Last night was our second meet-up for Creative Circles, the online meet up space for creative types, hosted by glór. Described as per the blurb we wrote for it:

‘We invite artists and creative professionals in performance disciplines such as music, theatre, dance and spoken word, who are based in Clare to participate. Artists from all stages of their career are welcome – emerging to well established.

Through the Creative Circles meet-up- an artist-led online forum for artists- we aim to share our current challenges, make connections with each other, and exchange and potentially harness our ideas and thoughts about current and future work.’

The first meet-up was 3 weeks ago and we the facilitators, Jacinta, Jack and Myself, felt it had been a pretty successful event, in that people at the meeting spoke honestly about the challenges and trials of navigating lockdown as a creative. We had a mix of theatre makers, screen writers, playwrights, drama teachers, singer songwriters, musicians, visual artists, poets, art teachers, curators and authors attending so far.

I wanted to write a bit about the two meetings we have had so far because I came off the meeting last night struck by some of the obvious raw hardships some people have been enduring this lockdown. Loneliness, isolation, self doubt, depression, the loss of all creative work, to list some of the subjects that came up as we talked. It takes bravery to speak out about these things, and people did.

It struck me that this level of honesty might not perhaps be surfacing if we were able to meet up face to face as a group. Perhaps the online platform, speaking to a screen, allows an intimacy that might not be as achievable in real life, when you could be in a busy space with sights, sounds, smells, and lots of people around you, and where you might potentially find yourself more distracted or intimidated by your surroundings. Or maybe it’s because people, at this stage, after a year of pandemic life, find themselves so longing for contact and meaning that it’s all coming out when they encounter a space where actual talking about your situation is encouraged.

One of the other reasons why this group is working is because of the variety of experiences that people have had over the past year. Not everyone has had their work negatively impacted, quite the contrary. There was plenty of positivity from the group to be acknowledged. Some artists are very busy and have not stopped for breath. Others have almost not noticed the pandemic as the life they lead, as independent self employed creatives, has equipped them with a resilience and allowed them a kind of immunity to the lifestyle changes that those with more text book 9-5 office jobs have had to manage.

Others again explained how they went about approaching their work situations with flexibility and dexterity and changed their ways of working to allow them to still create, but within different parameters. One door closing, another opening type of idea. People generally find a way. This echoes the notion that creative people make work because it’s an essential outlet for them, because they basically HAVE to, for peace of mind.

Others have been completely floored by the pandemic, and have found themselves professionally set back significantly, without work or the prospect of future work to give them a lifeline. Some members of the group spoke really openly about their struggles to cope. Some of the group explained that they have continued to work, but can only do half of their jobs right now, as for example, zoom has its limitations for drama, music and theatre. Other feedback was that people are finding themselves in a type of creative purgatory, where they have had to acknowledge the limitations of what they can achieve at present. Therefore they are using this time as productively as possible in other ways, and are not expecting of themselves the same creative output as normal.

Again it was the mix of responses that was interesting, and served to give contrast to each story and general context overall. I personally was interested in the stories of what people are doing creatively in response to their pandemically influenced situations. As in, are people making work in response/about the pandemic? The feedback was that there will of course be masses of work made post-pandemic, inspired by the pandemic. Also that all the work being made right now is influenced by the pandemic to some degree, whether that is happening intentionally or not. As someone who has been making work about my direct experiences of living in a pandemic for the last year, I can agree with this. It has hugely affected my practice professionally and creatively.

Jack asked if people thought their experiences over this last year would change how they work in the future. This was a very interesting question to hear the group respond to, and mixed with the discussion of not really knowing when this will all be over it yielded one interesting response about us all living in metaphorical caves right now. And how cave paintings have been found from millions of years ago, showing artists responding to what they saw around them then. And we, in our lockdown induced, socially distant caves of the present day, are all making work as best we can.

Overall it has been really interesting and insightful to learn about others experiences, to give context to your own practice, get some ideas from what others are doing, and to realise you are not on your own in your doubts and fears.