Life

'We're Creating Our Own Prom' – How Gen Z Is Adapting to a Summer in Lockdown

No music festivals. No partying. No first big holiday abroad.
07 July 2020, 10:35am
Teens Teenagers Lockdown Summer Pandemic Gen Z Exams
All photos courtesy of interviewees

How did you celebrate after your GCSEs or A-levels? I can't remember many of the details, but I'm 99 percent sure the former involved downing MDMA-laced Red Stripe in a campsite in Newquay while "Too Many Man" played on repeat out of someone's iPhone. The latter was spent having an anxiety attack at Glastonbury while Chase & Status played the Other Stage. Good memories.

Point is: the summer months have traditionally been a time for young people who have just finished exams or school or whatever to go to their first music festival, or holiday abroad with friends, or have a disgusting kiss with a stranger they met in a club called something like SMASHERS.

This summer, however, most of those adolescent rites of passage are off the table. Lockdown might be sort-of easing, but festivals across the UK have been cancelled. Holidays have been postponed. We're not able to gather outdoors in groups of more than six, and immunocompromised people are having to shelter in place. With that in mind, I spoke to a bunch of teens about how they're spending the next few months, now everything is... not happening anymore.

'We were supposed to all be having our first night out together'

"My friends and I were supposed to be going to Edinburgh a few weeks ago to rent an Airbnb for a week and have a big post A-levels blowout. And because a few of my friends turned 18 in lockdown and didn't have fake IDs, we were supposed to all be having our first night out together after a Harry Styles concert, which of course was postponed until next year. I'm not really sure what I'm going to be doing this summer now... even though my friends are going to pubs when they open, I don’t really feel comfortable yet, so I'm guessing I won't to do much at all.

"I’ve been seeing friends to go on walks and stuff, but it makes me quite anxious to leave the house, so hopefully I’ll get better at that and will be able to see my friends more. I’ve also started being more creative – I've always wanted to paint, but never wanted to create something 'bad', so this has given me time to just go for it and experiment." — Georgia, 18

'I'm hoping for a few house parties'

"It's a weird time, because a lot of people are taking government advice really seriously, but others have basically given up on lockdown and are just hanging at their mates'. And when other people do it, you don't wanna miss out. So while I won't be going to gigs or anything, I'll probably do a lot of chilling in parks, and I'm hoping for a few house parties. I can't get into clubs anyway, so that side of things hasn't really changed. So my plans are the same as they were pre-pandemic, just a lot more local." — Jack, 17

'I'll probably spend loads more time doing art and being creative'

"This was my first year of uni, so I was hoping to spend the end of the term celebrating in Manchester, where I study. I was also going to work at festivals – a walk-around performer at Boomtown, and helping on an art stall at others. Me and my friends were excited to use this summer to travel as much as we could and go to as many festivals as possible.

"Because of the virus we had to leave halls around the end of March. We didn’t really get to say goodbye to anyone properly, and missed our final term of first year. Obviously I won’t be able to go travelling or go to any festivals. This means I'll probably spend loads more time doing art and being creative. It's been daunting, but sometimes nice having more time alone. I'll also be going on walks and bike rides with my friends more. It makes me feel like I’m underage again, because we’re going to parks to drink!" — Maddy, 19.

'I'm trying to learn how to use the music software Pro Tools, so I can become a producer'

"If I'm honest, I have no idea what I'm going to do this summer. I'd planned on going to Glastonbury for the first time, but that obviously got cancelled for fair reasons. Me and my friends were also going to go camping, but now that doesn't seem like a good idea either. I'd love to say I had plans to replace those ones, but I think I'll just spend the next few weeks with my family and probably a lot of time alone too, reading and being online. I'm trying to learn how to use the music software Pro Tools, so I can become a producer. Instead of thinking about what I'm missing, I'm trying to use this time wisely.' — Jesse, 16

'A few of my friends are still doing a sweet 16 party'

"A lot of young people I know didn't fully observe lockdown, as they thought COVID-19 was a London thing. Many year 11 and year 13s left school really in March – when the work stopped from school. Many of my friends have had sleepovers, parties, and loads went swimming in local canals off the River Aire. Now, in my city [Bradford], a lot of young people are quite worried, as we have the second highest coronavirus rate in the UK, so there's this thing going around on Snapchat urging everyone to stay in.

"Among my friendship group we hold weekly Skype group calls. Obviously our prom got cancelled this year, and one of my friends was thinking of hiring a venue and kind of creating our own one. A few of my friends are still doing a sweet 16 party – but they've planned to do it in August, probably because they still want presents." — Qais, 16

'It means I can spend this summer on my own terms'

"I'm an introvert, so I feel kind of relieved that I don't have to see loads of people this summer and do all the things 17-year-olds are 'supposed' to do, like festivals, which I find overwhelming. It means I can spend this summer on my own terms. I like making zines, and I've started making patches that people can sew onto hoodies or jeans. I see friends maybe once every week or two weeks in this huge park area near my house, which has llamas! The rest of the time can be spent doing projects and trying out new things. — Leigh, 17.

@daisythejones