New Years Day 2019 and I scoped out my annual New Year Operational and Strategic Life and Business Plan. I mapped out my study wish list, my upgraded personal wellness wish list, the books I wanted to finish/write, my time in London, Greece and New York August and November 2020, my hopes for my family, my new community wellness program outline The Health Creative, my Pushworth campaign ideas, the dishes I wanted to learn how to cook from scratch, the plants I wanted to keep safe from marauding munching grubs, the yoga I wanted to finally conquer and the life I planned to enjoy in the coming year.
I read about this virus in China on 8 December 2019. I remember feeling something in the pit of my stomach. I tracked the story throughout January 2020 and began to buy a few extra items in my weekly shop from 17 January 2020. The official story was that a virus emerged in Wuhan, China at a seafood market. The Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) Pandemic, was declared by WHO on March 11th, 2020.
Each day in February was begun by obsessively tuning into the News to check on case numbers as it became clear that this virus would be a once in a lifetime global event.
By the time it was Black Friday 13 March, my daily routine had me hooked up to COVID apps and a dozen different news channels to stay abreast of the unfolding situation. And on this day, my greatest fear manifested and for the first time in history, Concerts, Tours, Festivals, Entertainment Events and all live performances were cancelled.
Every news channel became dedicated exclusively to COVID-19! The streets were bare, with Traffic almost non existent. Running and walking tracks heaved with people. Fuel prices dropped to a record low. Stock markets crashed. Interest rates fell. Parks, trails and outdoor gyms were closed. Playgrounds were taped shut. The Olympics were cancelled. Wimbledon was cancelled. The Ekka was cancelled. No one could sue anyone for unpaid bills. Tape on the floors at food stores directed us where the stand and Loudspeakers in every store told us what to do. Non-essential stores and businesses mandated closed. There were no live sporting games or events anywhere in the world. Weddings, family celebrations, holiday gatherings were cancelled. Funerals were limited to 5 people. Churches led services via live streaming. School classrooms went online.
Cities around the globe literally closed their doors.
Once every single venue and promoter cancelled their shows, life as I knew it had changed for good.
The next month was spent cancelling tours and gigs out of our booking system, chasing payments (not easy when venues sacked their staff and sent management home to work), paying Artists and finalizing the books for our Accountant. After literally running every single day since 17 July 1990 when we first began this crazy journey, we were no longer on call.
To stay connected to my team, I began a podcast. It had been on my wish list for years, however I felt too embarrassed to be seen on camera, so I always found an excuse NOT to start one. Now, March 2020, what I thought I looked like, no longer mattered. My values took a swift 360.
Pubs and clubs closed on 23 March. The businesses that people invested decades in – lost – gone. I became a non-essential business overnight. It didn’t matter that we invested 30 years into our music business. For the first time in history, every single person in the Music Industry across the planet was on the same page.
I took a couple of days to sit in the shock of it. I allowed every emotion to be felt and expressed. Disbelief, fear, grief, terror, frustration, anger and then finally rage. I felt each one. And then let each one go. It was exhausting. I slept for two days straight.
Then I got up out of bed, gave myself a talking to and decided that if I didn’t get into the flow of the lockdown and create a whole new routine, then there was no way I would survive it.
Days began with a 6am walk through the city, along the river, through the parklands, across to South Bank and got reacquainted with how beautiful Brisbane is. Then I would fall into the daily grand meal adventure and cook something I had never cooked before. After that, time in the office to check emails, chase payments, chat with Artists and catch up with the team and video a podcast interview. Then I began my gardening project and planted herbs, fruit trees, vegetables and succulents. I photographed, I wrote, did Pilates, read a book, did an online course, walked for another two hours from 4pm, took a sauna and listened to podcasts while meditating myself to sleep. In the first month bubble, my existence actually felt rich and full. I had no control over anything outside of my little life so I let go of everything outside of it and lived in each moment. It was delicious. It was refreshing to be able to have the time to do all the things I had wanted to do for so long but had no time. Time was all I had so I made the most of it.
Globally our language changed. A drinking game emerged where people took a shot each time, I said Unprecedented, Pivot, Innovate and Reimagine in the daily podcast interview. Words and phrases like Social Distancing, Lockdown, Quarantine, Flattening the Curve, The Worst Is Yet To Come, Containment, Contagion, Peak and Second Wave became the daily vernacular.
Grocery Shopping merged into the daily outing as we shopped for our elderly parents and neighbours while struggling to find toilet paper, tissues, wipes and paper towels. Bunnings sold out of vegetable seeds. The Meat, bread, biscuits, milk and egg shelves regularly looked like they were shredded by some large insect on a feeding frenzy. We established a rare hunting list with Methylated Spirits taking top spot for months.
April, May and June were a blur of moments. I had never been so busy in my life, writing, researching, interviewing, producing and connecting. And I had never felt happier or healthier.
July 10 finally arrived, and a handful of our venues began to book live music.
But it was clear that our industry was on a race to the bottom.
With hospitality businesses decimated, many show offers were a shocking $100.00 and a drink and meal voucher for a four-hour live music show. The majority of our venue partners announced that they would not be booking live music until October or even later due to being spooked by the threat of a second wave.
17 July 2020, we turned 30 years old. No fanfare. No celebration. All those emotions I felt in March when lockdown first began, came flooding back. And once again, I allowed myself to feel every single emotion. I allowed them all the space and the time each emotion needed to express and process.
I had interviewed 120 guests by this stage and had heard the most inspiring, terrifying, shocking, hilarious, incredible, awesome and raw lockdown stories you could possibly imagine from people who are the village who make it all happen for Events, Hospitality, Music, Arts, Film and Creative industries. People with families and small businesses and mortgages whose courage and determination brought me to tears or made me pee my pants with laughter or made me want to leap through the screen and give them the biggest squishiest hugs.
There is no light at the end of the tunnel. That sounds negative I know. But no one knows how long the tunnel will be or even if it is still a tunnel. F*ck the tunnel – it is time for us to be our own light. No matter where 2020 will take us, this is the moment where we re create our value. We are the authors of our own book. Who we are is fluid. Our value is not conditional on what we do, how much money we have or not have, where we live, what we look like or what our business activity is.
So many people say that we are all in this together. We are not. Some people qualified for Job Keeper. Some qualified for Job Seeker. Many fell between both cracks and got nothing. Some people were successful in receiving grants. Many were not. Some people have continued to work in essential businesses and earn the same income throughout the entire pandemic. So far, life hasn’t changed too much for them.
But it will.
Life will change for every single human on this planet.
The Music Industry was in the second wave of lockdowns. This gives us an advantage. Our collective industries are made up of super creative beasts who have never followed a traditional trajectory. They don’t work 9-5. They don’t depend on sick leave or holiday pay. They don’t have a guaranteed wage. They deal with hecklers and trolls and fraudsters and gangsters. They are skilled with being adaptive and resilient and innovative. They are the first to put their hand up in the event of a crisis to offer a free performance at any global fundraising event.
If anyone can reimagine a new future, it is the Creative Industries.
They provide the soundtrack to the world.
They provide the frequency of hope.
So where to from here?
Steady as she goes. Keep your head. Find the opportunity. Wash your hands. Remain vigilant about your health. Shop local. Connect to a Community.
Celebrate life on this magnificent planet that we share together. 😊