It's easy to be sniffy and dismissive of the arts. I mean my company is FNA for goodness sake, but it’s not all ponces making pretentious stuff that you need a degree in dadaism to understand. From pantomime to Pinter, from opera to Ozark, from Peaky Blinders to Mrs Brown’s Boys, and from Chernobyl to CBeebies - without regional theatre companies, indie film companies, comedy clubs, and useless degrees like media studies and drama - none of it would exist.
The arts and the creative industries are hugely important to the wellbeing of this country both culturally and economically and that's before you get into the emotional benefits. All of the TV, boxsets and online content that got you through lockdown? That was created by artists - and they probably started out on a stage in a tiny theatre or tiny comedy club in a tiny town in the provinces.
Our arts are already suffering from a lack of diversity - not just from an ethnicity and gender point of view - but crucially from an economic perspective too. Where can working class writers, performers, directors and technicians learn their craft if this ecosystem is allowed to die? Their voices are already priced out of much of the industry because they cannot afford to live in London and/ or work an unpaid internship for a year.
Like the working men's clubs circuit before it, once the stand up circuit goes - it’s gone and hundreds of jobs will be lost forever - but because it’s not a fish packing factory in Grimsby or a car plant in Sunderland nobody will care. Almost 78% of comedy venues say they will close next year.
£1.5 BILLION is a lot and it will save a few larger venues, but it’s chickenfeed when you look the size of our sector. The creative industries contribute more to the British economy than agriculture and fishing. Combined.
Small theatre and film companies, and comedy clubs - as well as much of the workforce in the creative industries has been left out of the majority of the support schemes the government has put in place to mitigate the Covid-19 crisis - we are trying to hang on as we realise our value in the ecosystem even if you don’t.
Don’t let the government and press convince you that the arts is just some high-falutin’ intellectual pursuit for rich people. Our voices - your voices - and stories, deserve to be heard - when the arts dies, where will the new Sam Fender or Sarah Millican come from? How will the new Jade Thirlwell, Joe McElderry, or Lost Voice Guy hone their craft in order to be discovered? Award winning actor Dave Johns, and perennial favourite Robson Green - both started out on stage in the North East before going on to light up your screens. Just like every ecosystem in nature - it’s all connected and it thrives on biodiversity.
SIGN THE PETITIONS. SUPPORT THE ARTS. SUPPORT COMEDY. SUPPORT LIVE MUSIC.
Waaay back in early March - in the Pre-lockdown World - I told y'all about the LOVELY and talented Joe Willis... WELL I'm delighted to be able to share the news that FNA will be producing Joe's filmmaking debut - "Domestic Bliss - A Trilogy". This series of micro short horror (comedy HA!) films is being supported by BFI.Network and will shoot in Newcastle upon Tyne later in the year once film production in the Covid-19 era has been made safe.
I did ask Joe if he'd like to contribute something to this post, but his thoughts were waaaay too complimentary of my skillz (and we all know my ego isn't *that* big - ahem!) so instead he asked me to post the song below - which was one of the influences that inspired him to write "Domestic Bliss".
I'd also like to thank Roxy McKenna and the rest of the Film Hub North team for making this project possible.
How's your lockdown been? We've had a few ups and downs, but I think there's light at the end of the tunnel - we're working very hard - and I'm hoping to have some super exciting news to share very soon. (Toldya I'm a tease!)
Lockdown Day 58
It's been hard to update this feed as often as I'd like, as there's not a load of very exciting stuff going on to share - I mean we're working and developing a pretty exciting slate of projects, but there's no super duper exciting news to share. Well there is just one bit, so keep checking in here. And in the meantime, I hope we're all doing our best New Kids on the Block impression!
As the numbers of cases and deaths from Covid-19 keep rising, let's take a minute to remember the keys to keeping safe:
1. Stay home
2. If you must go out stay at least 2M away from other people
3. Wash your hands frequently and for a minimum of 20 seconds
Although the official lockdown didn't come into force until the end of the following week, we at FNA Central have been lying low for the past two weeks - only venturing out to sit on the door step in the sun or for essential supplies.
This doesn't mean work has stopped however. We are working with a host of writers to come up with more sketches and short films. We're also developing a slate of comedy projects - and of course trying to finish our NUFC documentary.
Until next time.
Shit's getting real isn't it?
Covid-19 is really changing the world quite rapidly.
We're already in semi-lockdown at FNA Central, no symptoms - but two asthmatics and an autistic teenager with a Never Ending Ear Infection are making us play it safe. Hang in tight everyone and support independent artists and businesses wherever possible. Also look after those around you.
And now some Van Halen, because this never fails to make me smile.
If you'd told me twelve months ago that we'd be making comedy sketches for Channel 4, I'd have laughed in your face! But here we are - with extra special thanks to The North East Comedy Hothouse (Emma, Lisa and NFM) - watch, like, share, comment, repeat, please.
The exciting news keeps coming at the minute:
Earlier in the week I found out the lovely Demi Donnelly - an absolute superstar Youtuber from Wallsend who was in a short I produced for BFI Network/ Tees Valley Screen / NFM in 2019 - was nominated for the prestigious Cosmopolitan Influencer Awards (YES THAT COSMO!) - vote for her plz.
Then the BBC finally announced its Writers Room Northern Voices writers for 2020 - including the fabulous Joseph Willis (aka Our Lovely Joe) with whom we're developing some shorts - so we can share that news here (been dying to for ages).
And FNA's good pal - actor Micky McGregor (BAFTA Elevate 2020) got to meet his hero (and doppelgänger) the uber talented Stephen Graham! All in all good times for everyone in the wider FNA Family. #FNA4Life
Finally our favourite hip hip producer Configa (from Low Fell, Gateshead - of all places) - and who features on The Stagg Do soundtrack, dropped this absolutely banging track with MC Jahi of PE 2.0.
As I mentioned last week, we were nominated at the local Royal Television Society Awards - just got home to this... I was not expecting it, so that's nice.