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.