I can’t say it enough. How completely bizarre is life right now?!
The outbreak of Covid-19 has shaken the world to its core, leaving us all in an intense limbo with restrictions and unknowns and often staring at the same four walls. Routine is no more, spontaneity – gone, and us creatives are having to adapt to get our creative fix.
Activities like watching TV, scrolling through your news feed and doing the weekly shop have become different, tense, and at times, anxiety-inducing. All of the language and imagery prompts unease – ‘death…uncertain…unprecedented…pandemic …lock-down…’ and we get it, we make ads for a living – it persuades people to stay indoors, stay safe, and respect the devastating severity of the situation. But it also makes it all the more important for us, at times, to change the channel, pick up our notebook, or laptop, or console, or spatula, or needle and thread or whatever it is, and do the things we love to do. Things that inspire our creativity and make us feel good. And that can be ANYTHING.
We’re not here to tell you to shower or dress or make your bed or pontificate about what’s best for your mental health. We want to empower you with the things we’re doing to feel stimulated, entertained and distracted whilst on lock-down. They might not be your cup of tea, and that’s OK. If you take nothing else away from this ramble, just make sure you’re making time to do the things you enjoy. If you want to scroll aimlessly through Instagram – do it. If you want to binge watch Four in a Bed – go for it. There’s no right way to navigate this weirdness, just a way that works best for you.
So, here are some alternative activities, tips and resources from across the industry and beyond that are keeping our creative sparks ignited…
If you can’t go to the gallery then bring the gallery to you! (Without the queues, ticket prices or international travel.)
Museums and galleries around the world are enabling people to view thousands of paintings, sculptures, installations and new work online – many in far better detail than you could in real life.
There are different platforms: from interactive, 360-degree videos and full ‘walk-around’ tours with voiceover descriptions, to slideshows with incredible zoom detail and all with lots of context and info.
Marvel at the towering vaulted ceilings and intricate tapestries of the Vatican Museum in Rome, then take a virtual stroll through the Getty Museum’s Sculpture Plaza and Garden Terrace amidst a peachy sunset setting in LA.
The Guardian has put together a whole list of iconic cultural hot-spots just waiting to be explored.
Not on the Guardian’s list but another incredible online resource is Explore.org. A huge live-nature network, Explore has feature films, photographs and live camera feeds of wildlife from all over the world that you can view for free.
Their aim is to educate people on the wonders of the natural world and promote awareness. Watch animals gather at a watering hole in Kenya in real-time, or go swimming with manatees off the Pacific Coast of America.
Music, films, books. You’ll be hard-placed to find someone who didn’t thrive on one of them. Whatever you’re into, sometimes it’s good to revisit your favourites, like checking in with an old friend, or you could get to grips with the ‘classics’ – those albums, novels and movies people tell you that you ‘should’ experience, at least once.
Whether you enjoy them or not, they’re often important cultural reference points and introduce you to new authors, artists and ideas and act as inspiration for your own work. They might help you answer the odd pub quiz question too, and ticking things off a list is immensely satisfying, let’s be honest.
Music-lovers – try working your way through Rolling Stone’s 500 greatest albums of all time. Back in 2003 (so yes, LOTS of the very best are missing) the list was compiled based on votes from rock musicians, critics, and industry figures. It’s interesting, surprising, educational, and in parts, very expected. Try hanging around in the lower placed albums (300-500) to find something a little more obscure.
Book-worms – no matter what genre you’re into, this list of Top 40 books to read before you die by the Independent is a great source of inspiration. From Bronte to Burgess, it comprises literature from past to present, and aims to represent a mix of people, societies, cultures and ideas. It is by no means exhaustive (or entirely representative) but it’s an interesting place to start.
And for the film-fanatics amongst us, we recommend this List of the 100 greatest films of all time from the British Film Institute, which is updated annually. Fellini’s hedonistic masterpiece La Dolce Vita sits in 39th place, David Lynch’s neo-noir thriller Mulholland Drive at 28, whilst a Hitchcock-classic recently knocked Citizen Kane off the top spot…
We’ve also put a list together of our own favourite creative podcasts if you’re looking for a bit of industry info.
Go live in your living room
If awkward, jolty Zoom conversations aren’t doing it for you and you’re all House-partied out, there are other online events you can get involved in to stay connected and creative.
Secret Sofa is the new thing from the folks at Secret Cinema (where you dress up and go to an immersive, film-themed event).
Basically, they’re offering people the same (or similar) experience from home. Simply sign up to this weekly newsletter and you’ll get an email containing all of the information you need to get into the spirit of the chosen film that’ll then be shown later that week. With costume suggestions, recommended music playlists and more – it promises to be a fully immersive experience from the comfort of your couch.
If you fancy something musical and a bit lower-key, give one of Tim Burgess’ Twitter listening parties a try. The Charlatans front man has curated a daily listening schedule here – just tune in at the right time, press play and join the conversation on Twitter #timstwitterlisteningparty. Albums so far have included New Order’s Power Corruption and Lies and Belle and Sebastian’s The Boy with the Arab Strap.
Here in Manchester, the Combined Authority (GMCA) and Sacha Lord, the mind behind Parklife and Warehouse Project have just launched United We Stream, a free service streaming live bands, DJ’s, singers and performers every night to entertain people at home. All they ask is that you buy a ‘virtual ticket’ for whatever price you want, to enjoy the channel.
All of the money raised is going to support bars, clubs, pubs, venues, restaurants, performers, freelancers and cultural organisations across Greater Manchester, and to support the region’s fight against homelessness.
Help the cause
Creatives and brands are doing some incredible and innovative things to navigate this crisis. Brands like Bacardi are stepping out of their comfort zone by producing gallons of hand sanitiser for health care providers, whilst Dyson is making ventilators from their vacuum components.
Away from the front line, creatives are using their online platforms to both urge people to take the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the illness, and to entertain. And both of these things are having a real, positive impact.
Scenes of support, informative illustrations and marvellous memes are going viral to combat the virus. They’re helping people feel connected, enlightened, and inviting them to have a bit of a laugh.
We create because we have a something to say, a story to tell and because we want to inspire people to think, feel or act a certain way. And now is the time to use our skills for good.
Our Creative Lead Charly and Social Media Manager David have been doing their bit by creating these fabulous alternative film posters to spread a bit of humour whilst encouraging people to stay safe.
Self-reflection. Terrifying at the most stable of times and not a road all of us want to stumble down during imprisonment. However, for some, this lock-down is an ideal opportunity to pump some time and energy into introspection and meditation, to help us grow and improve, both personally and professionally.
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameronis a great resource if you want to explore and bolster your creative self. It’s a 12-week course that aims to dispel the ‘I’m not talented enough’ conditioning that might be holding you back and supports you to energize your inner artist. But it’s not just for artists. The book’s been used by people from all kinds of professions, from lawyers to engineers. Step-by-step, you’re guided through tasks and advice all aimed at making creativity a part of your daily life.
If you’re not ready for that kind of committed reflection (who would blame you?) why not try keeping a diary? It’s a pretty unique time and not only is a diary a creative and emotional outlet, it also becomes a fascinating resource that you can look back on and pull from in the future.
My best tip for effective reflection? A hot bubble bath and your favourite audio book. It’s where I do my best thinking, and it works wonders on the psyche!
Green is good
Green – the colour of growth, life and harmony – is also proven to promote creativity, clarity and open-mindedness when we’re exposed to it.
A few years ago, German researchers did an experiment and found that when people glanced at the colour green for two seconds before doing a creative task, it boosted their creative output compared to briefly looking at other colours. Tenuous? Perhaps. But you can’t deny how good you feel after walking through the park or lying in the garden.
Then there’s green foods like broccoli, kale, courgette and avocados – they contain brain-boosting nutrients that improve cognition and prevent memory loss. Boil your broccoli and yes, it’s rank, but get it roasted up with some sesame oil and hazelnuts and poured over a full pack of tagliatelle and you’ve got yourself a virtuous and delicious carb-feast. Try this great pasta recipe from Olive Magazine.
And if you’re not blessed with green-space on your doorstep, bring nature indoors with a little help from a local florist. A lot of independent suppliers are offering home deliveries of flowers and plants to inject light, life and oxygen into your living room.
If you’re based in Greater Manchester, Flourish Manchester is a wonderful option. They have a live online shop and are (safely) hand-delivering beautiful botanicals to homes across the region.
If you need a few more light-hearted tips for living your best quarantine life, check out this website by Designer and Coder Rifke Sadleir– Excellent Ideas Only.
Populated largely by user submissions, the platform offers plenty of quirky yet achievable activities to take your mind off things such as ‘Construct a hamster wheel’, ‘Make a toilet paper den’ or ‘Make Boazi’ (delicious looking Chinese dumplings – yes, we Googled it).
So, whether you want to stay active and connected, reclusive and contemplative, or a bit of both – just spend some time every day doing what you want to do. Creativity is about exploring the joy of individual expression. You get to decide what that means, and you’re in control, even though it might not feel like it right now.
Take care out there people. Sending love and virtual hugs to you all.