It will be no big news to you that things are a little different to how they were. We’ve never heard the word ‘unprecedented’ used so many times. Our landscape has dramatically shifted in a matter of days, and most of us can’t imagine things ever going back to ‘normal’ again.
For us, a small group of circus performers and teachers mostly reliant on teaching and performing at public events, the measures to combat Covid-19 have pretty much ended our usual work for at least the next six months. Of course, we’re in favour of fighting the virus and protecting the most vulnerable.
Practically this means that we are next planning to run our next in-person youth circus workshops whenever schools and our venues open back up. Some of our freelance tutors are working on online resources during the pause and meanwhile we can recommend some brilliant resources created by other circus artists. We’d love to offer online classes for children, but we won’t do this until we’re sure that these can be of a good standard.
We’re not sure when and if events bookings will start back up again. People are fond of saying ‘we are all in the same boat’. We’re not really, though, not individually, or as circus companies, or as businesses. We are in very different vehicles, based on our personal circumstances. Many of our freelance performers are struggling and it is frustrating as a company not being able to support them financially. Some of our core team are able to be furloughed, but we were only just included in the government support measures because we made changes last August. We’re not taking any of it for granted, and we still don’t know if things will be ok. We do know that the position we were in at the start of this year, after an absolute grafter of a 2019, has been ripped away by these circumstances and isn’t coming back. We’re not alone.
Society is going to change even more. Some of us will lose, or have lost, loved ones. But right now, there is a big loss to acknowledge for so many people in the creative arts, events and hospitality. It’s hard to tell if it’s more rational to be scared about the virus, or the economic downturn and the immediate loss of work. So, there is some guilt, some fear and some loss. They don’t balance each other out, but they are shared across the world. There’s no obvious way to cope, but the start is always connection.
On that note, I need to acknowledge the incredible support we have seen from our community in Leith, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Our youth circus families who have messaged and donated fees. Our adult students who are participating in the community online. The consideration and patience of everyone waiting for our new dates for HoopScotch. We see you, and it makes a big difference.
And on connection – we’ve never experienced such a rush. From instagram dance parties to free tutorials to community help groups. There was a slow release of information about financial help and many of us panicking, but support groups immediately formed. Professionals who could help started to make sense of what to do for us. We held each others’ hands, digitally. Networks like the School for Social Entrepreneurs, CircusWorks, the Scottish Enterprise Network, messaging every day at the beginning, to let us know we weren’t alone, to fight our corner, to invite us to online spaces. We have the chance to be more united than we were before. I desperately hope that spirit of community stays in the times to come.
That is why we want to recognise what has shifted and how we can respond. We’ve changed mindset already, and will continue to evolve. We always knew community was integral to what we do, but we didn’t realise the roots of what we had ran so deep already. We didn’t realise how quickly mental health can be affected by isolation, and how big a difference a small chat online can make.
We also didn’t know it was possible to be delivering our classes online, but our Isolation Motivation Hoop course, run in the first weeks of social distancing/lockdown, proved us wrong. Within days we had an online community, sharing silly videos and making each other laugh, and keeping each other moving and dancing. We have purpose, and that is enormously sanity-inducing. We might not be able to be in the same room again for a long time now, but our capacity to connect and help each other has never been more obvious.
I guess we’ll take that silver lining.
For now, we pause, and we hope to connect with you again soon.