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.

Photo Credit: Amber Pollack

Note 1: March-May

The week before lockdown, Ally looked forward to a summer of festivals, and to recording the first tracks for a new album.

On 24th March, the recording project was put on hold. Everyone assumed though that even if early season live bookings were postponed, later events would still happen. That optimism gradually faded, along with the summer’s income, to be replaced by stay-home routines, concerns for relatives, and a lot of online socials.

A couple of things have provided hope. Three tracks intended for a 2018 album were rediscovered and will shortly be released; and there has been an unexpected amount of time available for a camper van conversion.

The fear now is that ‘nothing can be how it was’. Getting back to work safely could be challenging, with pressure on venues and studios, and it’s hard to imagine how social gatherings and interactions can work with any of the ‘old normal’.

Note 2: May-July

The last three months has compressed the world, with life and work focused on a single room and a few shared areas. I look forward to grabbing some normality; even so, there is still a level of anxiety to leave the house – ‘wallet keys phone’, adding ‘face mask and hand sanitiser’.

A deeper fear for my generation is the potential drag on life prospects for a big segment of young people. None of that has yet been properly discussed.

It’s been hard to create structure. Getting outdoors, some self-belief, Zooms with friends, and having projects to look forward to have been really important. Being the nominated shopper for the rest of the house was actually exciting.

We were boosted by a great response to the recent release of some unpublished studio sessions. Seemed to cheer people up! It worked so well we’re now focused short term on recording plans, although beyond that I can’t quite envisage how live performance will work any time soon. This is a big worry across the creative industries and risks challenging the viability of smaller festivals, theatres and other arts venues.

What I miss, and can’t yet recreate in the current conditions, is going to shows, playing shows, hugging friends and family… and not being anxious to leave the house.

Note 3: July-August

In terms of changes since last time we spoke, the mood seems more relaxed amongst younger people, not least with things like ‘Eat Out to Help Out’! But the worry about spikes in infection remains permanently there in the background.

We’ve left behind a completely lost festival season and are going full ahead on other things – a new official release, and a proper music video shoot, albeit with quite strict regulations about how the filming is done. It’s good to come back together with other creative artists, and with relief that they have survived to stay in the business. I’m sad to think that this may turn out not to be the case for everyone.

Too much time doing nothing is a very bad thing and turning this time into an opportunity has been vital – I’ve admired our collective (band) optimism and going for what we can do as opposed to dwelling on what we can’t. It can be tough though and you really need to re-set every day.

Looking ahead I’m missing festivals and live performance, hoping for the best next summer. In the meantime, a sudden end to this crisis does not seem likely and whilst people are more relaxed, do we risk repeating what we did in March – is this bullshit optimism or do we now have better systems in place? Time will tell.

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