WORDS BY MATT HEYWARD

In June 2020, I had a moment. It was just a small blip on the radar of what had been a very positive mindset for the last 10 weeks during isolation – but a moment nonetheless.

Restrictions had been lifted slightly. I had just headed out to the supermarket. People were everywhere. The roads were clogged up once again. Cafes were trading and retail businesses were bustling. Life looked like it was headed back down the path to ‘normal’, which was what we had all been holding our breath for.

It was in this moment that I allowed myself to look up for the first time since lockdown. I think as arts workers we have a certain amount of resilience that we draw upon when one contract finishes while we work out our next move, so in a way isolation was just an extreme version of something we have all experienced – coping and surviving.

However, when I allowed myself to look at what the rest of the year holds when the entire sector has essentially been wiped out, I found myself feeling a little existentially overwhelmed. I learned a long time ago to never define myself or my identity as the job I do…it’s what I ‘do’ not who I ‘am’…

But factor in a global pandemic and the entire sector you love disappears…it started to make me question my purpose on a larger scale. Does the world really care if there are no creative industries?! Do we live in a bubble in which we are the only ones who value storytelling and the power of live entertainment? Certainly the lack of leadership at a federal level did nothing to alleviate this feeling of existential anxiety.

It was at this time that I read the comments on the appeals page set up as part of the fundraising campaign for the Arts Wellbeing Collective.

As a general rule I never ‘read the comments’ but on this occasion it was exactly the spirit lifter that I needed. Not only was there an incredible amount of support flooding in financially, which was entirely the point, but equally and maybe even more importantly were the messages of support and words of encouragement that accompanied those donations. It turns out we don’t live in a bubble or a vacuum.

I look forward to the day we can open our doors once again. I know we will make it through this to the other side and see a better than ‘back to normal’, thriving live entertainment and arts sector We have the resilience and resourcefulness, and it turns out we have much more support than even we knew about.

Read the full range of comments online at
arts-centre-melbourne.giveeasy.org/EmergencyAWC


This article appeared in Spotlight, the Arts Wellbeing Collective magazine: