Real People, Real Lives, Real Jobs

Mental Wellbeing within the Creative Industries

Rock concert - Photo by Muneeb Syed

Photo by Muneeb Syed

This week #CarryOnTouring attended the brilliantly organised NightTime Industries Association summit in London.

As invitees from the summit organisers, we felt it would be a good opportunity to raise awareness about the campaign, but also to finally meet with people face to face instead of zoom.

The event consisted off several panel discussions with a wide range of topics dealing with the issues facing the night-time industries.

Kicking off the event, promoter Harvey Goldsmith gave a speech about how the creative industry has changed, what problems it faces post Covid, and the new challenges brought about by Brexit.

The two points that stuck with me were 1/ he stated that there was a lack of new talent emerging in the music industry, 2/ there was also a dramatic loss of support staff and crew in the industry due to people moving out of the industry during the pandemic and simply not returning.

My thoughts on those two issues are this:

1/ there is a tremendous amount of new talent coming through, but it is coming through in a different way, there seems to be a move away from playing live shows, with the advent of TicToc and YouTube, making it quite easy for new talent to reach larger audiences without the cost of touring of playing small venues to build a following.

2/ There is a loss of support staff and crew, whilst Covid closed down the industry many people had to find alternative employment, most of which was a lot less unsocial hours for similar money. If you put that together with the uncertainty that still exists in the creative industry as to whether shows / tours will be cancelled due to Covid / low ticket sales / cost of living crisis, then you can see why there is a reluctance to return to the industry.

Also a factor that has become apparent is that the wages being offered by some are ridiculous. Recently I was offered a freelance role, where the rate of pay was lower than the rate I got when I first started out 30 years ago. We are a skilled set off people, one of our skills is to make sure whatever we do, it is safe for the public to attend. With a number of high profile incidents recently, it is easy to see that the lack of suitably trained personnel can lead to disastrous consequences and loss of life.

Amongst all the great panels discussions there was two that struck a chord with me personally.

The first was:

The WHO Partner with the NTIA to discuss the “Make Listening Safe” Campaign.

The panel discussed the issues surrounding hearing protection not only within the workplace but also at live events and concerts. As someone who has hearing loss and constant tinnitus brought on by 30+ years of live events I can vouch for the effect it has on you in later life. The problem can start at a very early age, kids listening to music too loudly on headphones, then progress as we grow older, travelling on the tube, going to nightclubs / gigs / bars, we do not think about how delicate our hearing is and how easily and relatively quickly we can damage it beyond repair.

The sobering fact that came from the panel was that you are 5 times more likely to suffer from dementia in older life if you suffer from hearing loss, than those that don’t.

My message to you is, protect your hearing at all times, don’t wait until it’s too late.

The 2nd Panel was:

Tonic Rider panel: Promoting Good Mental Health Through Peer Support.

There is a lot of issues that can affect mental health within the creative industry, from anxiety about performing live on stage, to worrying about making a viable living out of being freelance, and all manner of things in between.

I am not going to profess that I know everything about all of them, but I am going to share my own experience in the hope that it will encourage others to realise that, like me, need to address the issues that are affecting their lives and that actually it is ok to talk.

I suffer from anxiety which leads to a feeling of lack of confidence.

Over my 30+ years as a freelance live video director / engineer for some of the worlds biggest acts, touring to all four corners of the world multiple times, I feel that I have gained a lot of experience in being part the crew putting on these massive shows in front of thousands of people, dealing with problems that arise either before the show or during so that actually none of the audience notices.

But since the pandemic, I have been unable to work in the touring industry, having backed out of some pretty significant tours because I don’t feel confident that I am able to do those events anymore. I know full well that once on the road I will be absolutely fine and slip back into my role with ease, but the feeling of anxiety beforehand is so bad that I just can’t get through the time between being booked and actually leaving for the tour and will find any excuse to phone the person that has booked me and say sorry I can’t do that tour.

This is having serious effect on my confidence, my ability to find work and my finances. I have looked for other work, but not many employers want a 57 year old who has been freelance for 30+ years.

So watching the Tonic Rider panel the other day and talking to one of the panellists after, has made me realise that actually this isn’t just me, it’s a very common problem in the industry, and if you think about what Harvey Goldsmith said in his opening speech about the lack of support staff and crew returning to the industry, it could be that many of them are also suffering from a similar mental health issue to me.

I guess what I am saying here is that although it feels like it, we are not alone, there are lots of us that are feeling the same way and that the first step to recovery is to realise what it is that is affecting you and to talk to someone openly about it.

Tonic Rider is one among many support groups that can help in a number of ways. The peer support group being one of those. Having the ability to talk to others that work in the same industry as you and may well be having the same issues as you, is a brilliant way to get these anxieties off your chest and begin to realise that there is a way through this.

Like I said earlier mental health affects us in a myriad of different ways, there is always someone to talk to, someone who will listen, maybe suggest ways through.

For me the Carry On Touring campaign has kept me going, talking to all manner of people from all walks of life, artists, crew, dancers, opera singers, composers, drivers, Lords, members of parliament, industry big wigs, many of whom are concerned about how the industry we have spent our lives in, building our careers, reputation, earning a living, and how it is being battered on all sides by the post Brexit touring crisis, the lack of revenues from music streaming and the latest issue to surface, the potential hike in visa petition costs for working in the US.

Don’t suffer in silence. It’s good to talk.




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