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  • Calum Paterson

Life in Lockdown - Part 1

To be creative or not to be creative.


That has been the question.


Let's go back slightly. To the 11th of March 2020. I was in the Gooseneck Cafe, outside the Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh. My time as Sound Associate had come to an end on Mrs Puntila and Her Man Matti. I was having a coffee with David Greig, with the view of talking about my career, my ambitions and how I moved forward as Sound Designer. However, the conversation kept circling to the impending pandemic that was quickly about to engulf everyone and everything.


Jump forward two days, and Nicola Sturgeon has just announced that all gatherings of more than 500 people are banned in Scotland. In that moment, the theatrical and entertainment industries ground to a halt. For me, that meant all my upcoming shows and projects were postponed, until further notice.


Speechless.


No words can describe how I felt in the two weeks of March.


You knew deep down that the potential was there, but you never imagined that a world wide pandemic was ever going to happen. Not to you. Not to me. But it's real. It has happened. In that moment, the idea of continuing on the same path, in the same trajectory, with the same motivation and intent was gone. All creativity was lost.


And that's ok.


It's been two months now, since theatres shut their doors. Not knowing when they can open them again. It is only now that I feel the motivation to begin creating again. To even rationally think about what has been happening has been very difficult. I've watched numerous theatres, and numerous funding bodies try to offer stimulus to help us theatrical artists who have found ourselves hit the hardest, but the truth is, I've (and I'm sure i'm not the only one) had much more important things to think about, other than "creating".


And that's ok.


Survival, and the idea of being a little self-preserving, is completely ok in this situation. There were bigger questions to be answered in those initial few weeks of Lockdown. How do I pay my bills? Are my family safe? How do I actual function in a world where human contact is not allowed?


I could have lied to myself, and pretended that I was still focused on my art and my career, but the truth is, until now, I haven't been.


And that's ok.


I guess the point I am trying to make, is this: It's very easy to get carried away with a romantic notion that theatre can suddenly be transformed into an online medium. Where the art that was once made to be actively consumed by a live audience can now be passively consumed online, is, in my opinion, a dangerous and damaging thought. I have massive fears that this lockdown is going to produce an obscene volume of drivel, which is to be sent into the digital realm where it will be view onced and forgotten about, thus adding to the vast catalogue of nonsense on the internet.


Not only is the idea of creating endless amounts of content dangerous, it also gives off a message that creators need to be constantly creating. The weight of having to continually create for the masses is draining. Physically and mentally draining. To the point where all creativity and unique thought are gone.


And to be subconsciously forced, or tricked, into thinking that this needs to happen, all the while having to deal with the knowledge of a changed world is truly terrifying. Cripplingly so. The anxiety and stress we are putting on ourselves is unjustified. Unneeded. It is causing serious mental health issues among the creative industries. And there are artists, too scared, too embarrassed, to admit that the anxiety and stress of this global situation is crippling their ability to even function on a human level, nevermind in a professional capacity.


Stop. Now is not the time to be creating 'The Next Big Thing'. Not that you can't, if that's the thing that gives you peace and joy, but for a lot of us, it isn't. Simply surviving, and taking care of our families are our only necessity.


And that's ok.


Take care of your family, reconnect with friends and loved ones. (NOT IN PERSON).


Sorry... should say... OBSERVE THE RULES OF LOCKDOWN.


Pick up the phone, get a video call on the go, drop off a care package (if you can). That elderly neighbour who doesn't own a smartphone, write them a letter.


Be kind. Be sensible. Take care of yourself. Don't feel the need to constantly create.


I am becoming more aware of what's important in my life. A better work / life balance is something that I am going to be actively trying to find moving forward.


That's enough for now. More Lockdown Thoughts coming up soon.

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