There's no disputing that the last four months have been absolutely mental. In every sense of the word, the world around us has felt chaotic and it's been so disorientating for every one of us. The way in which this pandemic has affected us has varied (we can leave out the 'same boat' analogy here) but it has had an impact on each of us whether it’s been overt or not. For the freelance and arts world it's been pretty devastating with so many of us falling through the ever more evident gaps in the government’s financial support schemes. But, finance aside, what has struck me most is what the obvious disregard for our industry has done to us personally.
You speak to anyone who works in an outward facing role and they will be able to tell you how important their actions are for society; every act we do that serves others leaves an imprint. Whether it’s an obvious life-saving act within the NHS or a mental health support charity, or the less obvious activity of stacking bags of flour in the aisles of Morrisons ( thrilled we've all peaced out on the slightly manic banana bread baking btw) this pandemic has highlighted how important it is that humans seek to serve others in one form or another. So when an industry whose sole purpose is to offer audiences another lens in life in the form of art, theatre, music, dance, and many others, is so blatantly kicked in the balls, we feel it really personally. For those of you who may not have experienced sharing your art with others, doing so feels like you're sharing a part of your most inner truth, and being told that it’s not worth emergency bail out despite being in crisis feels like a bit of a rubbishing of what you are. It's this that I wanna explore.
This is how the first few months of the lockdown looked for me :
1. initial total panic. All performing work in my diary (over 5 months) cancelled in the space of 2 weeks. How will I pay my rent? Cue oscar worthy meltdown and frantic budgeting to see if the time had come to cancel all subscriptions and panic buy tinned rations.
2. Panic alleviated a little when the music service I work for announced that they would pay us this term regardless ( big up Hackney Music Service for quite literally keeping the roof over my head)
3.no work to do and long days in my flat walking from room to room. Anxiety rears its super uncute head. Lots of running to displace said anxiety and to avoid the huge cartoon sized question mark of ?WHEN WILL I WORK AGAIN? above my head
4. People outside of the industry told me to use this time to be CrEaTiVe(eye roll). This is where I wanna touch back in.
I’m sure nearly everyone reached this point. A well-meaning relative told you to use your time wisely and be creative. But how can we continue to think and create creatively (and perhaps prove that we're coping?) when we can't create like we usually do. And this is what I've been thinking about. To offer the world our most personal creativity when we've been so obviously left behind by those coming up with the plans, and to continue to be authentically creative rather than in a perfunctory way, is impossible in the midst of panic. (And if you've not panicked about what your world will look like as we come out of lockdown, consider this a gentle encouragement to just have a little check in with yourself)♥
People told me I could use this time to explore and create new things – and they were right in a sense. Having the time to do this is something that most of us stopped even dreaming about, so in some ways it is a luxury, and if you feel like you can use it then you should. It's been so exciting watching people think outside the box and find other ways to make money and occupy themselves; watching them rediscover things that set their soul on fire but that had been left behind as the world span faster and faster. I also think it’s given us all a well needed dose of acknowledgement that it's completely ok to diversify your work and to do whatever you need to keep yourself afloat. But there's not been a huge lot out in the world to reassure people that you don't have to be on top of it all. If you haven't felt like being creative, or you haven't put together an acapella video of 12 trombones, that’s ok. It's also absolutely ok to do what you have to do to keep the roof over your head.
Does part of you feel thankful for the space and quietness that lockdown gave you? Having to entertain yourself inside your same four walls or on your daily walk brought a simplicity that made things feel safe as long as the front door was firmly shut huh? I'm defo finding it more tricky now that things have eased up – I can't get on stage but I can rub shoulders with the world and his wife in Wetherspoon's? (pls don't we're all on a boycott) Yeah that's pants.
I dunno, I think it's important that we're honest with each other about how crap it is, and about` how we feel bad that it’s crap cos people are seriously ill, but it's still crap'. I guess right now the answer is to be brave and ask for help when it’s needed, stay connected to your gang, and keep the conversations real. I think it’s the kindest and most gentle way to navigate the COVID-19 No man's land. Let me know what you think.