As a child, I went through phases of wanting to be an actor, a police officer, an actor on The Bill (best of both worlds, right?), a teacher, an archaeologist, and a writer. But deep down, I knew I was going to be a singer. I was quite certain about that.
Music was nowhere in my family, and no-one has any idea where my passion came from. No-one but me.
My best friend in primary school appeared in amateur musicals and her yearly church panto. I craved the attention and praise that she got!
Sure enough, I spent my school years in choirs, musicals, and variety shows. I had my first professional cabaret gig the weekend I turned 16, and since then, music has been the mainstay of my professional life.
The Show Must Go On…
Before I delve into my COVID woes, I need to make one thing very clear; I’m incredibly lucky.
I’m healthy, as are my loved ones. I have a lovely roof over my head, and am slowly creating my own domestic paradise. I’m back to singing (admittedly on a very part-time basis), and I’ve even managed to find love among all the chaos!
But as someone who runs a business focused on the wedding and events industry, and who suffers from anxiety and insomnia, let’s just say 2020 will not go down as a vintage year.
Since March 2020, I’ve had less control over my career and my business than at any other point in my life. In the first week of lockdown I lost £8000 in bookings, and even now am still facing cancellations well into 2021.
However, I’m stubborn as hell, and was determined to find a way to keep the music playing. I’m not exactly sure how the idea came about, but I soon decided to start singing in my living room on Saturday nights.
I stuck up a link to my online tip jar, but never charged for the shows or expected much in the way of donations, and while the viewing numbers varied week to week, the engagement on my social media channels increased by over 300% compared to pre-lockdown.
By putting my energy into a different part of my business, I was able to create value for my audience and nurture stronger relationships with them, all the while furthering my brand. I didn’t do anything fancy, or buy any new equipment, so the shows cost me nothing except my time and energy, and while the immediate financial returns were small, the increased brand awareness is invaluable.
Collaborating with others off the back of the increased engagement has been a particular highlight – getting creative with jewellery, photography, and vintage clothing businesses has been joyful!
That’s not to say the past few months haven’t been a massive struggle at times.
Seeing the annual events to commemorate VE Day be so disrupted this year was very upsetting for everyone in the vintage community, especially given it was the 75th anniversary.
Plus, my anxiety peaks regularly, and as a recovering perfectionist there are times I have cried with frustration that things aren’t how they should be! I’ve also had many sleepless nights worrying about the state of the world and grieving the loss of my naivete and my ignorance of how good I had it.
Gigs are weird now too. Dancefloors are either covered in socially distanced tables or roped off entirely, singing along is not to be encouraged, and I’m all finished and back in the car by 9.30pm.
But being in front of an audience again, however it happens, is just wonderful. Over time I’ve learned to accept ‘the new normal’ and will continue to adapt, personally and professionally.
Because that’s all any of us can do, isn’t it?