By Arran Pallan with Kelsie Acton
Over 2 million people have been shielding from the coronavirus and I am one of those people.
I am an emerging stage manager, graduated in 2019, and I have a long-term health condition which makes me vulnerable to contracting this deadly virus. This has been a particularly challenging time for me.
Despite the fact the Government said from the 1st August vulnerable people will no longer be advised to shield, many people who were shielding have continued to do so. I haven’t left the house in 20 weeks. Only in the past two weeks I decided that I needed to go out as I was in real need of human interaction being isolated and confined within my house wasn’t doing my well-being any good. But of the four times I have been out I was so scared and had so many doubts about leaving. I even had doubts about attending the freelance picnic. All I kept thinking about was what if I caught the virus? How will I fight it off? It made me so anxious. However, I am so glad I did attend the picnic as this time away gave me some escapism.
The nature of working in theatre is that it’s such a busy environment and always around different people. As a recent graduate, I was still trying to find my feet within the industry and I was very lucky that I had worked ever since leaving drama school. But now I feel like this has given me a massive push back. Towards the start of lockdown, I was thinking about leaving the sector. I just shut myself out from everything because I felt I had a disadvantage and I didn’t think anyone would want to employ me because I am shielding and would be overlooked because I am classed as high risk. To have the work I love and trained for taken away is really difficult to come to terms with.
My biggest fear is when productions and work start picking up again will I just have to pretend I feel comfortable to go back because I’m in real need of work. Just because the government has just stopped shielding doesn’t mean the virus has gone. The virus is still out there and the consequences for me could be enormous. We should never have to choose between our health and work. I really hope producers and production companies are accommodating and understand that everyone is experiencing the pandemic differently. Just because someone is still not comfortable to return to work, they shouldn’t be left behind.
Different age groups and people are shielding for many different reasons. This not only has an impact on the individual who is shielding but those family or relatives. So, we need to be mindful of both the individual shielding and that people may be living with someone who is vulnerable.
I have some really positive days and others not so positive. I still am very confused about what is the right thing for me to do regarding my health and staying safe. But one thing which I do urge everyone who is struggling during these times is to reach out and you're not alone. For me I’m incredibly lucky I have the amazing support of everyone at FMTW.
At FMTW we want to hear from freelancers who are still shielding or living with someone who is shielding. We want your experiences and concerns to inform our advocacy. Please reach out and contact us. You can reach us through our website. Or give us a shout on twitter @freelancersmake
- Arran Pallan with Kelsie Acton