By Susan Kempster

When lockdown happened and we all shifted online with speed, I noticed that teaching online left me feeling strung out, wired and tense, and that it took me quite a while to unwind after each session. Part of that was just the stress of the newness of it, of course, but part of it is also why for so many, this new normal cannot be a forever normal. Part of that strung out wired-ness is because there’s no exchange of hormones and neurotransmitters through the WIFI waves or the ethernet cable – there’s no biochemical exchange. There’s just your own adrenalin, and maybe not even that after a while, with none of the other mediators that make us feel good.

People at The Globe theatre

When we share a room, a space, a living breathing live space, we share the air, and a whole load of information is shared that, as animals who have lost touch with our instincts to a certain extent, we don’t notice. We only notice loud smells, not the subtle ones, the pheromones and other such substances, that actually inform and transform our bodies.

So, when a bunch of freelancers gathered in the live, real, and rather glorious space at The Globe for our first Freelancer Spa day it’s no wonder that for many of us it was a truly delightful and energising experience. Although it’s an outdoor space, and we were socially distanced, we shared that living breathing space for a while, and moved together, and made sound together, and supported each other in the search for small and feasible, attainable goals. And in being there together we shared some chemistry, some kinetic energy, and the sounds of the voices of others, not distorted by the inferior sound quality of tinny small devices, sent vibrations through our bodies. Liveness is a massive part of so much that is theatre. Yes, there can and will be loads of innovative and potentially exciting digital alternatives, particularly while needs must, and some of those will stay, but there is no digital replacement for sharing live experiences. And a lot of that has to do with chemistry.

People at The Globe theatre

The Freelancer Spa initiative came about in recognition of the huge impact Covid-19 has had on so many of the freelancers working in theatre and the performing arts. With the loss of jobs there’s also the loss of the professional communities, the people who come together to work on projects and often share more than the job at hand. The impact on mental health is immeasurable, and the end is still not in sight.

We want to do more of these sessions. We’d like to see them happening across the UK. If you know of a place, or would like to share a skill do let us know. At the moment we have no budget for these, and the first one was all done for the love of it, in service to freelancers and with the generous support from The Globe, but if you know of any organisations that might offer funds to this initiative, or if you have a venue that can do socially distanced sessions and has a budget to offer something to cover fees for the freelancers delivering sessions, then we’d love to here from you.

A single white cloud