Shakespeare wrote King Lear in plague quaranti... yeah, we know, thanks Twitter!
Of course, Will didn’t have facebook, rolling news, Netflix, Ticktock, Pornhub (who’ve rolled out the faintest of silver linings and made their premium service free in Italy), Instagram, podcasts or any pets that we know of. And there was almost certainly a woman providing the sustenance, housekeeping and encouragement while he settled in to write another play about a king.
So if your social distancing so far consists of anxious-eating your stockpile, watching Love is Blind and swearing every time you touch your face, don’t feel bad. This is scary and unprecedented and the added pressure of being a freelancer or a student, in an industry dependent on gathering and events, is huge.
Everyone is worried about their health, and that of their loved ones. Everyone is worried about the pressure on the NHS and our other vital services. On top of that, freelance friends and colleagues are worried about paying rent and bills as work is cancelled. Here’s some of the industry advice available;
Equity and BECTU have issued guidance, which is useful even if you’re not a member.
You might want to follow your Organiser for up to date news. In Wales and the South West, it’s Simon Curtis.
Arts Council Wales have published information for those working as artists, freelancers and in publicly funded cultural organisations. You can find the latest from them here or on social channels.
Arts Council England have announced that they’ll refocus some grant programmes to help compensate individual artists and freelancers for lost earnings. They’re working out how, and you can find their updates here.
Covid-19 & Freelance Artists this is a list of free resources, opportunities, and financial relief options available to artists of all disciplines.
There’s a facebook group for the UK theatre industry. And there's lots of peer to peer advice and support out there on socials, from agents, casting directors and more. Francesca Moody is working with others on producers online meet ups. Details here.
Wales Arts Review are fundraising to provide emergency bursaries to artists and arts professionals.
Inspired by Bryony Kimmings’ initiative to match established artists to those who’re struggling.
Unions and organisations are lobbying the government to act to offer security to the entertainment and hospitality industries and individuals losing earnings. Kevin Brennan MP, for example, has urged the UK Government to consider a Universal Basic Income for freelancers, you can read more here and ask your MP to support it.
Here at National Theatre Wales, we’ve taken the difficult decision not to open HAIL CREMATION! Our wonderful company have worked incredibly hard on this show for a long time and we’re already thinking about how we might be able to share it with you in the future. I know that lots of you will be in a similar, painful position. We are, of course, honouring payment of every contract we have with artists and freelancers.
The rest of this year’s season, including the work of our Collaboration and Creative Development teams, will undoubtedly be impacted. We’re in dialogue with the artists, taking advice and watching how this situation unfolds.
NTW is agile and flexible, we’re used to working miles apart, all over Wales, and we’re determined to be a source of support, community and, when we can, employment in the coming weeks and months. Lorne, our new artistic director, started on Monday (most surreal first week ever?) and he’s leading us in finding the opportunities for creation and collaboration. More on that soon.
I don’t need to say ‘look out for each other’, that’s instinctive to this industry and community, but coming together when you, er, can’t come together, keeping our families and communities strong and safe when circumstances feel so beyond our control is a daunting prospect.
It’s going to be important to look after your mental health. Here’s a great resource from MIND on managing anxiety and isolation.
And here are some of the lovely ways that people are making positive contributions and welcome distractions;
Exuent Magazine have compiled advice as well as a great list of distractions, inspiration and projects, including theatre shows you can watch online for free.
Coronavirus Theatre Club is facilitating playwrights and actors to record and share new writing.
Noel Fielding has started the art club you never knew you needed.
Amber Massie-Blomfield has started 'Homework', a new online creative nonfiction group led for writers of all levels of experience, providing weekly writing prompts from guest authors.
David Jays has started #LockdownTheatreClub
Lucy Prebble created this thread of recommendations for great film, TV and more.
If you’re looking for a way to be useful in your neighbourhood, you could offer your support to your local foodbank or to isolating neighbours.
If you have other thoughts, ideas, resources to share, please comment below, email, or tweet me. If you’d like to chat anything through with someone at NTW, say hello. We’re all working away at home (some between childcare and home schooling, like many of you, I’m sure!) and sending love and solidarity to you all.
If you are going to attempt your Lear, I look forward to seeing the fruits of your isolation, but if you write a play about a contagious virus it had better be VERY funny.
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