Imagine if we had spoken last July and I had told you that this year a virus would spread that would change the world as we know it. It would cause a global pandemic which would force most of us to have to stop working and isolate from everybody except members of our own household for nearly a third of the year, minimum! You would have probably thought that I was off my meds and laughed in my face, saying something like “Yeah, okay Nostradamus. Whatever!” Yet here we are.
I am sure that you will all agree that none of us could have predicted this. Not even a professional mind-reader such as myself. This was set to be my busiest and best year to date with my diary full to the brim and a whole host of exciting celebrations and events that I had been booked in for. Sadly, towards the end of March I found myself rescheduling event after event as the UK entered lockdown to address the COVID-19 crisis. It was forcing flustered brides to frantically postpone and rearrange the biggest day of their lives without any idea of when they may actually be able to hold the wedding celebration that they had so meticulously planned and been dreaming of for their whole lives.
Then there was the milestone birthday and anniversary celebrations that I had been booked for. These poor people found themselves unable to celebrate their milestones with their friends and family.
Finally, were the corporate events. Everything just got cancelled. I count myself lucky that most of my work is weddings and private parties which people still want to celebrate just as soon as they can. I have peers who specialise in the corporate sector that lost 40-50K overnight.
Therefore, I took the decision to ‘go dark’ as my priority is to my current clients that have invested in me to help make their event that bit more special. The last thing that I wanted to do was take on new bookings and then find that I was unable to give that date to my existing clients that already had the stress of rearranging the events that they were organising. I am pleased to say after several months and a lot of phone calls and emails I have managed to rearrange around 90% of bookings for next year.
I like many other businesses in the entertainment industry have been hit hard by the effects of the pandemic and unfortunately, I am certain that many will not make it out the other side.
This was not the start to spring I had expected, and certainly not what I had hoped for. Life has taken a lot of adjustment to find a new normal and only now am I beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. On a personal level, I have found these past 100+ days extremely difficult at times as I am sure have many others. I went from going out every weekend, being the life and soul of the party and meeting hundreds of interesting new people to getting ‘locked down’ with my partner and 4 children overnight.
Then there was all my family, friends and training partners who I suddenly could not see anymore. I had gone from having a thriving business and feeling useful, to having it all put on hold for an indeterminate time and left feeling useless. Luckily, my partner has been able to work from home and we are still able to make ends meet. Having her work from home while trying to entertain, keep quiet and home educate four kids that range from 3-10 years old has come with its own challenges too. However, as much as they drive me crazy at times, there is nobody that I would rather be locked down with.
To help keep myself sane, I have been taking every opportunity to keep both physically and mentally active. Physically, I have been doing lots of running, cardio, stretching and martial arts. Having that time for myself has really had a positive impact on me during this period and I would recommend doing something active to anybody that is able. All going well, I shall be stepping back into the ring early next year so watch this space.
Mentally, I have been looking at how I can support my family whilst being able to work remotely. My logic is that there is always the possibility of a second wave and there could even be a future pandemic with some other strain of virus. If that happens then as much as I hate to say it, we could end up facing this situation all over again. The one thing all of this has taught me is everything can change in an instant. The first couple of months of lockdown I spent learning to code, but it became quite apparent that it was going to take me a long time to become proficient enough to earn a living from it. Once I realised that I decided to look at my strengths and passions and how I can utilise those to earn enough to support my family.
As a close up Magician that can currently no longer be closer than two meters to any one person and can only just now socialise with up to six people I have been forced to completely rethink the way I do things, and find a way to continue to provide that unique entertainment service in a time where people long to be connected more than ever before.
With zoom meetings becoming the new norm for social interaction, some careful planning and a basic camera set up allowed me to recently perform my first virtual show, for the friends of Eastbourne hospital. They had organised a charity quiz and I was invited along (virtually!) to entertain the Zoomers during the interval.
“He baffled everyone and was very entertaining! On behalf of the Friends of Eastbourne Hospital, thank you Justin”
It was a totally new experience and reminded me of when I had just started performing professionally and my stomach would be doing somersaults! Despite my nerves the entertainment went down a treat, and I really enjoyed doing it. We shared 10 minutes of action packed, adrenaline filled entertainment all from the comfort of our own homes where I diced with death, read minds and predicted the future.
It made me realise how much I have missed performing. Although it was not quite the same as being amongst the crowds doing close-up magic and seeing that moment of astonishment light up a face, but it was good to get back to into action and provide that much needed entertainment after months of down time. It has also given me the motivation to continue working on a full interactive Zoom show that I am looking forward to sharing with you all very soon.
With the recent relaxing of the social distancing measures, I was finally able to go along to a small gathering and perform a short stand-up set for ‘Glasthomebury’! This year marked the 50th anniversary of Glastonbury Festival. With thousands of would-be festival goers now unable to attend the famous festival, the wonderful Kay Williams arranged an excellent mini festival live streamed from her own back garden! She organised it so well keeping her few guests, neighbours and fellow performers adequately distanced to meet social distancing guidelines. The entertainment was fantastic, even if I do say so myself. She had organised a great variety show that featured Burlesque, Circus, Comedy, Magic and Music and it was an absolute pleasure to be a part of.
“Justin performed at Glasthomebury 2020. His performance was fantastic!! Loved it!!”
Finally, I had my first booking for an 18th on Friday and I had spent a lot of time in the run up to it working on and planning my new socially distanced stand-up show where the magic is still visual, entertaining and interactive but I am able to maintain social distance and get everybody involved without them having to hold and handle things like they would have before the pandemic. I am pleased to say that even though it did not all go exactly as I had planned it was still a fantastic evening and everybody really did enjoy what I brought to the mix with the magic that I shared.
There is lots more that I would like to share with you but let us save some of that for the next blog. I just wanted to let you know that I am still here, why I ‘went dark’ and that it is finally starting to look like there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Until next time,