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How do you keep connected in our Covid-19 world? #CreativeNetwork is a chance to talk about creative responses to enforced separation – and drink coffee together. Jemma Neville explains. 

Person using iPad

At Voluntary Arts we know the importance of staying connected in the best of times and the worst of times, so as a response to more and more of us self-isolating and working from home, we’ve set up #CreativeNetwork.

This daily online get-together is open to anyone who wants to problem-solve about getting and staying creative at home. But anyone who simply wants to have their morning coffee and a chat is very welcome to join us too. Over the past few days we’ve been chatting with people from Anglesey to Sunderland, and Leith to Brixton. We even have one regular attendee from Johannesburg. Like any meeting, we’ve found it helpful to have a rotating chair, a structured but flexible agenda and to make the most of the breakout rooms available on a digital platform like Zoom.

Together, we are making the best of things. Making do. Simply making 

Making the best of things

We ask people to share examples of how cultural participation is flourishing at home. It’s inspiring. People have told us about song sheets for social-distancing; handwritten letters being exchanged between home-schooled pupils and residents in care homes; digital book clubs; virtual tours of museums; art materials and other essential supplies delivered through local befriending networks. We have collected hundreds of these examples and will be sharing them far and wide, alongside new guidance on how to make the best of technology. Together, we are making the best of things. Making do. Simply making. 

There have been songs sung, live poetry recitals, experiments in chair yoga and plenty of pets making an appearance. New friendships have formed, skills been shared and routes to funding, volunteering and paid work signposted. 

The value of the virtual

One participant in #CreativeNetwork commented on the value of everyone appearing equally, side-by-side in their virtual box, removed from the hierarchy and labels of ‘freelance’ or ‘artist’ that can accompany some traditional professional networks. It seems at times like these that small really is beautiful. 

People have told us they are feeling hopeful, productive, exhausted, anxious or frustrated during this uncertain time. I have felt a bit of all of these things! Mostly, I am curious about how new ways of making and doing might emerge from this strange, liminal period. Perhaps we will better recognise the importance of local cultural infrastructure - the community spaces where we can come together to dance, paint, sing and play - and the people that make it happen. 

The Voluntary Arts team, our freelance colleagues and volunteers are dispersed across five nations. We have 30 years’ experience of overcoming borders and barriers. Our regular work involves supporting people across the UK and Ireland to get creative at kitchen tables, libraries, theatres, parks, care homes, churches, mosques and more. We understand the value of bearing witness to creative expression. We also know that social isolation and feeling lonely or overwhelmed by life can happen to any of us at any age or time.

We are still learning. We want to know how best to support voluntary arts groups as they adapt their regular meet-ups in new and surprising ways. And we want to know how best to connect with those who don’t have easy access to digital technology. How can we be more inclusive? How can we best listen to new or emerging voices?

If you have suggestions for these challenges or you just want to share your morning cuppa, please do join us. Every weekday, 9.30am-10.30am. 

Jemma Neville is Director of Voluntary Arts Scotland. #CreativeNetwork is a Voluntary Arts (UK and Ireland) initiative.


Link to Author(s): 
Jemma Neville