Hello from us and hope you’re keeping safe in body and sound in mind during this weird glitch in our timelines. We’re keeping busy, as ever. Details on how follow below.
Look after yourself and those around you, chill out, you don’t need to write a novel. Eat well, go for a walk – nature is a great healer of mind and body, and we look forward to seeing you in the flesh in the near future.
Love from Sandra, Lee and the Gang
Weathering the Storm
As you might imagine, we decided to get our retaliation in early when the coronavirus came a-calling. So we locked down the Edge and sent the team home, where we’re all still working to keep the Friction fires burning. We’ve been putting more hours in than before this all came about, to be honest, to make sure The Work still happens, but mostly to ensure all our people are safe. We’ll give some detail about our projects and programmes in this newsletter and how you can still engage, as well as a bit of advice and guidance for those of you who need it.
We’ve managed to keep all the staff working in appropriate ways so we can keep delivering the good stuff to our people.
We’ve kept to our contracts with the freelance artists we’re working with – the support of our main funders Arts Council, Youth Music and Children in Need in doing this has been gratefully received. We’ve been helping individual artists sort out their finances by signposting them to support, and giving 1-1 sessions on stuff like applying to Arts Council’s emergency reponse fund – we’ve done this for our freelance workers past and present and anyone else we thought might need it. We were initially surprised at how few were applying for help at this time, we were getting responses like, ‘I’m OK for a couple of months’, ‘There’s other people who need this more than me’, ‘I don’t qualify’ and ‘I’ve got no evidence/contract to say I’ve lost work’. Thankfully, after a bit of nudging many of them are now applying for the help they need and deserve.
We were also a bit concerned that lots of people were telling us that large organisations they were working for hadn’t offered similar levels of support, if any, and had only been in touch to say that work had been cancelled or, at best, postponed. Hopefully at some point they’ll get named and shamed as we get out of this situation – it’s the artists and freelancers that hold this sector together and they deserve all the recognition and support organisations can give them – they’re our keyworkers.
In the meantime, if you’re a worker in the West Midlands cultural industries and are struggling with how to get help, a good place to start is Culture Central where they’ve put together a pretty comprehensive list of resources, there’s also a Facebook group for their ‘Culture Response Unit’. If you need any further help, don’t be afraid to get in touch with us, we’ll do what we can.
Multicultural Music Making
As the schools are closed, we’ve had to put direct delivery of sessions on hold for now. Tragically the lockdown started just before we were due to have our big MMM dinner, bringing the artists, young people and their families together (over never disappointing home-made food). The MMM musicians are beavering away to bring content to share to the young people and families on our private blog, which we’re hoping to open out to share with the rest of the world in the near future, safeguarding permitting. Keep your eyes and ears peeled.
Events at the Edge
The Edge is fully locked down – we don’t want any pesky bugs hanging around when we do all get back. Lockdown is likely to be lifted in stages and it’ll be a good while before we’re able to squeeze in together at the venue. Rest assured, as soon as we can we’ll be announcing one heck of a party so we can all be together again and we’ll work with some of our regular contributors and partners to make sure it’s one to remember. Initially, we’ll be offering the space for free for events, performances and rehearsals to artists and musicians, so that they can get back on the horse without it costing too much, we know how hard this situation has hit many of you. In the meantime we’re likely to be holding some more discrete, socially-distanced events and happenings and are working out what and how right now, so we’ll be ready as soon as we get the ‘all-clear’. We’ll let you know.
Everyone’s missing their regular Art Club fix, so we’re doing our best to find placebos. Heather and the Team have been working hard getting activities, links and art info out to Art Clubbers via our private Facebook group. For those less techie, posting activities and materials out and making lots of phone calls. From last weekend we’re having Art Club on Zoom, to share activities and each other’s artworks, for both the morning and afternoon groups, and our Art Clubbers were really chuffed to be seeing everybody’s faces again, even if it’s virtual. The Team have been doing a great job on keeping things going and it’s also been great the way that parents and families have been supporting Art Club – one Nan ran a ‘virtual yoga’ session the other day!
Once we’re on to the next phase we’re exploring ways how we can do a socially-distanced Art Club, with individual materials, equipment and desks so Art Clubbers can get back to work (and play) – but this is a little way off yet, so for now we’ll be keeping things online.
We’re continuing work on our project with Vanley Burke to explore what ‘home’ means to people. This time in lockdown means that there’s been a time for reflection whilst people have been literally stuck inside their own spaces. We want to develop this project in lots of ways, to get people to share their thoughts and experiences, so we’re looking at methods of keeping things going while we all work out what’s next. We’re starting a postal project with some of the women from the first exhibition – many of them aren’t particularly digitally connected so we had to think of other ways of working with them. Many of them are also in the ‘extremely vulnerable’ category so are particularly isolated at the moment. We’ll be sending them out sanitised postcards, inspired by their thoughts of ‘home’, which they can also send out to their people at home and abroad, and collating them for an exhibition after lockdown. We’ll be sharing some of them on social media in the meantime, so keep your eyes peeled.
Lockdown started early for us, we shut the Edge a bit before the government told us to. So the place should be well and truly virus-free, by the time we get to go back. Our people’s safety is paramount to us, so we’ll make very sure we’re getting it right, before we open our doors again. We’re looking at how we can still get people together, while still maintaining as much social distance as we need. We’re beginning to notice a certain amount of ‘lockdown fatigue’ creeping in and we are going to need to find ways to come together relatively soon, before we all go proper stir crazy. Any suggestions on how we can do this are more than welcome
We’ve had to put things on hold for our improvisation classes in schools, for now. Depending on how things go, we’re looking at different ways of working with the young people, either via tools like Zoom, or other ways and means. Schools are really stretched right now and are often first line of support for many of the families of their young people, particularly in the schools that we work in, which are highly diverse and mostly populated by low-income families who, of course, are most hard hit by the current situation. While we’d really like to be working with the young people right now, we understand that priorities might be elsewhere for the moment. We’re looking forward to bringing some joy into their lives, once things have worked out a bit.
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