When lockdown began I was technical managing the spring tour of BalletBoyz’ Deluxe, for which I had also designed the lighting. We were 4 venues into a 26 venue national tour. In the immediate weeks following I lost all my bookings not just for the rest of the tour but all the way up to the beginning of July. As lockdown has carried on, bookings have continued to drop off and I can’t be sure of any theatre work at all during 2020.
My first concern was for my mental health and a desire to keep occupied more than needing money. I knew that the supermarkets were struggling to keep up with the sudden surge in demand and there’s a huge Tesco delivery centre just minutes from where I live. I applied online and was inducted into training within five days and out delivering after ten.
I work 36 hours a week, predominantly early morning shifts. Our delivery area covers from Bermondsey in the west, Gravesend to the east and Westerham to the south. My day can involve delivering to isolated farms in the Kent countryside or to high rise flats in Rotherhithe. We deliver pretty much anything you can buy in a supermarket and a fully-laden van can have as many as 16 deliveries of up to 50kg each.
To begin with it was rewarding to see how pleased customers were to see us. They had been struggling to get the items they needed or were adjusting to being shielded and not going out. It was very odd being out on completely deserted streets - seeing mainly emergency service vehicles and other couriers and pretty much no-one else. The challenges have started to mount since things have started to normalise. Traffic has returned to the usual levels and it is now taking longer to do the routes and harder to keep on schedule.
I was fortunate that I did qualify for SEISS, but even that combined with what I’m earning now at Tesco is a massive chunk off what I would have been earning in my usual job due to how SEISS is calculated. I did also apply for the Arts Council Emergency grant but was unsuccessful.