By Ben Arkell
At last week’s FMTW meeting we were all asked the question “What has made you thrive this week?” I mentioned laying a floor in the new office that my wife (a Props Supervisor) and I had created to enable us to work more efficiently from home with two young children, as and when we are able to actually make theatre again.
But I struggled with whether to mention my new office as my positive action. Not because it isn’t, but through a guilty sense that this is a selfish thought during the pandemic - raising my own good fortune, as opposed to helping others. I admit that I felt the use of such a personal achievement seemed to go against the ethos of a collective action group.
I am a theatrical Production Manager, so while I’m not a creative practitioner I am passionate about making the creative process happen and facilitating it in the best way possible. As such, the loss of all my work since March 16th has been difficult in a slightly different way to some of the creative talents at FMTW. It’s the loss of purpose and action on a daily basis that is at times worse than the lack of an end result.
Generally, rather than thriving, I have only been surviving during the last few months, trying to give a stable and positive front to my young children, and some home schooling (which was a novel experience). I had residual guilt when reading about others and how they were taking the fight to the government and Treasury over the lack of support for our industry, although I had helped compile a list of freelancers and lobbied Government MPs in early April.
As time has gone on it has highlighted how hard it is to keep a positive face going forwards and that we need to hear about all these different actions, such as personal triumphs, freelancers’ victories and general goodwill stories to help keep us mentally on an even keel.
Why did I feel guilty? Was it a lack of effort or the personal nature of my ‘thrive’? What I came to realise through joining FMTW is that all these small achievements help us. Building an office gave purpose to our lives through the summer months. We all need to find those solutions, be it building projects, daily exercise, campaigning or learning a new craft. Guilty is not an option; we must try and find and do anything that makes us feel good about ourselves, and then we can hopefully go forward and be able to assist or help others and also show each other, as well as the wider world, what a creative and vibrant community we are.
FMTW has helped me to see that I can help myself as well as others during this time and discuss ways we can improve our working environment in the future through initiatives such as the Future Labs. Personal well-being is still the most important thing, as everything flows from this, so try and thrive on something/anything this week, no matter what it is.