And so this is Christmas
and what have we done?
Another year over.
One of the best things about my 2020 (it’s a short list) is that I’ve managed to start volunteering, in a kitchen for a charity in Cardiff. Beyond my millennial propensity for virtue signalling, I mention this because it really has felt like a shot in the arm in a year in which our industry has been paralysed and purpose and meaning have not been the easiest things to keep a grip on.
I am masked, I wear a hairnet, I scrub pans, clean fridges and chop vegetables, I once spent 4 hours peeling garlic cloves. But being part of a team, working against the clock to make hundreds of meals, meeting people I otherwise never would, has thrown into sharp focus how much I need this. I need to work with other people, in the same place. I need the pressure, satisfaction and relief of making something happen, together. And even on this little scale, it feels great.
I bet you miss that adrenaline too. We’re an industry of people who need to be together to make work and to thrive. When we’re not making theatre, we’re often working in settings where people gather in other ways; events, festivals, education, bars and restaurants. Many of our second, third or ‘back up’ jobs and passions have gone dark too.
No zoom call, even last thing on a Friday with a big glass of wine, gives me the buzz of coming together with people and making shows. No deadline is as motivating (and, ok, as dementing) as an opening night, no payoff as exhilarating as a full house bubbling to a hush as the lights go down. For each production NTW swells as freelancers flood in to make incredible things possible. For our biggest projects, the company doubles or triples in size. The vision and ambition of freelance artists and theatre makers fuels theatre, it is theatre. We miss you.
Whilst 2020 is almost over, I know the difficulty faced by many in our industry is not over yet. Here’s a reminder of some of the places to seek support. Freelancers Make Theatre Work have a really well-researched list
It includes government support you may be entitled to but also details of specific funds like The Actors’ Children’s Trust for actor-parents, The Directors’ Charitable Foundation and Acting For Others, who provide financial and emotional support to all theatre workers
Some funds set up specifically to help theatre freelancers this year are currently closed but do keep an eye out for future rounds, from places like Theatre Artists Funds, who are still fund raising. The Fleabag Support Fund, which provides small crisis grants and will reopen on 2nd January. Read about eligibility here https://www.trtf.com/fleabag-support-fund
The Theatre Helpline is a free, independent and confidential 24-hour phone and email service is available 365 days a year for a range of personal and professional support.
Callers can talk to friendly, knowledgeable, trained staff about everything from mental health and wellbeing to debt and financial issues. Theatre Helpline staff can also signpost a range of useful external resources and support services if necessary. https://theatrehelpline.org/
Shout is another great free service available to anyone in the UK. Just text ‘shout’ to 85258 and you’ll be connected (usually within 5 minutes) to a trained volunteer who you can message back and forth with. The aim of the conversation is to help you through a moment of anxiety and feeling overwhelmed, to reach a calm and safe place with a plan of how to support yourself going forwards. Sometimes just writing out everything on your mind can be incredibly helpful. They have some wide-ranging resources on their website too, from lockdown and loneliness to help dealing with a miscarriage or planning an autism-friendly Christmas. https://giveusashout.org/
You can see what we’ve been up to this year here, but we’ve also been laying foundations that we believe will take us through a wonderful season of work next year and into a bright, exciting future that we hope you’ll be a part of.
As some glimmer of hope finally feels like it might be on the horizon, we cannot wait to once again share stages and to create new ones with you, from the hearts of our cities to the sands of our beaches to the cobbles of our small towns.
So at the risk of sounding like an insta caption (oh, to have back the time I’ve spent on instagram this year) if 2020 has felt like a setback, you’re not alone in that. If you’ve experienced loss and hardship, better times are coming. We’re not going ‘back to normal’. This year has shown us that’s impossible and unconscionable. We’re going somewhere else. There’s going to be some incredible art and some fucking great parties. And we’ll make it all happen together.
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