Mak Forrit – Scots sangster Iona Fyfe’s lockdoun diary

It’s the ninth o Mairch, and I’v juist gaed affstage at a venue cried SALA BBK in Bilbao, Spain. I hae hauf o the neist day tae explore aa the airts and pairts o this Basque toun afore me and my band hae tae ging on a plane back tae Glesca via Amsterdam. It’s business as normal in Bilabao, and fowk ar nou gaun aboot their auld-farrent Monday mornin wey: cafés ar bustlin, fowk ar speirin at the Guggenheim, the shops ar open and busy. COVID-19 haesna hit here yet, and Spain is still open for business. International traivel is still gaun on, but Schiphol is a wee bittie quieter. In juist three weeks, Spain haes haed near 11,200 deiths at time o scrievin (3rd Aprile).

Juist a wheen days efter, I’m back in Glesca rehearsin for a puckle gigs in Scotland ower the weekend, and get a call sayin that the virus haes taen a haud o Denmark, and if I should ponder reschedulin my Aprile tour. At first I gie the “ach, the show maun ging on”-type attitude, but gey quickly the severity o the situation hits hame, and I realise it’s aa for the best tae be safe. Denmark — cancelled. A blaw tae the finances for me and the twa lads that war supposed tae jyne me, Charlie Grey and Aiden Moodie. I dae a gig at Crieff Folk Club on 12t Mairch — aathing as normal, than Stanehive on 13t Mairch. Haund-sanitiser for the audience on i door, but business as normal. But than oor gig at Glenbuchat Hall on 14t Mairch is cancelled. Syne I get an email sayin my tour o Western Australia that wad ging fae Aprile tae Mey is cancelled an-aa. Months o wark — gane. As weel as flights that cost thoosands. At this pynt, there wis nae meisurs in place for the millions o self-employed fowk that wad be affectit, lat alane for the airtists and muisicians. Day by day, emails, calls, and cancellations cam rollin in — and they still dae. The howplessness is gey hard tae shift. Wi events and fowk festivals sic as Cambridge, Sidmouth and Edinburgh Fringe in July and August bein cancelled, the end isna even in sicht.

Owernicht, the hale airts sector, pubs, clubs, venues, airts centres and festivals haed nae ither option but tae close their doors, cancel their shows. Muisicians’ wark is stripped fae them wi cancellations up tae August and ayont. The venues hiv been hit juist as bad as the airtists. I saw online fan Steve Byrne floatit the hashtag #giftthegig, which suggestit that some venues wad refuse refunds, and still pey muisicians. Some venues need help themsels tae bide afloat an-aa. Days passed wi nae or little government response as tae foo self-employed fowk war tae support themsels. A warld full o airtists, muisicians, freelancers wi unanswered questions and facin financial dífficulty. In cam The Muisicans’ Union, daein aa they can tae lobby government intae makkin meisurs tae consíder and support the needs o self-employed muisicians. The MU creatit the MU Coronavirus Hardship Fund. Ithers sic as Help Musicians UK, PRS, PRS Foundation, Creative Scotland, MusiCares US, follaed suit.

Files there haes nou been a UK Government announcement on help for self-employed fowk, it’s nae gaun tae help aab’dy. Some fowk ar gaun tae faa throu the cracks, fowk that hivna been self-employed for wan tax year, lat alane three hale years, fowk that pey themsels dividends throu their smaa airts organisation. Fowk that ar pairt self-employed, and pairt employed by an employer. Fowk that’s made muckle profit ower their stert-up years winna be gettin support either. This haes pit a muckle stress on the industry — and individual fowk. But in crises, fowk’s resilience shines throu. It’s the seicont week o the UK bein in lockdoun and muisicians fae aa the airts and pairts hiv bin shiftin their wark online: streamin live gigs fae their hooses, daein their teachin, sharin sangs and poyems via Twitter, makkin Patreon accoonts. An influx o fowk haes been tyauvin awa, tryin tae engage wi their audiences files tryin tae keep up makkin their lívin, uisin anely the internet. Fit on earth wad we dae wi’oot it? Even fowk clubs haes muived online: we can ging tae and tak pairt in fowk clubs sic as Aiberdeen Folk Club on a Wadnesday ower Facebook or The Rollin Hills Folk Club on a Friday ower Zoom. And it disna end there: Covideo Folk Club is a constant stream o videos, fowksangs, ballads and poyems uploadit tae a Facebook group.

The anely issue is that there’s as muckle content that it’s hard tae cut throu aa the noise and hae yer ain content be seen! Wi aab’dy in i same boat, i ‘digital mercat’ is saturatit wi content. On i ither haund, for aa the fowk stuck at hame, they hiv aa the stories, sangs, videos, movies, entertainment at their fingertips. It’s ironic that the government haes taen its time in providin support for freelancers, yet the entire warld is tunin intae online media sic as gym clesses, yoga, muisic, movies, box sets — aa that’s created by fowk fa maist likely ar freelancers. There’s this idea that freelancers should be makkin uiss o this ‘time aff’ tae create and be productive. This is an unhealthy expectation tae hae. Lat yersel be. But it’s awfu difficult tae finnd motivation and routine in sic a howpless time. Wirkin as a freelancer and wirkin as a freelancer durin a pandemic ar twa different things. It’s aaricht tae feel unmotivatit, unproductive, lethargic, stressed, frustratit and foonert and fabbit. It’s aaricht if ye’r nae feelin up tae singin, playin, writin or gettin throu yer to-do list. Seein aab’dy online daein fun and creative hings juist maks ye feel even warse — sustainin a cycle dífficult tae get oot o. Juist gie yersel time and space.

Files we hiv muived aathing online e’en nou, I juist wunner whit the warld is gaun tae leuk like fan this aa blaws ower. Will there even be a circuit for muisicians tae tour wi aa the venues, pubs, clubs and airts centres that micht struggle tae reopen their doors? It winna be easy for onybody tae get back on their feet, but the devastatin shock tae the cultur sector will tak a gey lang time tae bounce back, that is for shuir. And it winna be as easy as ‘muivin the Denmark tour tae 2021’, nae wi Brexit. But that is anither story, for anither day…

Iona Fyfe

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