As the country looks to extend lockdown we’re all still having to adjust to this new normal and around the globe many of us are utilising this unprecedented moment in history by spending precious time with our families, housemates and loved ones.
Over the last few weeks I’ve witnessed moments of unity I’d thought were long gone. Instead of burying our heads within our phones and numbingly scrolling through our timelines we’ve been engaging in digital technology to improve our wellbeing, fitness, social connections and creativity in ways that truly celebrate the resourcefulness and resilience we have as human beings. In a way digital engagement has evolved from the horrors of COVID-19 and has given us all a place to remain at peace within this difficult time.
But so many people within our town are home alone, vulnerable and are already isolated from the outside world. Local charities and workplaces rely on volunteering from healthy everyday Samaritans to venture outside and help our communities in need.
As the Mercury Theatre’s Engagement Producer I’m going to highlight how you can be utilising your extended weeks in Lockdown remaining connected within your local communities, celebrating local artistry digitally and opportunities available if you wish to offer a helping hand.
Supporting your local Council
Colchester Borough Council have updated their website to include advice and support for residents, businesses and communities. If you’re keeping well and in a position to be able to help a variety of communities then please consider contacting your local council. They’re providing a range of volunteering opportunities to help those in desperate need. For instance volunteering at your local foodbank, supermarket and van deliveries.
Neighbourhood Facebook Groups
If you’ve just moved or are a settled resident make sure you’re staying connected within your area by joining your local neighbourhood Facebook groups. To name a few: New Town, Stanway, Lexden & Greenstead all have working groups and are regularly posting updates on vulnerable residents in need or can be used for callouts to support and connect. A document has been created listing a good selection of local groups, if your area or group is missing feel free to edit the document!
Mercury Online & Digital Youth Theatre
Whilst the country remains indoors the Mercury will be providing a range of online content for our audiences. Our Mercury Online programme is now in full swing providing masterclasses from industry professionals, children’s story time with local legend Dale Superville and musical sing-a-longs with West End Star Craig Mather to lift spirits. We’ve also teamed up once again with Josef Weinberger to provide an exciting Monologue competition and on Easter Saturday we streamed our hit pantomime, Cinderella and this will remain live on our YouTube channel until Sunday April 19th.
We’ve also put together some useful creative blogs for parents, young people and tots to engage with at home. These blogs also include relevant links to the national curriculum and EYFS.
Since the lockdown our Youth Theatre has been transferred to online weekly Zoom classes. Our Youth Company Members across all ages are now engaging creatively and exercising their skills led by our creative practitioner Fabiana Sforza. If you’d like to learn more about our Digital Youth Theatre classes contact us on email@example.com.
Highlighting the East
Creative Arts East are continuing to develop initiatives for artists and audiences across the Eastern region. They’re offering Virtual Community Cinema, Links of funding streams for artists and organisations within the region.
Whilst being restricted to their usual activity, Creative Arts East are finding new ways of engaging creatively with all their stakeholders across the Eastern region, including workshop participants and audience members.
DanceEast have been offering a programme of digital dance classes for a variety of ages called Home Is Where The Dance Is. They’re offering a full schedule of tots classes, BARRE, Ballet and Contemporary all lasting 15-20 minutes long, facilitated by their DanceEast artists.
Colchester Arts Centre have been taking poetry to the streets of Colchester with their director, Anthony Roberts, personally performing poems daily on your door step, which are then posted on their Twitter page. They’ve also teamed up with Colne Radio’s Bill Lawrence to provide their successful podcast.
High Tide remain one of the UK’s leading producers of new work and in response to the COVID-19 crisis they’ve released two productions to view online and in 360*. ‘Songlines’ by Tallulah Brown and ‘Rust’ by award-winning writer and Mercury Theatre associate, Kenny Emson.
Metal Culture based in Southend On-Sea have been providing online opportunities to their wider network in digital programming, activity packs and mental health support. They’re also providing an online workshop via Zoom called ‘Chat & Draw’ which engages participants in conversational togetherness and doodling. No skill is required it’s just about the conversations and the response through drawings.
Live Streaming has taken a form of its own in the last few weeks. With an overwhelming amount of plays, operas, concerts and ballets being streamed for your enjoyment absolutely FREE. Theatres, Dance Companies and Production companies are giving us the opportunity to relive cultural entertainment at its finest and all they ask is that, where possible, we consider donating to creative organisations. To keep up to date on what’s being streamed day by day take a look at this article from WhatsOnStage.
During this time it is vital that we all look out for each other but most importantly we still need to focus on our own physical and mental health. Being in lockdown is providing daily challenges for us all, but it can be particularly difficult for individuals with existing mental and physical health conditions. Colchester Borough Council have provided useful links within their site to get you the support you need whilst in these trying times. They’ve provided The Livewell Campaign that gives you 7 steps to support your mental health with links to government and advice mental health for children and young people.
If you’re an organisation that supports the care of those in need during the COVID-19 crisis and would like to talk to us about providing creative activities please do contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Joe Allen at Shoot Me Club