Let me start by saying I have wanted to write something about the effects of pandemic and the performing arts for a while now but really struggled, this is not a pity me post, more of a cathartic release of the struggles. Everyone has had their hardships during this tough time by no means are mine more important or valid than others, I’m just hoping by sharing I can bring myself some peace, my fellow artists the knowledge that they are not alone in their struggle and people who may not understand an insight into the situation.
As Dance schools, gyms and weekly classes begin to go ahead in a post covid-19 world I’m struggling. I see many colleagues who run regular classes in studios starting up again, be it with a very difficult task ahead and lots of hard work behind them too. I’m over joyed that they can now resume and am very much rooting for them all to succeed. However I can’t help but feel left out. I do teach dance regularly (weekly post Covid) but I do not use regular venues and am reliant on hen parties/birthdays/events/private functions etc for these weekly workshops to go ahead and at the moment this is not able happen. It feels a bit like the town in footloose! Sometimes in a day I will teach at 3 or 4 different venues with varying numbers of groups with different requirements. Most of us in this teaching sector are not expecting to get back to this work until 2021 a devastating but realistic estimation. I am also predominantly a performer mostly singing and dancing, the performance industry has suffered and even more devstating blow with lots of venues just not surviving and the remaining ones unable to do viable business at limited capacity.
Performing arts and dance have been the constant in my life for as long as I can remember. I first stepped on stage as a 4 year old dancer in 1993. I did a tap dance to “Never smile at a crocodile” as I recall, we wore little green skirts and green t-shirts with sequins on (I always thought that was to make us look like crocodiles but looking back…probably not!). I remember the whole event as if it were yesterday it is etched into my mind. From that moment I knew I wanted to be a performer no doubts about it and I have only ever doubted once since then, but that is another story for another day. I have worked hard for 27 years since that first ever performance learning and becoming the performer, choreographer and theatre maker you see before you now! The work I have put in however is probably not that different to most performers and creatives within the performing arts, we live and breath our work, we work for bad wages or often no wages with sleepless nights, physically and mentally exhausted bodies, some of us even change our bodies to do what we feel we were born to do or be.
So in March 2020 when the pandemic hit I was devastated to have my passion taken away, all of my work for the foreseeable future cancelled and my whole career hanging by a thread, however I was more concerned at that time with safeguarding myself, my family and others around me. I have never been a supporter of the tory government however I did at that point believe that they would do the right thing and support everyone because well….they had to right? Wrong! Oh how wrong I was! It wasn’t until April hit I started to panic. By that point I and countless other freelancers and self employed people had not been really mentioned, by this point I had lost over £3000 worth of work, I had nothing, no savings, no rainy day fund no unspent holiday money nothing, luckily for me my fiancé is a key worker so thankfully my essential bills were sorted. My business bills however have been an ongoing struggle to fight through the influx of online classes and shows on platforms saturated with other freelancers desperate to keep some kind of business alive.
So as the Pandemic develops and changes I wonder how my industry is going to cope, there has been funding from the government for venues but still not an improvement in help for freelancers (which a huge majority of artists are). I am working on making sure my immediate financial needs are met by online means so I am more robust as a business and as a freelancer to work anywhere with anyone. It’s tough and a huge learning curve but it’s what needs to be done. But this does make me wonder, what everyone else want from these changes to the arts and culture you enjoy in your lives. How difficult is it to engage with arts and culture online? Do you have anything stopping you from doing that? What kind of arts are most important to you? What are you wanting to spend your money on within arts and culture if at all? How important is art and culture to you in a time when we have been stripped back to a more essential life style?
Well if you have made it this far through my rambling pandemic saga, I would love to hear your views on those final questions…help me understand this post-covid world and navigate it in a way which will hopefully bring some much needed happiness and content to my audience through new mediums and hopefully engage with new people too!
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