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10 min read | Written by Chloe Courtney

Right now, we’re living through a very strange and difficult time.

As Contact’s Health and Science Producer, I think talking about health is really important – it’s what I spend most of my working days doing. But now we’re in the middle of a global health crisis, a pandemic, and suddenly health and sickness are almost the only things we can talk about. We can’t get away from them. 

When we feel well, it’s easy to forget that many people have to talk about their ongoing health conditions for what feels like all day everyday, at hospital appointments or at home. And while I might be just settling into self-isolation, for others isolation due to ill health is the norm.

How can we look out for each other now that we are ‘alone, together’? And how can we learn lessons about how to look out for each other better in the future? 

STAY CONNECTED

At Contact we have very sadly had to cancel our upcoming events and participation projects, as is the case for most live performance and arts venues. While we’re committed to honouring our contracts with freelancers for at least the next three months, we also want to try and support our audiences, artists and participants as much as we can. Keep an eye out for our announcements next week about online participation projects, workshops and events.

In the meantime, I wanted to highlight and amplify some of the ways that the live performance sector is currently using technology to stay connected to audiences, with events broadcast directly to our devices: 

  • The World Health Organisation itself is partnering with Global Citizen and a series of big name musicians for #TogetheratHome Instagram gigs.
  • On Tuesday 17 March, Specialist Subject Records used instagram stories to stage a transcontinental punk show watched by more than 2000 people – look out for more events
  • This evening (Thursday 19 March) The Dazzle Club will be live streaming a version of its Dazzle Walks, exploring surveillance in public space, using Zoom.
  • Yesterday (Wednesday 18 March) Crayola the Queen livestreamed a ‘choose your own adventure’ interactive dragfest. Crayola will drop a full weekly schedule of drag e-vents every upcoming Friday.
  • The BBC is planning a virtual festival of the arts, including filmed recordings of plays and new scripts created especially for broadcast.
  • Isolate Live is a Facebook platform to watch, listen to and support musicians from home and Gramophone is sharing performances from musicians around the world.
  • There’s a Social Distancing Festival getting started, aiming to provide a platform for shows that have been cancelled due to coronavirus.
  • Cabaret show, anyone?
  • Contact collaborators Slung Low are releasing something new from their archives every day [LINK and plotting with the National Student Drama Festival to bring this year’s festival online.
  • The Gate Theatre have been broadcasting GATE LATE LIVE on Twitter from across the country.
  • Venues across the world are livestreaming work and opening their archives – the top pick from our Programme Manager Pelin Basaran is Munich’s Kammerspiele, who are releasing a new production each day.
  • Plus, people are already thinking of ways to continue this new burst of online activity after we come out of isolation. London’s So and So Arts Club are making plans for free live streaming once the pandemic has passed, for shows affected by venue closures.

MAKE, CREATE AND PARTICIPATE

Self-isolation can also be a time to make, create and participate, especially if it’s not your normal habit. Involving yourself in arts activities can have a positive impact on your mental and physical wellbeing, and that doesn’t have to stop because of self-isolation.

As well as YouTube tutorials and existing creative communities like Skillshare and Instructables, you can try:

  • Taking part in a global virtual choir with The Sofa Singers – the next choir session is tomorrow evening (Friday 20 March).
  • Drag aerobics in your living room with Dolly Trolley on Instagram and Facebook Live.
  • Daily creative writing challenges from Story Club.
  • A scriptwriting workshop over Zoom with Contact favourite and Vogue Ball host Rikki Beadle-Blair.
  • Printing off and colouring in amazing patterns from artist Lizzie Hobbs.
  • Downloading freely available activist posters and joining webinars with Amplifier Art. 

MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT

The MARCH network is keeping up an ongoing list of home-based, creative ways to support your mental health. Artists are looking at ways to make their online events more accessible, with BSL interpretation, for example. Cabaret performers are sharing daily calendars of online events on twitter. Online audiences are paying what they can to freelance artists’ Patreons and Ko-Fis after watching performances. Beatfreeks FUEL funding is available for creative ideas made in response to the pandemic.

If you are holding online performance or participation events, please do connect with Contact on social media so that we can try and amplify your work as well. (We are contactmcr on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram)

THE ARTS CAN GIVE US SOMETHING TO LIVE FOR

I’m thinking a lot today about a quote that I mentioned in my interview for Contact (I was stalling for time when the youth panel asked me to write a short rap): ‘The human heart, beautiful as a seismograph’ (by Andre Breton, 1928). It’s a quote that makes me think of the way that love and compassion can shake things up like an earthquake. But it’s also a simple kind of truth: the patterns our heartbeats make on an electrocardiogram can look a lot like the record of an earthquake on a seismograph.

Sometimes, when producing becomes very stressful, people will tell me to relax because ‘it’s not as if you’re saving lives. You’re not performing open heart surgery.’

Sometimes I even say this to myself. But the arts can give us something to live for.

They should also provide artists with an income to live on. And in the face of illness, we need art as much as ever.

Thank you,

Chloe Courtney.

KEEP IN CONTACT

We are all going through a trying time right now as we face the COVID-19 virus and to reflect these changing times and embrace the Contact philosophy of providing comfort, support and a safe space to be heard – it is important for us to share wisdom, stories and general daily boosts of positivity to get us and our followers through these challenging times.

We are aiming to release a collection of blogs from various Contact staff and advocates over the next few weeks, so please keep an eye on here and our social media channels.

Thank you for reading and keep on keeping on.