ESTHER-GRACE BUTTON

At the beginning of lockdown I was working at a primary school in East London. I’d just come back from a Christmas season and was settling back into my school life. I was working a regular acting roleplay job alongside my schoolwork, I’d just finished my voice reel, was in talks with a voice agent and I’d just found out I’d been nominated for a Great British Pantomime Award. And then the world stopped.

My role as a key worker entails looking after a brilliant Year 4 boy 1:1 who has autism. He’s my buddy - we say good morning to each other, we have lunch together, we read, write, and practice our numbers. In the Rainbow Room we do a lot of dressing up (my favourite!).

During the heavy lockdown the boy I looked after was shielding so he didn’t come into school. We had a small group of vulnerable and key-worker children to look after on a rota with the rest of the staff. It was a very strange experience, school was like a ghost town, so quiet. The kids would often speak about their worries or concerns, how much they missed their friends, and about relatives who were suffering. We didn’t always have the answers but we tried to put on a brave face and make school as enjoyable as possible.

I was very fortunate, I just qualified for the SEISS. I can honestly say it was luck of the draw in terms of the year that I had financially, there would have been plenty of previous years that I wouldn’t have qualified and I’m not sure what I would have done then. The government bailout has worked for some but so many have slipped through the net. I have so many friends that work supply teaching jobs on the side of their performing work, people that work so hard and have been left with nothing.

Lastly, save the arts! It breaks my heart to see so many companies and theatres struggling. The government’s money is a step in the right direction but it is sadly too little too late for some theatres, and some small companies won’t get a look in at the emergency fund.