What happened to 2020? My year in review.

So what did happen to 2020? Arguably a lot and also not much in similar amounts. So many huge world events; covid, the murder of George Floyd and subsequent anti-racism protests, and recently (although this is technically 2021, they’ve both sort of merged into one sort of general hell period) the murder of Sarah Everard. This is not to say there haven’t been other monumentally huge events that have just as much significance – a lot of major world events didn’t get the news coverage they deserved, from the riots in Delhi to the locust swarms in Africa and south Asia. As much as this year has been really bad for me personally, I don’t want to undermine the huge amount of privilege and support I have that helps me navigate these times.

As the country went into lockdown, I was coming into the second half of my Master’s degree in Performance. There were plans for university performances and outside performances (forever sad that I didn’t get the chance to perform as Flora in The Enchanted Pig), but everything in the arts ground to a halt. People took to social media to, rightly, ask about what would happen to the hospitality sector and high-street shops, but the arts and entertainment were continuously overlooked. I, and many other people I know, have fallen into a gap between coming to the end of study and being an established freelancer.

My expectations for this year were a lot of time spent shuffling my CV and applying to as many auditions and competitions as possible while getting set up as self-employed. Particularly before summer, companies had no idea when they would be able to put on a show so auditions were cancelled and competitions closed their scope – “sorry, we’re only accepting applications direct from conservatoires”. Even more brutally for me was the fact that having been a student, the majority of my income had previously been a mixture of freelance work, part-time employment, and student loans, meaning I was ineligible for the government support for artists.

Then came the next kicker – recordings for applications. They’re really a double-edged sword. Yes you can perform from the comfort of your own home, you get the chance to redo if you’re unhappy, and you get so save on travel costs. On the other hand, it comes with the presumption that everyone wanting to apply has access to a space suitable for performance, and access to decent tech equipment. I’m fortunate in that I have a decent mic from my work as a narrator but other people won’t be in that position. So many of my recordings have been ruined by my neighbours cackling and mimicking me from next door, or people walking past the window when I’m doing a video recording, picking their nose as I emotionally pour out ‘Se vuoi serbarla a ricordo d’amor!’ It’s also difficult to get in the mindset of performance when just behind you is your partner eating crisps and playing Cyberpunk.

I did have some successes this year though, but the barrage of shit that surrounded them makes it hard to remember what has happened. Here are some things that I’m particularly chuffed with:

  • Finished my Master’s with a distinction! And two commendations for outstanding achievement.
  • Took part in the Serena Fenwick Programme based out of the National Opera Studio.
  • Was a winner of the Europe semi-final of the Musical International Grand Prix (finals coming next month).
  • Got an awesome new teacher – the wonderful John Evans.

I realise these successes are all sort of super positive traditional style – but there have been other successes too, like just surviving through the year, remembering to have a wash, completing Dragonquest XI. And these ‘smaller’ successes shouldn’t be forgotten, and they’re a pretty good anchor when you’re receiving rejection after rejection from opera schools, auditions, and competition rounds.

P.s. The audacity of places not reducing audition fees when they don’t have to provide a space or accompanist? I’m sure people will not all agree with me but it’s been a constant kicker for me – yeah sure I’ll pay 100 quid to create and edit a three minute recording to send to you.

My new performer’s headshot – taken only minutes before a truly disastrous online audition (but also when the lighting was real en pointe)

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