Shining a Light on the Good
We are in hard times. There is no disputing that. We have witnessed the blatant murder of George Floyd, which has (once again) exposed the horrors of racism that lurk in our society.
We’re in the middle of a global pandemic – many have died, others have been desperately ill, some have lost livelihoods. At the very least, most of us are missing loved ones and hugs.
It is so easy to feel hopeless and despondent.
People are good. I’m an optimist by nature, but not an idiot (depending who you ask) and I think we should shine a spotlight on the good and light it as brightly as the bad. That way we can see what we are aiming for.
A few weeks into lockdown I watched (like the rest of the country) the film Contagion. For the three of you who haven’t seen it, it’s a scarily accurate 2011 Hollywood take on a deadly virus that sweeps the world. The similarities to real life are creepy at the start (they should be – the scientific advisor was W. Ian Lipkin, a professor of epidemiology, neurology and pathology at Columbia University in New York).
The respiratory virus begins with a bat in China and quickly travels West. The language is instantly recognisable, now at least - in 2011 it probably sounded like sci-fi. There is a lot of talk about R numbers, contact tracing and social distancing. But a little while into the movie, Hollywood and real life begin to part ways. On screen the worst of human nature is displayed – people are out for themselves, there’s a riot in a pharmacy, the streets fill with rubbish, and the military are deployed. In contrast, weeks into the pandemic in real life, people were bringing their neighbours groceries, having street parties from their own driveways, and clapping for the NHS.
Likewise with reactions to the killing of George Floyd – of course we have seen frustration, anger and sorrow. We have also in the midst of the despair witnessed hugs and fist-bumps between police and protestors, watched as black people and white people kneel or lie in protest together, observed white people seeking to listen and learn about our privilege and black people willing to share and educate. It is painful, but it is progress.
In our own small way, Replay has witnessed the kindness of people first-hand. As soon as lockdown was announced, so many members of the arts community took action to try and ease each other’s financial burdens, understanding that freelancers would be at the sharp end of the income wedge when theatre stopped.
The Bread and Butter Fund was set up by Abbie Spallen, and at the time of writing over £22,000 had been donated to be distributed to artists. Tinderbox set up their Solo Art project which gave £100 to artists who submitted a short piece of artwork, and at Replay our Wednesday Winner scheme gave away a £50 voucher every week to a freelance colleague who had worked with us in the past year. All gestures of solidarity rather than a grand solution to financial hardship but sincere, nonetheless.
Replay had originally budgeted for ten Wednesday Winners, but we were able to add an extra two weeks because one freelancer asked us to redirect their £100 fee for a job into the Wednesday Winner fund. Then a freelancer who won a £50 voucher used it to buy groceries, and with their son delivered the food to a foodbank. Another Wednesday Winner used contacts in the arts community to find someone more in need and donated their voucher.
These are only the ones we know about.
But the way our small community has pulled together to look after each other tells me that despite the news and the social media feeds and the tremendous amount of work there is to be done in making our society healthier and more equal, there is kindness. A lot of it.
So we must continue to keep doing what we can. Keep shining a light on the good. Keep the kindness.
Replay Theatre Company