In a way, I’ve been lucky through lockdown. After losing all my work when the country first realised the scale of the problem we face, I’ve found work in pubs and venues that have been operating in the face of draconian restrictions. While the current situation poses an existential threat to almost everything I’ve built my career on so far, people have adapted to socialising during this generational crisis. It’s not sustainable in the long term, but for a very few people it’s working in a way, whether by bending the rules or following them as close to the letter as possible.

It’s been a surreal experience being told to not socialise in large groups while simultaneously heading to spaces where I know I’ll be interacting with large groups of people every day in order to pay my rent. It’s a disconnect between what I should do, what I know how to do and what I have to do to get by that I feel is shared by thousands of people around the country.

We know that the best thing we can do to stop the spread of this virus is to limit our social interactions but as financial support is removed (or was never available to us in the first place as freelancers) we find ourselves looking at the skills and knowledge we’ve developed thinking “well what’s the point in all this?”

This anxiety becomes particularly acute when we’re being told by ministers to get a “better job” or that “your business is not viable.” When all is said and done, people still need to socialise now and they will need to socialise when this is all done. People will still need creative outlets and they will pay for those things and in so doing pay the wages of real people in viable, secure and at times brilliant jobs. Reducing this to a simple question of “do the jobs pay x amount of money or not” would be to miss the point of what else these jobs can provide. There is more that makes a job worthwhile than what it pays, it can be the friends you make working in a bar, the skills you gain helping to do sound at a local venue or the sense of pride in having built something creative for your community. Not everyone is built for the nine to five grind or the Amazon warehouse but it feels like these are the only types of jobs that will be considered “viable” and worthy of support by this government.

One of the jobs I have been working on has been with the “Costa Del Tottenham,” the name given to the outdoor extension of The Cause that has allowed them to host socially distant events all summer. As good as it is the Costa Del Tottenham is not a symbol that things are okay, the sight only exists now because a planned development was postponed at the start of the year and while it is a “viable business” for now it’s not a model that can be replicated in every space or for all creative events.

Every time I’ve wanted to share a photo that I’ve taken at the Costa Del Tottenham where people are having a good time I’ve worried that it might create the impression that we’re on the path back to normal, we’re not. Normal won’t return and there may be positives as many spaces will be forced to become more accessible but before we get there we will see irreparable damage done to our creative communities through a loss of spaces, a loss of skills and a loss of people if nothing is done to support them.

With that said, the Costa Del Tottenham is a beacon of hope in dark times managing to maintain a fun and safe environment in which to enjoy music even as the summer fades away.

Words and photos by James Ward (@Jammy_Randoms)