This week should have been the Spitalfields Festival – our first since 2018. Instead, like so many of you, we’ve been looking after our family: our schools, the young musicians with whom we work, our composers, workshop leaders and the many others who make up our wider support network.
Unpicking and re-knitting a festival has taken huge energy, and we still don’t know if it will be possible to run our events in November; usable Government guidance for our sector has not yet been issued, which makes planning frustrating and at times feel futile. Clearly, our concern is keeping audiences and performers safe, and despite our desperate wish to get music flowing again, there’s no way that we would take any risks against Public Health England advice.
So, rather than speculate on what might happen, I wanted to tell you what we HAVE been doing over the last few months – all projects made possible by our wonderful supporters, from Arts Council England to donors like you.
The first thing that we did was honour contracts in full for the musicians who were supposed to be working with us in schools and care homes. These amazing people – vital components of TeamSpitz, who are usually buzzing around and working with multiple organisations – have been hit hard by lockdown. So many musicians and other freelancers haven’t been eligible for Government support, so it was important to do the right thing by them. We cannot wait to see them again.
We’ve put together creative care packages for our friends, both residents and staff, in local care homes, as part of our Creative Encounters programme. We’re all terribly aware of the situation in care settings, but staff tell us the homes are doing OK, in the circumstances. It will be January at the earliest before we’re able to visit again, but in the meantime we’ll be sending more specially-conceived videos and artworks to let them know how much they are appreciated and in our thoughts. You can see some of the videos our musicians have made here
We’ve also been working with our Soundbox ensemble through the wonders of Zoom. Many of this group of young people are shielding due to their health vulnerabilities, and it was really wonderful to see them, alongside parents and carers, reunited and making music together. Our other work with young people can’t start again this academic year, so we’re looking forward getting back into schools – hopefully in September, but possibly not until January.
And what’s still to come?
Well, we’ve been working on ways to blend digital and real life musical offerings, and should have some news to announce in a few weeks, once we’ve run some trials. Based on what you’ve told us, digital is not a replacement for live concert experiences, but we are aware that for those who are shielding, it may be the only way to hear music live for some time to come – and we want to reach as many people as possible. Music provides such comfort in these confusing times, and we all want to ensure that those who might be feeling lonely have music too.
We’ve also been planning Festival ’21 to be bigger and better, and to include some of the elements that it’s not been possible to move to November – projects such as The Big(ger) Sing and our popular showcase event with local young musicians, PLATFORM, alongside our exciting Open Call programme to profile the work of emerging composers. Alongside that, we’re planning some special training for our wonderful music leaders, so that they are equipped with the skills they think will be required when we are able to get back into care homes and schools, working with people dealing with trauma and grief who will need support in ways we have never encountered previously.
Finally, we’ve been working with our trustees and core funders on building for the future. We were fortunate to have been prudent and built up some reserves, but these are now much depleted, and we will have to be ever more fleet of foot and work with partners to find support for the projects that make such a difference to musicians, composers and our East London communities.
If you are able to help us rebuild funds for future projects, we’d love to hear from you. You can make a donation HERE, or if you’d like to talk about a specific project you might be interested in supporting, you can email our Chief Executive, Sarah Gee
Until we can meet again, take care of yourselves and others,