with the idea of creating this project and she jumped at the opportunity. Our families were all really excited at the idea of photoshoots and I think we really helped them capture these memories; the images are incredibly emotive.
“The images also portray helpers and heroes as two of our Jolly Josh trustees are captured in their professional capacity whilst they’re out supporting some of our families in lockdown.”
In addition to the photography project, Jolly Josh continued to support and connect its users through Rochdale Soup Kitchen, who supported ten families with weekly deliveries whilst they were shielding. The group also provided a 6-week workshop titled ‘dealing with distress when supporting others’, delivered by Beyond Psychology.
“Once lockdown was announced and our weekly sessions could no longer go ahead it was crucial to us that our families would still be able to connect and support one another so we created an online chat network for that to take place. It’s been amazing to see that they’ve all stayed connected,” added Carole.
"It became really clear that lockdown wasn’t the only cause of stress for our families, it was actually related to the ease of lockdown and how they transition into the new normal and risk assess entering this new world with their vulnerable loved one.
“It’s really important to us that our families are represented and that they’re seen and heard. Hopefully, our photography project has gone some way into helping that.”
Named after their son, Jolly Josh was started in September 2017 by Carole and James Kelly, of Wardle, after discovering there were no groups for young disabled children in Rochdale. At the age of six months, Josh was confirmed to have ‘extensive brain damage’ due to the genetic condition Mitochondrial Disease, which causes mutations in mitochondria, vital to every cell in the body.
The stay-and-play sessions were set up with the hope to bring families together, provide peer to peer support, share experiences, and eliminate isolation, especially for children with disabilities and special needs throughout the borough.
Sadly, Josh died on 27 August 2017, just one month before his legacy, Jolly Josh, was due to begin.
After two years of sessions at Springside with Hamer Learning Community, the charity is working on developing a home of its own in Castleton where construction began in November 2019.
The centre for Jolly Josh will be fully accessible and inclusive for all children with disabilities/complex needs/additional needs and those with profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD). It is estimated that it will cost around £100,000 to make the centre fit for use.
On the construction of the new premises, Carole commented: “It has been a bit of a whirlwind really. I’m really proud to say that we are having a changing places facility and a hydrotherapy pool which really is huge for us. The pool is in, plaster board is up, the shell of the changing places is there and ready to be kitted out. I have to pinch myself sometimes to believe that it’s actually happening.
“It still doesn’t seem real that we will have an official home for Jolly Josh, but we know it’s going to make a huge difference to Rochdale and to our users and hopefully the wider community.
“Covid-19 set the construction back but we are so pleased that the vision is still progressing and we are very grateful to a lot of people and businesses that have donated their time and efforts into creating an inclusive setting for us.”
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