Lockdown One Year On: Fascinating stories from the Quadram community

29th March 2021

March 2021 marks one year from the first UK lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the ensuing 12 months, our daily lives have changed – almost beyond recognition.

We asked our Quadram community to share one item that summarises their year from lockdown. What emerged was fascinating stories and experiences that many of us can relate to: 


Since March 2020, the UK workforce has been encouraged to work from home where possible to contain the virus.
As desks were cleared across the Institute, our leafy friends joined us on the journey.

“A year ago, as we left the building, I volunteered to take on the huge responsibility for the Food Databanks Yukka,” Research Scientist Jenny Plumb reminiscences, “rather like the dread of keeping the school hamster alive during the school holidays.”

“Fortunately, both Yukka and I have made it through the year. One of us shrivelled a bit and lost some of its bulk; the other did the opposite. I look forward to both of us getting back into the office.”


Adapting to remote working also had its physical challenges. Dining tables, sofas, and bedrooms were all repurposed for the 9-5.

Directorate Manager Tricia Hart has taken the “Narnia” approach to homeworking and has been accessing her Quadram life via her wardrobe.

“It’s been my cosy space to create an office in; very different to the roomy open plan office I work in at the Quadram Institute.” Tricia cheekily notes, “It’s amazing how many people fit in my wardrobe … via online meetings.”



As schools closed and social distancing began, the rainbow quickly captured peoples’ imaginations. For many cultures, the rainbow embodies hope and better times to come.

Handmade motifs brightened neighbourhood windows, creating a sense of community, but they had a far greater purpose:

“They became a symbol of love, respect, and gratitude for the NHS.” Science Writer Judith Pell reflects.

“This one was made by Molly and her granny Monica who live in our village.

They laminated these signs and placed them in their friends’ front gardens in the village for Easter 2020.

It was a wonderful gesture that not only cheered up everyone in the village, but also everyone who drove past and saw them. We still have ours – and subsequent ones they made through the summer.”

Our partners, the Norwich and Norfolk University Hospital, are tirelessly fighting COVID-19 on the frontlines. In January 2021, Lauren Jaques, Deputy Sister on the Critical Care Complex, shared a video diary on a night shift talking about her COVID-19 experiences.


Lifestyles across the UK have transformed over the last 12 months, but what impact has this had on the nation’s physical and mental health? Researchers from UEA’s Norwich Medical School and School of Health Sciences launched a project to find out, tracking a range of lifestyle behavioural changes in over 1,000 participants over three months.

The researchers found that lockdown saw people in the UK eating less fruit and vegetables, getting less exercise, and drinking more alcohol.

However, Laboratory Technician Charles Pallen bucked the trend.

For Charles, a set of scales symbolises his year in lockdown “because, unlike everyone else, I lost weight.”


Claire Daniels, QIB Extra Contracts Manager, similarly found solace in exercise. The home gym and the barbell became “one of my best friends during the lockdown,” Claire quips.

“Overhead barbell squat practice will always be one of my favourite exercises.

This is my home gym in the garage, and it has been my place of sanity over the past year.

Originally, we were forced to start exercising at home, but I’ve learnt to love and appreciate the power of a great home workout.”


The anxiety and mental strain of COVID-19 played a significant part in many people’s experience of the last 12 months.

“It’s hard to get your head around a new and frightening invisible threat to life. This intangible thing that’s playing havoc with all our lives.” Andrew Stronach, Head of External Relations, observes.

“Last spring, I asked one of the post-docs, Oscar Gonzalez, if he could 3D print me a model of SARS-CoV-2, and he kindly did.

Ever since that model has sat on my desk. I’ve looked at and held it every day. It’s made the unreal seem more real. It’s made the Coronavirus less intimidating.”

For such a small object, this 3D printed model’s impact has been tremendous – and it doesn’t stop here. It’s set to be gazed upon for years to come by thousands of eyes.

“The model’s a very cool object, but it’s destined for a new home in the Science Museum to form part of a historical record of the ephemera of our 21st-century pandemic lives.”

Since the first wave of the pandemic hit the UK in March, the Quadram Institute has been at the forefront of genomic sequencing – the science behind taking positive samples identified by testing and extracting the genetic code of the virus. Discover more about the experiences of our COVID-19 Sequencing Team and the people involved.