2017 was a horrific year for me, and in the years following I suffered from social isolation quite bad. It’s something I’d suffered with on and off since being homeless in 2007 but a variety of very difficult life experiences in 2017 led to my social isolation becoming the worse it ever had been. However, joining Disabled Artists Networking Community and performing with Switchblade Poetry in 2019 had started to turn the corner a little bit and as 2020 began I was scheduled to support a labelmate of my favourite rapper in June 2020 and I’d moved to a new part time job in another restaurant after 5 years with my previous employer. Then Covid happened. No furlough cos I was still in probation at the new job and was handily sacked the week before the lockdown was announced because they tried to make me work over my permitted work hours. I ended up having to move back in with my parents. A great emotional support for me.
I had carried on doing things creatively through the first lockdown via both Disabled Artists Networking Community and Greater Manchester Artist Hub but I’d say from mid-May to June I’d become run ragged by the demands placed upon me by the situation I was in.
While staying with my parents I rebuilt myself with Disabled Artists Networking Community events, support from Daisy Hale who provided assistive support for my Arts Council England applications (later helping to write my successful Developing Your Creative Practice bid), and what became HOME is Where the Art is. I first heard of HOME is Where the Art is when I received an email from HOME inviting me to be part of what was then called the Creative Critics Collective. It offered the chance to see shows in a social group and then discuss them with biscuits and a brew afterwards.
Due to another lockdown and Manchester being in tier three the group convened digitally and became known as HOME is Where the Art is.
We met digitally throughout the Covid pandemic to discuss digital works commissioned for HOME. Some pieces we absolutely loved. Others were a mixed bag. Likewise there were a few that didn’t land with any of us… which inspired the “spite is one hell of a motivator” quote to create work that you would enjoy and feel is good in response to the creative equivalent of the air inside of a crisps packet.
Both during my recovery from the difficulties of the first lockdown and my depressive slump around February/March following 2 terrible gigs the friends I made as part of the HOME is Where the Art is project helped immensely. In the sessions when folks have been feeling low we’ve been understanding in our check in at the start of the sessions and throughout in offering compassion, friendship and understanding. The thing that’s gone beyond the pieces discussed and the hours spent chatting is the friendships that have developed as a result of the group. Having a handful of new friends in a moment of prolonged social isolation has been an absolute difference maker.
Likewise, being able to meet in person at the socially distanced Homeground on 2 occasions was fantastic. Midsummer Nights Dream was an excellent first in person meeting for the group. Bottom absolutely stole the show with fantastic comic timing.
I also enjoyed Brighter Sounds in which Clare, arguably the funniest member of our group, performed some fantastic songs that had a vibrant 80s vibe to them yet were created on a mobile phone during lockdown.
I’d also like to thank the project for allowing me to see one of the pieces I personally enjoyed most: Holly Rush’s SuperHeroAlterEgo. The use of Instagram filters, augmented reality, dance, visual effects, and storytelling were weaved through a wonderful project in which 4 episodes were created. I spoke to Holly regarding some of the audio-visual triggers for folks with epilepsy and autism and she was understanding. I also expressed my love of sci-fi, comic books, and her take on the genre through the use of new and emerging technology… being a tech nerd I was excited to find out exactly how it was done… and much like Clare’s music… it’s incredible what you can do with just a mobile phone, bags of talent, and a ton of ingenuity.
Following the release of the fourth episode I spoke with Holly again and arranged to discuss the future of the project and potential collaboration when we meet in mid-July (depending on when this is published it may have already happened.) I specifically noted how at the end when the characters find themselves back in the real world the Gor character which served as a digital demon could have been served with having what appeared to be a random passer by contain the essence of the Gor. Being a fan of horror in which the villain is never truly dead I saw great sequel potential in the piece, particularly around augmented reality and guerrilla theatre and look forward to discussing this further with Holly.
Thank you for providing a space for community, creativity, and social engagement at a time when it has been needed most. HOME truly is where the Art is.