VAULT Festival 2022
First up, thank you so much for all your replies to Tape No. 41! It was really lovely to read about all your various plans and hopes and promises for the year to come. Some of my favourite Words for 2022 I’ve heard back about include Action; Patience; Gratitude; Bloom and Build. I hope that one week in, 2022 is bringing you all a lot of happiness! Over the year of their existence so far, I’ve tried my best to avoid making the Therapy Tapes resemble your typical comedian’s newsletter of “Hi, here’s what I’m up to this week, please book tickets!” where I can, but going into the New Year, with the global situation being what it is, there’s a couple of personal project-related things I’d love to tell you all about, though the plea to book tickets will remain absent for now, as there are no tickets to be booked.
My new show Blink was booked in for a few performances at VAULT Festival in February, but VAULT Festival themselves have just made the very sad, but ultimately probably sensible, decision to cancel the entire festival due to rising case numbers. Quite frankly, I honestly couldn’t tell you how I feel about this situation. It’s not that I have no strong feelings, it’s more that I have quite strong feelings on both sides. I’m proud of the new show I’m making, and excited and keen to share it with audiences, and I would dearly like to see a return to some sort of status quo where performers and audiences alike take it upon themselves to be conscientious, careful and safe regarding the public health risk of large gatherings, and where people gradually start to feel comfortable and confident going to see live performances to be entertained and inspired again. At the same time, I was also incredibly wary of the idea of actively encouraging people to come and gather in large groups to watch a show as record case numbers continue to be recorded, and the potential burden on the NHS remains something of an unknown gamble. Ultimately, all things considered, it was definitely the right call for the festival to be cancelled now, rather than being forced into that position 4 weeks down the line after artists have put loads more work in and spent more money.
Mostly, I’m beyond angry at the lack of financial support or protection for freelancers and small organisations in the arts and hospitality sectors, so that organisations like VAULT Festival have to personally absorb the costs of cancellation (maybe they’re eligible for some bailout grants or covered by their insurance, I’ve no idea, but I do know that in the short-term they’re having to personally reimburse all ticketholders and artists for all registration fees, deposits etc, and I’ve no idea if they stand to get any of that back). The same goes for the freelance artists making those shows – those performances represented a big chunk of my income over the next couple of months, and despite how hard I’m sure it would’ve been to sell many tickets to them with audience confidence at a justifiable low, their cancellation will cost me a fair bit of money.
A sad picture of an empty venue, to tug at the heartstrings a bit.
Ultimately, though, I’m in a very fortunate position with the show I was going to be debuting at VAULT Festival, so I mustn’t grumble. Next week I’m starting a 2-week research-and-development period, funded by Arts Council England and part-hosted by Angel Comedy and Soho Theatre, to take the work-in-progress version of the show I’ve presented over the last couple of months, and fine-tune it and rehearse it until it transforms into something resembling a more accomplished, complete piece of work. This R&D was supposed to culminate in the VAULT shows, but the way it’s been structured and planned, I can still undertake the development work on the show that I was planning to, and can then simply shelve the show until I can dust it down and present it at a different festival once case numbers are lower, whenever that might be – perhaps in time for Leicester, perhaps for Machynlleth, or Brighton, or Edinburgh, or perhaps I’ll just book it into another London venue and debut it there in March or April. In the short-term, I’m privileged and lucky enough to still be able to work on my show, safely and responsibly, and to pay myself and my collaborators for our time, and to simply hit pause on it until the global Covid situation is a little less frightening.
In the long-term, though, it’s getting increasingly tiring putting parts of your heart and your soul into projects that can be entirely scrapped overnight due to circumstances entirely out of your control. In this instance, I’m lucky enough to be able to keep focusing on the short-term, and to just not invest too heavily in any sort of grand, overarching plan for the year, but to wait and see what sort of opportunities arise for the show I’m making. But the idea of being able to make a comfortable, stable, reliable living from the making of live work feels further and further out of reach, and it’s clear that 2022 is likely going to be another year of uncertainty and frustrations and not-quite-normality. I am beginning to wonder whether telling myself “Maybe it’ll just be one more year of this before I can do what I used to do again” every January is no way to live, actually, and that perhaps it’s time to lean away from the thing I used to do with my life and towards things that are less dependent on chaotic external factors.
On that note, in the immediate future I have two other big projects to devote my time to, my radio sitcom The Dream Factory and a new podcast for Aurra Studios with Alison Thea-Skot called Can’t Keep A Secret. I’ll tell you all more about both of them in the fullness of time, because I’d love to start to build a little audience for them ahead of their release, but for now, I think how each of these three projects pans out over the year to come will play a big role in which direction the next few years ends up taking me in.
I’d love to hear what you all make of these thoughts! Are you done with all Covid-related worries, and committing yourself to making and seeing live work regardless of what the news tells you? Are you someone who used to love making or watching live shows, but have now completely switched off that part of your brain, and adapted to a life that’s less reliant on it? Or are you like me, one foot tentatively in both camps, trying to put equal focus on everything but slowly beginning to fall one way or the other? I’d love to hear from you all and get some sort of cross-section of how people are feeling about all this stuff.
A Cool New Thing In Comedy – I guess VAULT being cancelled is the only big comedy news I’ve been aware of this week, as it’s absorbed a lot of my focus. Not “a cool new thing,” admittedly, but hey, keep an eye on the Twitter of places like the Museum of Comedy and Soho Theatre and Pleasance and so on and there’ll probably be lots of good comedy shows that were scheduled for performance in the Vaults being booked into alternative venues through the spring.
What’s Made Me Laugh The Most – This video of an owl dancing to a church choir.
Book Of The Week – I’m still reading The Denial Of Death by Ernest Becker, and it’s absolutely fantastic. It also coincidentally happens to be one massive philosophical treatise specifically exploring the main theme that I’ve been trying to get across in the show I’m working on, which I didn’t realise before I started reading it, so that feels really serendipitous. It’s amazing to read someone talk about the same idea with so much more understanding and insight than I’ve managed to achieve with it yet. Perhaps I’ll just steal all his thoughts.
Album Of The Week – Fear by John Cale. The song “Paris 1919” by John Cale pretty much got me through the first lockdown in 2020 by itself, so it’s about time I went back to John Cale and listened to some more. I chose this album because the song “Barracuda” was in the excellent film Palm Springs, but the whole album is a quirky delight.
Film Of The Week – Somehow I’d never seen Bridesmaids until this week. Wish I’d seen it sooner, it’s absolutely fantastic. Feels silly recommending a film that surely everyone but me saw years ago, but in case you also missed it, treat yourselves, it’s brilliant.
That’s all for this week! Hopefully back to something a bit less anxious in nature next week. Thank you for your indulgence this week! Take care of yourselves in the meantime, and all the best,
PS Here’s London this morning.