David and Ally

Ally and David

David Baty in conversation with

Ally is a musician, making a living from recording and live performance. Alongside the health emergency, the lockdown created a major challenge to the livelihoods of people in the creative industries. We chart tensions between the health crisis, personal experience of lockdown and the unfolding impact on life and work.

26 weeks: reflection

As I re-read the conversations from the last 26 weeks, I realised how important contemporaneous records are – not just what we thought and felt, but also how we were framing hopes and fears for the future at that moment in time. The memory of that cast-forward seems more quickly lost than that of actual events at the time.

At the beginning there was a brief element of optimism, which I shared – but that faded quickly. As time progressed, I took from the conversations the importance of going for what can be done, as opposed to dwelling on what can’t. The summer provided some respite, however just eight weeks ago we reflected that the end to this crisis did not seem likely and wondered whether we risked repeating what we did in March: “is this bullshit optimism or do we now have better systems in place? Time will tell”.

Time did indeed tell, and the relative freedoms of the summer already seem a long way away.

For me personally, living online felt very limiting and I missed the buzz of proper involvement with the external environment – concerts, exhibitions, going out to socialise – I realise that’s where I get my energy from. So it’s time to reset: how and where to build and sustain richer engagement through to the spring and beyond? The 26 Weeks project itself has provided some clues, offering a connection to a wide range of experiences and individual stories of courage and fortitude. The conversations have presented an antidote to a flattened virtual world.

It will be a difficult winter. It will also have a long legacy. Looking ahead there is already significant, and probably lasting, damage to employment prospects for many. Our conversation started to focus on some serious challenges for the younger generation of the workforce in particular. These problems are not going to be addressed quickly.

We also connected with the impact across the creative industries; it may not top the headlines, but it’s sad to reflect that some who have trained over years for careers as musicians, and other creative and technical professionals, may not be able to continue. From the point of view of businesses operating in the sector, there also remains a serious risk to the viability of smaller festivals, theatres and other arts venues.

For me overall, this experience has amplified the importance of conversation and connection. The health, economic, and social impact of the current crisis remain the priorities but with a long haul ahead of us, we need to stay close to what makes us human. Especially during continued restrictions, finding creative ways of maintaining engagement between ourselves as individuals, and with arts, music, sports or other external events, will be an essential part of our mental health and well-being. It will also be vital to people trying to keep hold of their careers and livelihoods.

David Baty

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