Sometimes, everything changes. All at once. Certainties you believed to be written in stone melt into sand. The house you built around your shakes. Those who used to visit that place suddenly seem far away. Some never return.
I heard that tale from many people in 2020, as COVID-19 forced lockdowns and muddled government policy provoked social turmoil. If they didn’t get ill, they lost work. But even if they held on to income they faced isolation. I felt it too.
Being furloughed from producing roles fostered purposelessness. Separation. As a creative with a social mission, having nothing to get up for was hard. I was numb. Then I talked to others who had it worse – nurses, parents, shop workers.
What stood out was that all of us had felt some form of isolation before Covid, and said nothing.
Turns out, that was true for half the population of our area. A 2019 YouGov study found 53% of North East England adults felt lonely. This is not the same as social distancing but one was now exacerbating the other. These stories needed to be told.
So, I decided not to let the virus win. Like many creatives, all over the world, I found a way to put my skills to work. I reached out to musicians, poets, actors, writers and comedians. 26 responded.
A few weeks of curating, recording, producing and editing later and 24 Hours in Isolation was born.
Among the contributors are singer-songwriter Beccy Owen, “Door To Door Poet” Rowan McCabe, Journal Culture Award winner Jessica Johnson, Live Theatre Bursary winner Mhairi Legerwood, Stand Comedy Club regular John Scott, broadcaster Viv Wiggins, award winning poet Rachel Burns, jazz star Lindsay Hannon, super actors Bob Nicolson, Luke Maddison and Sarah Boulter, and BAFTA Crew member Allison Davies.
The queue to get involved was long. The commitment to tackle loneliness and work together was inspirational.
Pre-Covid episodes include supermarket staff heading off for an early shift, people who just can’t sleep, nervous joggers circling parks and autistic children singing Nick Cave tunes. Stories from the pandemic include sports coaches losing their online audience, nurses pinning doves on the doors of dying patients, parents hiding from home schooling, and lonely neighbours having “just one more bottle of wine”.
Originally released as individual episodes every hour on-the-hour on 21st June 2020, over 30,000 people have listened so far. The collection peaked at 9 in Apple’s audio drama podcast chart.
You can listen to some episodes on this page and the whole collection by hitting the top play button. Every episode is also available here. I recommend Claire Tustin’s “another bloody zoom” – the ultimate anthem for 2020.
The episodes in 24 Hours in Isolation were recorded in artists’ own homes, using what equipment they could find and with advice from sound supervisor Matt Tuckey…who is a genius that I’ll be gladly working with again. Poet Sky Hawkins also collaborated as part of the core team, and you can find her special “bonus feature” via the link.
24 Hours in Isolation; the full story – 24 Hours in Isolation
- 24 Hours in Isolation; the full story
- Bonus feature: and, just like that, the whole world changed
- 11pm: the comedian
- 10pm: grief
- 9pm: another bottle of wine
- 8pm: I left without the money
- 7pm: little songs
- 6pm: normal or now and the watch party
- 5pm: 6 feet apart at the supermarket
- 4pm: here we are now and nurse story part 2