My Lockdown Corona-Coaster

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Creative Industries, Mental Health

I know I haven’t been around for a couple of months! I can only apologise! Like much of the population I have been slowly losing my mind.

I stopped watching the news in April because I couldn’t bear to learn what preposterous idea Boris and his team of terrible Tories have come up with next. Instead, I have been learning what’s going on in the world through hilarious memes shared across various different social media platforms with friends that I’m not allowed to see, all of whom are in places I’m not allowed to go to.

So, here is my Corona-coaster in action, all the way up and all the way down and round and round in bloody circles, until I have reached what will hopefully be slightly more consistent plateaux.

Weeks 1 to 3 when we were assured by our Prime Minister that we would only be in lockdown for 3 weeks I was filled with optimism. Finally, time to get my shit together. I would start ‘couch to 5k’, a new HIIT plan and a new diet to boot! By the end of lockdown, I would not only look great, but I would feel fabulous!

I would also start a new drive with The Arts Business. This was the time! Yes, I had lost 90% of my contracts due to the fact that I’m predominantly based in the arts and events industry but heck! Everyone would be in the same boat. We could get through it together. This was going to be great; I was finally going to do all the things I never got around to!

How was I to know this theory was so flawed!

I am used to travelling to different places to visit friends and colleagues up and down the country every weekend. I was just starting Am Dram season at The Core in Solihull, having just finished up Annie the Musical (with my dog Molly playing Sandy, she was amazing FYI.) I was ready to spend every other evening for the next 3 months in the wings! I went out for dinner dates, babysat friends’ children, went to rehearsals for future shows.  Even on home office days I went to coffee shops and bars to mix up the monotony of working from the same desk all day.

I would hazard a guess that not once in my life, even in my darkest periods of depression and anxiety, had I ever been more than a week without at least entering someone else’s house, let alone travelling more than a 10-mile radius to go to the supermarket and back.

And so, my initial breakdown began.

I sat in the garden and cried. I know I’m incredibly lucky to have a garden, and I’m not sure I would have lasted as long without it.

This was the longest of my meltdowns so far: I ruined my sleeping pattern; I spent countless days watching hours of easy television; I let the monotony of life take over me. The death counts and number of cases weren’t getting lower that quickly and the only news we had was that lockdown would be extended by at least 3 weeks…

At least 3 weeks? What does that even mean? To me it meant things weren’t getting better, maybe they never would.

However delightful my housemate is and however lucky we are to be living in a world where we can see anyone we want in a matter of seconds via video link, it just wasn’t the same, isn’t the same, as seeing someone in real life!

A friend who was also struggling dropped by to gift us an overspill of baking (sooo lockdown, am I right?) She ended up staying for 6 hours! At a reasonable social distance of course.

And so, our weekly sanity garden gatherings began.

I mean, one thing lockdown has had going for it is the weather. Basically unheard of for Britain, but those first few months were filled with brilliant sunshine 95% of the time.  The world may have been falling apart but at least the sun was out and I hadn’t had to fill up my car with petrol for a month.

Swings and Roundabouts right?

I had reached the (albeit slightly selfish) conclusion to ‘F**k Coronavirus’! If it was my time, I thought, then it was my time.  I’d rather be out living my life than die in between the same four walls watching bad TV with only a tan (and a pretty awesome dachshund) for company.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t being stupid! My Dad, for example, is high risk, so I wasn’t about to head over to his house and lick all the door handles, but I needed something.

It was around week 8 (day 310) that my mood swings were so intense I was living like a yo-yo.

By week 12 (day 1456) I thought if I do another quiz on zoom imma lose it! And I bloody love a quiz!

Week 16 (day 32, 851) I couldn’t find any motivation to do anything at all! I mean, if I can’t motivate myself to get off the sofa and work the day through how the hell are children meant to motivate themselves to home school.

Finally, week 20 (day 1,287,345) I know I needed to get a grip. Work out the negative, focus on the positive.

I went through therapy a few years ago where I learnt that I thrive in other peoples’ company and that had been completely lost in lockdown. I love group socialising! And even though I’d probably had more contact with my friends over social media than ever, it wasn’t the same as actually seeing someone in the flesh, and not freaking out if your hands accidentally brush over a tea cup.

I decided that mental health needed to take precedent. Not just mine, but my that of my friends, my family and my colleagues.

So, we expanded our bubble, again responsibly.  I know it’s not entirely in line with government guidelines (but who can understand that bag of contradictions anyway?). My friends who had been reaching out, struggling and felt all alone were brought together to get through whatever this life is and whatever it was going to become.

I watched the ‘Dear… Lin Manuel Miranda’ documentary on Apple TV and he said that if you have an idea that won’t leave you alone, that idea that keeps tapping you on the shoulder saying: “Hey, remember me, I’m here, I’m awesome,” you’re bound to do it eventually. And chances are that’s the one that will work.

So, The Arts Business will be my Hamilton

I started to count the little things as wins. I find it very easy to listen to the negative voices in my head, the ones that tell me I’m not doing enough, I’m not good enough, I’m not healthy enough, I’ll never be enough.

Which isn’t true…

I’m pretty awesome actually.

I have started to chip away at my to do list, things that I had fully intended to do at the start of lockdown.

I bought a new laptop and phone as a kind of business loan to myself. No more blaming my laptop (which FYI was not fit for purpose).

I stopped playing games completely obsessively (major deal for me).

I give myself credit for doing short bursts of work with different activities in between.

I decided to focus on me and hopefully the rest will follow.

Anyone else struggling with lockdown?! Let me know.

 

You’re not alone.

Please follow and like us:

La La Land: Fantasy vs. Reality

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Creative Industries, Music, Theatre

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

 

I don’t live in LA, nor have I ever been, but in the same way I’m sure that no movie about American High School has actually accurately depicted an American High School I am positive that La La Land does not accurately depict what life is like for an out of work actress and struggling jazz musician living in Hollywood.  Feel free to stop me if I’m wrong (those of you who are struggling actors in LA will know better) but Emma Stone seemed to swan in and out of mansion parties as if this is the normal way to network.  The production parties I’ve been to have mainly consisted of a theatre foyer with a dodgy catered buffet and box wine but who am I to judge?  Maybe life is that different across the pond.  Now, I’m not stupid.  I know that embellishment is added for the sake of entertainment.  I’m not here to pick holes…

 

Despite the mixed bag of reviews I received before finally getting round to seeing it myself and the poor singing and dancing that is bettered every year on Strictly Come Dancing aside, I think La La Land raises some important truths worth pondering over which tend to play out in our careers and businesses, wherever we may be in the creative industry.

 

I was mentoring a young actor, a year into her drama degree, who moaned that she was sick of her retail job and was looking for something, anything, even remotely associated with theatre, her chosen specialised field.  Isn’t this what Mia (Emma Stone) does?  What Seb (Ryan Gosling) tries?  What we all do?  Many of us start off in the arts working in bars or restaurants, front of house or box office.  So long as it is part of a theatre or gallery or festival or music venue we feel in the thick of the action and it’s ok for now.  And I commend these people!  The passionate dreamers!  Our dreams get a little more jaded as we age but we start off fighting!

 

The audition process illustrated in La La Land unfortunately can be faithful to real life, which is a shame.  When they are run by bored minds who no longer really care about the work they are involved in they leave hopeful actors worn out and weary, hope dying with every rejection, like Mia.  She tells us she has been ‘trying to make it’ for 6 years and basically can’t be bothered with it anymore; dejection and fear has settle in.

 

The general consensus across the creative industries is that no one gets into the arts for the money so the moment you stop really loving what you’re doing is the moment you should stop or at least change course.  Sometimes it’s the rebuffs, sometimes the lifestyle.  I used to work in stage management and found my decision pretty much came down to this: Do I want to have a social life or do I want my work to be my entire life.  The love wasn’t there any more, so I left.  But what can I say: lady theatre dragged me back, just down a slightly different path.

 

Obviously, everything works out in the end, in the film at least.  Mia becomes a Hollywood Star due to the unprecedented success of her one woman show and Seb uses the money he made in his modernised Jazz band to fund his dream jazz bar business.  Obviously not entirely realistic but very Hollywood (and with a dream ballet sequence, the likes of which haven’t really been seen since Oklahoma!, who is complaining)!

 

So what should you take away from this movie?  What is the moral?  Sorry to sound pessimistic but dreams don’t always come true, at least not in the way you think.  I think the moral is that your life has to adapt with your craft, sometimes we must compromise and other times we must evolve.

 

The speech that struck me was that of Keith (John Legend) who tells it Seb Straight:

 

“How are you gonna be a revolutionary if you’re such a traditionalist?  You hold onto the past, but jazz is about the future.”

 

He has remembered something integral: art is a business.  To stay on top we need to roll with the punches.  He takes traditional jazz and gives it that contemporary, commercial twist for a new audience who, with any luck, will look into the origins of where this music came whilst continuing to carry it into the future with them, introducing a new audience and a new, evolutionary art form.

 

Seb makes his money in this band uses it to fund his dream bar.  Clearly, during his time spent with The Messengers Seb has learnt a few lessons, which are reflected in the bar set up.  The layout of his club takes us back to a 1940s feel of what jazz bars would have felt like, something which is fashionable at the moment, especially if you’re looking for that new hipster hotspot.  It serves fancy drinks in  fancy crystal, also super trendy, as opposed to the fried chicken sticks he originally longed for (now presumably reserved for the end of the night).  Then the jazz is the cherry on top.  He has nailed a business which gives him an outlet to perform the music he wants, whilst turning over (we hope) a profit.

 

You might be thinking this is a corporate way to analyse this movie, I prefer realistic.  So, look at Seb’s success, cut past the romance, the song and dance, the bright colours and remember to keep business and at the heart of your operation.  Drive your desire constructively to developing your values alongside the current climate with the aim of breaking even or making money so that you can reinvest it and do more work that matters to you and your viewers!  Adapt your mind set and progress with the times.

 

Your enthusiasm will always show in what you produce.  When things get tough, always remember your audience can see more than you think.  After all as Mia says:

 

“People love what other people are passionate about.”

 

What did you take from La La Land?  Any business strategies you think I’ve missed?  Or opinions your yearning to share?

Please follow and like us:

Last night Some Am-Dram Saved My Life

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Creative Industries, Mental Health, Theatre

I know that this blog is primarily about how to apply business skills to your Arts Business, but I will from time to time bring mental health to the forefront of discussion because I think it should be openly discussed and it’s an important conversation.

The Arts Industry is rife with people who struggle with their mental health and (although I will admit that I have no scientific research behind this) I would argue that there are more individuals battling with invisible illnesses like anxiety and depression in this industry than in any other.

Sometimes working in the arts feels like a constant uphill climb.  We are encouraged to go out there and live our dreams, but we are never told how hard it is going to be.  The hours are long and the pay is often low.  Environments can be stressful, and experiences can bend you to complete breaking point.

 

Now please don’t get me wrong:

 

I love the arts!

 

And however much there are times I want to pack it all in and runaway forever Lady Theatre keeps dragging me back!  There is nothing like the creative industry.  The rush, the excitement and the passion!

 

A few years ago (without going into too much detail) both my personal and professional life began to crumble and I started to fall apart.  I went on long term sick leave with the diagnosis of depression and anxiety and vowed never to work in the arts industry again.

After a year of struggling I couldn’t even bring myself to open my laptop and the idea of searching for a new career made me feel physically sick but I knew I needed to do something, if only to appease my friends and family to show them that there was light at the end of the tunnel.

A neighbour had told me about a charity panto that would be taking place in February called: ‘Goldilocks and the Three Martians’.  

“They always need volunteers to help with props and set” I was told.  She passed on my details and found out the rehearsal times for me.

So one Friday, when I was having a good day, I decided to push myself to attend a rehearsal.  I was instantly introduced to the Head of Props who immediately gave me a copy of the script, talked me through all the things which needed making and invited me for a meal to meet the rest of the crew.

I went, I chatted. I was instantly enveloped into a family of different personalities who had one key thing in common: they LOVE theatre.

Now, a year later, I am the official stage manager of this year’s panto: ‘Sinbad goes Down Under’ and I have been involved in crewing, building and propping the entire amateur dramatics programme in the Solihull Area. 

More importantly, I have learnt how to manage my depression and I have remembered why I fell in love with the arts industry.

I used to be quite the cynic about amateur dramatics.  Basically, I was a bit of a snob.  I felt like there was a strong divide between “professional theatre” and “amateur theatre”.  To a point it is instilled in you at arts school that you are somehow better than that, above it.

But there is something beautiful about amateur dramatics though.  It is pure and innocent.  There is none of the economic politics.  Everyone is there because they love what there doing, whether that is onstage or off.  They have become an immediate community of likeminded friends. 

 

And they have reignited my desire for this industry and helped me find my way in this beautiful life. 

 

If ever you’re feeling lost in what is often an overwhelming world, I implore you to seek out the hobbyists in your industry!  They may not be the most professional, the most innovative or have the highest production values but none of that matters!  They are the most positive and passionate groups and they just might relight your fire.

Please follow and like us:

The Escape Room Evolved: ‘Stab in the Dark’

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Creative Industries, Entertainment, Theatre

It is always important to keep up with the latest trends in any industry and in recent years the entertainments world had been taken over by Escape Rooms.

If you don’t know what an escape room is basically where have you been?  There are hundreds, if not thousands of these up and down the country.

The trend began in the Japan and the concept is simple: get “locked” in a room must solve a series of puzzles to escape.

These come in all shapes and sizes, at a variety of prices and in any possible theme imaginable!  Great for team building activities or just fun nights out with a group of mates they are generally popular little money spinners!

 

So, what happens when you take these to the next level?

Enter Show Up Productions.

 

From 1st October 2019 Show Up Productions will be launching the previews of their ‘Immersive Crime Scene Experience: Stab in the Dark’

Young Essex based entrepreneur Rachel Dingle has taken the concept of the escape room and turned it on its head:

 

It’s 1995. There has been a murder in a prestigious fashion store. You have been called in by the local police to help the investigation.

Spend an hour in the crime scene looking for clues and collecting evidence.

Take your findings to the police station where you can submit evidence for forensic analysis, speak to witnesses, and eliminate possible suspects.

Can you solve the case?!

 

This isn’t about speed.  It is experimenting with the concept that guests are specialist detectives brought into investigate and solve a murder with live, talented, multirole-playing actors to assist you on your journey.

This is a completely immersive, interactive event but, more to the point, by playing on the ever growing and continually popular Escape Room market Rachel has developed a completely unique theatrical experience.

If you’re in the Southend-on-Sea area go and check it out!  This is one not to be missed! Get your tickets HERE.

 

But could your company jump onboard the Escape Room train?

There are loads of ways you could play with the general concept of the Escape Room that would encourage a new audience to get involved with your arts organisation so put those thinking caps on.

Not only do these not have to break the bank but they could also be great money spinners and raise your profile:

  • KnowEscape currently have somewhat of a monopoly on the portable escape room.  Their travelling Escape Bus covers everything from personal parties to professional events across the UK.
  • Similarly, container entertainment has been growing over the last few years (meaning shows that are built into recycled lorry containers).  Darkfield do great things with containers, and although I know this isn’t strictly speaking an escape room, they are a fantastic example in simplistic theming and concept that can easily be toured.  They use surround soundscapes through headphones in the pitch black utilising your different senses to create horror genre environments.
  • Museums and Galleries are a great place to experiment with the Escape Room.  They have the existing space available to play with performative experiences and are generally only open during the day so contemplate evening openings in limited spaces to attract that 9 to 5, Monday to Friday working crowd in midweek!
  • Already running an escape room?  Have you thought about kid-friendly rooms, shorter in length and easier to solve.  You could run these in your existing rooms during half terms and holidays to boost those sales and increase your audience?  Doing this may even inspire the parents and guardians to come back and try these escape rooms for themselves!
  • Hit up the corporate market by expanding your escape room into full day experiences.  Companies love a team building daily excursion!  You could even incorporate some of the immersive aspects Show Up have thought about in order to expand!
  • Don’t have a venue? No problem, think about developing ‘escape cities’ or ‘parks’.  Online treasure hunts are growing and their biggest pro is that walking round a city is free! Remember though: this isn’t quite the same if you’re running tours or public treasure hunts as there is a certain amount of red tape that needs cutting and permission that needs gaining!

And this is only spin offs for escape rooms!  Every week brings a new fashion, so keep your finger on the pulse when it comes to the latest trends and think about how you could use these in your organisation!

Please follow and like us:

Find the Perfect Idea to Start your Arts Business

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Business Skills, Creative Industries, Start Ups

Why Start an Arts Business?

 

It’s terrifying putting yourself out there and letting out your artistic endeavours in the world.

 

I hear excuses almost daily about why brilliant artists and entrepreneurs shouldn’t start businesses in the Creative Industries.  Generally, these people are amongst the most hard-working, inventive and organised individuals but they are scared of the risks often entailed with starting a new enterprise.

 

But, there are numerous reasons to set up a new arts business:

 

  • Creating (or manufacturing) new work (products or services) which can be seen and directly sold, whether that is a new piece of art for someone’s mantelpiece or a performance that you want to be seen by the right audiences.  This type of business can be taken directly to the customer.

 

  • The want to distribute others work – you could be a gallery owner, a receiving house, a fringe venue, a music academy, a poetry publisher, a producer, the list goes on.  You can take this work either straight to the audience or to other businesses so there are two avenues you can go down.

 

  • Running events or finding a product you think someone else will benefit from. Think your Theatre in Education (TIE), art workshops and school holiday activities.  Not for profit organisations or charities come with plenty of perks to like claiming Gift Aid on donations and the ability to claim back VAT.

 

  • Some people are simply on the lookout for business opportunities where an investment, either monetary help (funding or equipment) or through giving time and advice to help others start a business, or in many cases in the Arts run themselves as a business, is traded for a return on their outlays later.  This is the agents and producers of the industry or opportunities like residencies provided by galleries.

 

Most Arts Organisations start out in one of these categories and then quickly diversify in order to turn over profit to drive the main organisation aim. Once you have thought of your initial idea then you can branch out:

 

As an example think of a specialist antique shop that collect their stock and run their business in different ways:

  • Some stock they buy in from markets and sell on
  • Some shelves or sections they rent to clients and sell the stock on their behalf
  • Some products they display for free and split the profits with the owner
  • Some articles are faux vintage bought in new to sell on at a more substantial margin
  • Some items are handmade from recycled antiques
  • Some run a café alongside their shop
  • Some host specialist auctions at weekends
  • Some run courses to teach hobbyists more about antiques

You get the idea.  There are always multiple strings on their bow to help sustain their business and, more importantly, their passion.  So, think about your passion and how it can be funded.

 

Have you come up with your great idea but don’t know where to start?  Or maybe you’ve diversified your portfolio to fund your passion.  Tell us in the comments below!

Please follow and like us: