Welcome to Groundhog May.
In most parts of the world May is a time of joy, when everything seems possible; spring has sprung, swifts and swallows swoop, trees blossom and buds open (in my case, chilli plants). And the birds and bees go for it.
While this spring will be remembered as the one where everything changed, there are seeds of possibility springing up everywhere.
No, we won’t be returning to large gatherings of physical audiences any time soon. From Mexico’s Cinco de Mayo to Pride, this month has well and truly been cancelled all around the world.
And yes, our activities are limited, but there are wonders to be found as you #stayhome. We’re witnessing some incredibly resourceful people reinventing the future in the lo-fi digital space; making things all the more playful, accessible and beautiful for it. Plus, books.
Until we’re allowed out again, enjoy the change of pace while things continue to be surreal at best – and enjoy your ‘duvet May’ with these 31 inspired ideas of things to read, watch, listen to and do in quarantine.
You can stop Groundhog Day from becoming Groundhog May.
Lisa Goldapple, your Editor
► WATCH: Your monthly screen time
2020 can be a year we look back on – in a good way – if we explore, innovate and enlighten imaginations.
1. Unleash collective creativity: In Grayson’s Art Club, Turner Prize-winning artist Grayson Perry teaches us how to let our artistic activity explode in isolation, with British artists like Antony Gormley and comedians like Vic Reeves proving that art and humour can help us through this.
2. Know your place: Animal and plant life are now more relevant than ever. That’s why Barcelona’s CCCB cultural centre (home to our Fixing the future event) has created this playlist of talks from the archives; ‘Humans are not at the centre of everything’ features voices from literature, philosophy, anthropology and science.
3. Learn from the father of the nature doco: Sir David Attenborough has inspired millions by bringing the natural world into our homes. Now the coolest geography teacher in the world is educating kids (and adults too) about maps, oceans and animals on BBC Bitesize Daily.
4. Duets with an environmental message: Until 9 May, Singing With Nightingales is live streaming the birds singing after darkness falls, with one twist: the endangered migratory birds are joined by folk singer Sam Lee and guest musicians like Democratic Republic of Congo’s Fiston Lusambo. Very cool.
5. Time travel: This is the film the next generation needs to see. 2040: The Regeneration asks what the future would look like if we simply embraced the best of creativity and imagination that exists today. It features legends like environmentalist Bill McKibben and Kate Raworth. We defy you not to be moved.
6. Explore your home museum: The things we treasure can tell us a lot about who we are and where we’ve come from. Join FutureHero Gaia Vince on a tour of her Homuseum as the environmental journalist selects artefacts from her home that tell a story.
7. Be inspired by humankind: Documentaries show us the lives of people who tell it like it is. These Guardian films offer remarkable characters who face difficult circumstances with great spirit.
8. Pork crackling with wifi: As 17 May is officially the UN’s ‘World Telecommunication and Information Society Day’, it’s a good reason to watch Conectifai, a portrait of a wifi park as it goes online for the first time – and becomes a thriving meeting place in a rapidly changing Havana, Cuba.
► LISTEN: Plug in baby
Podcasts are good for you. In fact, the second I’ve finished writing this I’m looking forward to closing my eyes and letting this lot take over.
9. Embrace the apocalypse: Optimism outweighs cynicism as the Atlas’s very own in-house ‘Futurenauts’ Mark Stevenson & Ed Gillespie team up with Britain’s “third best loved comedian”, Jon Richardson, for their quick-witted new podcast, How to survive the apocalypse. They cover the things that keep us all awake at night, like: “Are killer death robots from the future already among us?” and “Why hasn’t anyone yet made an intelligent hairbrush?”
Oh, they have? As you were.
10. Enlightened agriculture. With life as we know it grounding to a halt, food is becoming a top priority. Abby Rose’s award-winning Farmerama and CEREAL series actively share the underrepresented voices of smaller-scale farmers. Here, the physicist-farmer chats to on-the-ground food producers experimenting with regenerative economic models:
11. Meet female firebrands: Kate Hutchinson’s podcast series The Last Bohemians profiles radical, fearless women, debonaire disruptors and maverick outsiders in arts and culture. There’s a real power in hearing older women talk about sex, loneliness and how art can pull you through: Molly Parkin, Bonnie Greer and Zandra Rhodes just don’t give a damn.
12. The plant-based pod: For a detox, Vevolution’s female empowerment platform She Loves has launched a podcast to celebrate women creating positive change in the world. Expect mental wellbeing, ethical fashion, eco conscious living and superfood intel.
13. Get grounded: Grounded with Louis Theroux is the documentary filmmaker’s new series – and he can do no wrong in our eyes. Stuck at home, he is using the lockdown to track down some high-profile people he’s been longing to talk to – from all walks of life and on both sides of the Atlantic.
► READ: Words are flourishing
As reading clubs move to Zoom and Instagram to bring readers together, here are some words to lift you up… with some dystopian fiction thrown in.
14. The power of near: It can be hard to find uplifting content online, let alone something as beautifully illustrated as The Nearness Project. Self-described as “something akin to group therapy”, the online community shares art, writing and mutual feelings of uncertainty.
15. Science & sweetgrass: Want to hear the languages of strawberries and squash, salamanders, algae and sweetgrass? For Indigenous wisdom and the teachings of plants, read Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book, Braiding Sweetgrass. The member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation simply wants us to respect Mother Earth.
16. Inhale a novel about contagion: This is a book that you might wish you hadn’t read, but will be glad you had. Emily St. John Mandel’s blockbuster hit Station Eleven tells the story of a Hollywood star and nomadic theatre company performing Shakespeare in a post-apocalyptic world destroyed by a virus. Haunting and beautiful.
17. Good business twice a year: Last week saw the launch of the first issue of the new, bigger, bi-annual Ethos magazine. It’s full of stories of good business and sustainability – including Toms Shoes, Sarah’s Bag… and an Atlas of the Future section about cleantech.
18. Think like a 21st-century economist: There’s never been a more relevant time to read renegade economist Kate Raworth’s internationally-acclaimed book ‘Doughnut Economics’. In this FutureHero interview, Kate breaks down the doughnut metaphor that recently got the city of Amsterdam licking its lips. We can learn to regenerate from nature.
► DO: Your AtlasAgenda
Introducing your AtlasAgenda for May 2020. Keep an eye on our social channels for more dates.
19. Isolation and flutes in space: Fancy asking an astronaut how we can live life better here on planet Earth? Well, how about an astronaut, chemist, Air Force officer and musician who played the flute for the world from space? Cady Coleman is kicking off May in a Q & A event with ‘TIME For Kids’ reporter Jack Doane (sponsored by Ocean Elders) on 1 May.
20. Embrace your feels: When you think about post-Covid climate change, you’re likely to experience a range of emotions. If you’re keen to do something about it, sign up to this free webinar on 4 May by Charly Cox, the founder of Climate Change Coaches.
21. Birds connect our world: Up for more nightingale action? ‘World Migratory Bird Day’ on 9 May is a great excuse to indulge in a bit of birdspotting. Do you know your yellow-browed warbler from your bluethroat? Grab those binoculars and find an online citizen science bird conservation project near you, like Catalonia’s Ornitho.cat.
22. Get rewild: While we’re on the subject of regeneration, reimagining and reshaping, join John ‘Green Swan’ Elkington, the Godfather of modern sustainability, and GreenBiz’s Joel Makower for a conversation about the next stage of sustainable business on 14 May.
23. Play with Massive Attack: Last month Massive Attack were supposed to stream a virtual concert in Minecraft as part of the first Block by Blockwest festival. (Pussy Riot are also playing). Well, they only went and crashed the servers, so it’s been postponed to 16 May! Learn more about Minecraft, the perfect lockdown game here, and how the virtual festival works here.
24. Don’t wait for a seat at the table: The Future For Us Assembly is a day conference on 22 May for badass womxn of colour with big dreams and bold ideas “who are ready to take flight”. Full of power-packed panels, fireside chats and workshops, it’s about igniting and cultivating sparks – and now it’s not bound by physical geography.
25. Become an artist of tomorrow: Check out the youth activities on #RoundYourHouse until the end of June. Amidst the mohawks and psychedelic shop fronts of London’s Camden Town, the legendary Roundhouse boasts a rock’n’roll heritage, but the former engine repair shed is more than just a great live music venue.
► FUTUREFUN: Just because…
Enjoy these Instagram feeds and pandemic pastimes that deserve to go viral – in the best possible way.
26. Wash your lyrics: Bored of singing Happy Birthday twice while you wash your hands? This is not as silly as it seems. With this online tool, you can generate a hand washing infographic poster based on your favourite song lyrics. The person behind it is 17-year-old William Gibson. (Maybe his parents were sci-fi fans?) I tried it with Nick Cave’s ‘Red Right Hand’.
27. Get crafty! Covid-19 Global Quilt is asking everyone to make a square piece of textile art depicting their isolation experiences, and then to share an image to create a digital quilt. (Anyone remember the Aids memorial quilt from back in the day?)
28. Insta-art in the time of corona: The Barcelona-born Covid Art Museum is the world’s first virtual museum for art born during Covid19 confinement and quarantine – and features some very cool illustrations, photographs, animations, videos and paintings. Think face masks, handwashing, balconies, fear and hope.
29. Isolation music streams: Earth Day Live may have been impressive in parts, and corny as hell too, but there is a library of live music in intimate, lo-fi spaces out there. Check out NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts, Sofar Sounds and Boiler Room, which is streaming direct from artists’ homes.
30. The Mad Max of books: All this week Peaky Blinders and Inception actor Tom Hardy has been reading kids (and adults, ahem) Bedtime Stories. “Tonight’s bedtime story is all about a little cactus called Felipe, who just wants a hug too.” You’re welcome.
31. And breathe… Join free diver Guillaume Néry on this breathtaking underwater journey.
► As always, a special mention goes to…
AtlasAction: Share this – and the love: Tell us about the weird and wonderful resources you have found online, and the people creating a better tomorrow by commenting below. You even get an Atlas avatar.