Exclusives 29 March 2021

GRM Exclusive: How the UK’s Content Creators Kept Lockdown Interesting

29 March 2021

Lockdown has taken a lot of moments away from us over the past year, especially socially. It’s clear to see that the lack of human interaction that daily life brings us has been replaced by endless Zoom calls and having a basic conversation through a mask at the local shop. Yes, COVID-19 has been a massively negative period in almost everyone’s life, but as a by-product of the pandemic we have seen the world of content exploding like never before.

The UK has been incredibly resourceful with viral moments since the pandemic started, especially given the intensity of the lockdown restrictions here in the UK. As these changes to life started to really affect people’s mental health, industries such as social media have become a helpful distraction and a way of temporarily bringing back the now distant memory of normality.

With the United Kingdom being one of the smaller countries, it’s mind blowing to see how much world class talent that we have to offer, and given the current situation at hand it has really tested the creativity of these people. Whether you’re a musician, a personality, a comedian or something else, you will most likely agree that lockdown has presented an opportunity to grow your profile on social platforms at a more intense level than ever before. For some, the situation was less forgiving, but many found that they were in their element and were able to create some incredible digital moments.  

Podcasting is a very socially vibrant type of content, as it typically consists of two (or more) people having a conversation about absolutely anything. This style of entertainment can really help a person who is experiencing feelings of loneliness or isolation from others. Podcasts aren’t for everyone, but you will find that the audience that enjoys them is seriously hooked. Bringing an open dialogue to the people, fuelled by perspective and often in a funny way is invaluable right now. The UK’s podcast scene is relatively young, but still we have some amazing examples of British talent that have been winning in this space during the pandemic. 

Firstly, we have to mention Chuckie Online. With an admirable sense of perspective, this individual has offered us a constant feed of the Halfcast Podcast (as well as other content.) Halfcast has been an important listen for many people during the pandemic for many reasons. The way that subject matter is broken down into a down to earth manner, with multiple conversations about the virus, that have covered a lot of common thoughts and feelings behind it. Chuckie and the other regular members of the pod (Poet, Savage Dan etc.) aren’t afraid to explore sensitive themes that many would tiptoe around. These delicate talking points are often surrounded by playful humour, making this podcast a great listen for anyone that is in need of a distraction or another point of view to put their mind at ease.

We can’t speak about the British podcast scene without bringing the 3 Shots Of Tequila lads into the mix as well. Kieth, Tazer and Marvin took a different approach to the situation, with a launch of a second podcast entitled “LW3S”. Abbreviated from “Learn With 3 Shots”, this show is perfect for the people that want to expand their horizons or just have an interest in learning something brand new. LW3S brings in industry experts and offers insider knowledge on popular and niche industries. Entertainment like this holds an important place in the scene right now, as it offers relief for people that may be feeling restricted by the pandemic and it hands over extremely valuable information to anyone that may be in need of a helping hand when jumping into a new lane.

Instagram’s IGLive feature has not gone a miss over COVID season in the UK as well. Yes, North America had Tory Lanez’s “Quarantine Radio”, but we had Swarmz, Mo Gilligan and Spuddz (I know which side I’d rather be on).

As you’d expect, Mo got creative real fast with the invention of the “Quarantine Games.” This was incredible for so many reasons… This was content for everyone, meaning the whole family could watch and try to get involved. The IG quiz show had a simple question premise with a Wheel Of Fortune esque set up, and some top tier banter from the man himself. The set up was budget, but we loved it. This concept even got picked up by Channel 4 for a few episodes as “Mo Gilligan’s All Star Happy Hour.” Incredible stuff.

Swarmz (by far) had the quickest social come up during the pandemic of everyone. For anyone to go from a following of around 100k on Instagram all the way up to the golden million mark is sensational. Truly a prime example of turning a tough time into an opportunity. These live stream sessions were a bit more NSFW, but damn were they entertaining. We all really needed the laughter at that time.

Let’s talk YouTube. There are too many moments to bring attention to, but I think we can all agree on a few highlights. “Does The Shoe Fit” season 4. Chunkz, Yung Filly, Harry Pinero and Konan brought us one of the best examples of lockdown entertainment that was on offer. Sponsored by the people at Footasylum, the premise of this mini-series focused on speed dating. When you bring these personalities together, you know it’s going to get out of hand quickly. Swiftly becoming one of the most talked about viral moments on socials, this series brought back memories of hanging out with the lads or going for a cheeky date. Both of these are aspects of life that a lot of us have lost touch with during lockdown, giving us a gentle reminder and hope for a decent summer in 2021. Fingers crossed for a season five.

Another much loved content personality, Amelia Dimoldenberg also kept our senses busy with more episodes of the unique “Chicken Shop Date.” The people can’t live without this show and it’s very clear to see why. With a short break at the start of the lockdown period, Amelia picked up filming again and was joined by the likes of Digga D, Slowthai and Little Mix’s Jade Thirlwall. British culture thrives on awkward moments and blunt sarcasm, but this doesn’t always translate well over digital methods of communication. We needed it. To add to this Amelia has now launched a second show “Amelia’s Cooking Show” to see us through to (hopefully) the end of the lockdown.

Some more honorable mentions include the Sidemen, the outrageous offerings from Niko Omilana and Kano’s insightful “Newham Talks.”

Virtual award shows were a concept that most of us hadn’t experienced yet and we were met with more than one example of this in the UK during 2020. The MOBO’s 2020 was hosted by the people’s favourite Chunkz and the lovely Maya Jama, both paying homage to some of the best UK talent.

GRM Daily also delivered The Rated Awards via YouTube in 2020, bringing in the incredible hosts, Mo Gilligan and Julie Adenuga. The show had no audience, but this did not ruin the vibes in any way. Strangely enough, if anything the change in setup gave the viewers a more exclusive feel when watching. The ceremony showcased unforgettable performances from Kano, Dizzee Rascal and Ivorian Doll, with even the pre-recorded sets feeling live. What a night.

This change due to the virus was a strange one, because it was one of the few adaptations that put more of an emphasis on delivering a more creative experience. Leveraging a platform such as YouTube for live events is a genius idea, giving wider access than ever before, especially during a time when everyone is locked up at home. 

To bring these highlights to a close I think it’s fair to say that no one put in the work like DJ EZ. This legend live streamed a DJ set that lasted for 24 hours straight, yes you read that right. If offering 1,440 minutes of pure vibes wasn’t enough for you, he also raised almost £90,000 for MIND (the mental health charity). Not only offering entertainment, but also giving financial support to a cause that was is under more pressure due to the pandemic is unreal. A round of applause for EZ.

Although these examples were huge, they’re only a very small part of how the UK reacted to the lockdown online. Without a digital space to showcase expression or to take your mind off the tough times, so many people would have experienced an even more stressful and testing time.

2020 will always be a year that we can reflect on in a negative sense, but one of the few positives that we can speak of as a silver lining is the UK’s overwhelming amount of talent in the entertainment space. Big thanks to all of the content creators for keeping us sane during lockdown.

Check out our very own guide to surviving during lockdown right here.