Congratulations to Eliyeh (L6RDD) who has won the BBC Radio 4 short play competition for new writers, aged 16 to 18!

Her idea for her short play, called ‘A Piece of Fabric’, came from her observations during the pandemic. Eliyeh said:

“I found it interesting how everyone’s social relationships were so altered and changed during the pandemic. Friends that one saw everyday became avatars and one saw them only on a screen. Body language, which is so important in human social communication and everyday bonding, became obsolete. I noticed that fellow pupils, initially at least, did not know how to interact on school video tutorials. Should I look at the teacher, should I look at the desk, should I interrupt, what expression should I adopt?! On the attention spectrum, should I look riveted, in awe, very interested or merely bemused? Can everyone read the expression in my eyes over video?

The biggest change that I noticed was really in the interaction of people in society. There was a sort of democratisation in communication. The only way to communicate non-verbally was through the eyes. Before the pandemic, one might smile or grimace, or combine hand gestures with facial expressions, but not during the deepest part of the lockdown, everyone only had their eyes to communicate non-verbally.

And all this made me think of how pre-pandemic, peoples’ eyes are often focused on what another is wearing, particularly if someone is wearing some item of religious clothing or identity symbol. Eye communication was noticeably less pre-pandemic, as the eyes were being used to observe others rather than to communicate with them. And that is what ‘A Piece of Fabric’ is about. It’s about how we all judge identity, possibly also motive and personality by observing what people are wearing and what stereotype they fit into, rather than truly looking into their eyes and allowing ourselves to sense their soul or their goodness.

People use their eyes to judge, rather than to connect and communicate – and the pandemic, for a short while anyway, changed all that.”

Listen to Eliyeh’s BBC Radio 4 short play by clicking here – New Frequencies, episode 2, BBC Sounds.