Well, 2020 is finally coming to an end, and although many of the challenges it brought with it are going to continue into 2021, I wanted to take a moment before the new year and reflect on some of the positives for me last year.
In March I was lucky enough to join Jazz Promotion Network as Network Manager, a new opportunity for me to support the jazz sector more widely with an organisation that supports the UK and Ireland. JPN's mission is to advocate, connect and support all areas of the jazz sector in these regions. Starting a new job in a pandemic has had it's challenges but I've been lucky enough have a great colleague in Daniel Garel who took on the role of Communications and Marketing Manager and a supportive and knowledgeable Board of Trustees.
In the time since I officially started in May, we've held an open space event for over 80 delegates from across the jazz world, we've held three training courses, an action learning set, launched four case studies with Attitude is Everything and elected new Board members! As well as welcoming a whole bunch of new members to the network.
Sadly, joining JPN meant moving on from my role at Jazz North where I have been for many many years. I stayed in my role part time until October to help through the first phase of the pandemic and support the artists on the artist development programmes, promoters and the wider sector. With the impact of the pandemic wiping out most activity, I introduced and hosted a series of drop in sessions for promoters and artists every week on a Wednesday, which offered peer to peer support at a challenging time. As much as I hope they helped everyone who joined, it was a pleasure for me to get to know a few people better, see the sense of community amongst the sector and chat with some friendly faces whilst locked down and working from home. These drop-in sessions culminated in two open space events in September, one for artists and one for promoters allowing us to dig a bit deeper into some of the issues that are important to them.
This sense of community and support through this challenging time encouraged me to use this year to make some changes for myself too, and in May I began a long term ambition by starting training for my coaching accreditation with RD1st. Being a coach is about offering guidance for individuals to find their own path, support to identify their goals and make changes that allows them to achieve them. I achieved my coaching accreditation in October and have since been working with individuals from across the arts and culture industries. In a sector where there are so many challenges, particularly at this time I am looking forward to supporting more people to make the changes they want in 2021.
With thanks to Help Musicians UK, I was able to train with MHFAE to become a Mental Health First Aider. The course gives you skills, knowledge and resources to support someone who is going through a mental health crisis. The nature of this industry can sometimes impact on our mental health and with the additional impact of the pandemic, I know this will be valuable to all of my work. I feel more confident and capable to support anyone who is struggling, and to discuss this important topic amongst my colleagues, peers and networks across the industry.
With the impact of the pandemic affecting nearly every business, venue, artist, studio and organisation across the music and wider arts industry, I was pleased to see the industry come together and offer help and resources to support jobs and activity during this time. I've seen artists have successful applications to artist development programmes and financial support grants and I've been glad to offer guidance in their applications. I've written 4 bids for Arts Council England and DCMS CRF and emergency funding, which has brought £265,000 of valuable support into businesses and organisations, including two first time applicants who will now be more resilient to the longer term impact of covid-19.
The team at Matt and Phreds will use their funds to continue to support the artists who they can't bring to the stage at the moment, and following a mammoth run of live streams in the first lockdown, including a week long live stream festival, they've launched 'Friday Night Almost Live', recording performances from the club to share with audiences. Tonight is the culmination of that with the mighty Llaregubb Brass Band bringing in the new year!
At Lancaster Jazz Festival, we missed joining together with artists and audiences in Sun Square and across the city in September. Deciding not to do the festival back in March was a big and hard decision, but one that enabled us to best use our resources to ensure a future for the festival after the pandemic. With some support from Arts Council we've been able to undertake a full organisational review and take this time to build the foundations of the festival for the future, including hosting two focus groups with artists and designing a new website, so we know when we do return we'll be building from strength to strength. While we wait and see what happens for 2021, we've launched some micro-commissions so keep an eye out for them in the early part of next year.
I've learnt I think every trick there is to know about Zoom, despite my laptop speakers giving up at the start of the pandemic, we've muddled through online with conferences, AGM's, coffee mornings, socials. If you've not yet played zoom Pictionary you are missing out (hit me up for whiteboard instructions!).
This year has seen many changes for our industry - for the world in general - and 2021 will be no less challenging as we learn what the ongoing impacts of covid-19 and the new challenge brexit will bring. I am grateful to have been able to offer help and support to our industry, my colleagues, artists and friends throughout this time - and for the guidance and support I've received in return. I've been grateful for the purpose and activity to work on which has kept me busy and grounded. I've been grateful to be able to use this time to make changes in my life too and I'm excited for what these new skills and new roles will bring and the opportunities ahead in 2021.
I wish you all a happy and healthy new year.