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Suzi Green on The Back Lounge

The tour manager explains how the music industry support group is helping the community through a new series of timely and topical free workshops

18 Feb 2022

Like most folks who work in live music, I saw my livelihood disappear overnight when the pandemic struck. Searching online, I found a Covid support group in the USA, which really helped me with my feelings of isolation; there’s something about sharing the experience with others going through the same thing that is validating.

It inspired me to start a group on this side of the pond, and The Back Lounge was formed in June 2020. We have an incredible community of people with a connection to touring and live events, from newbies to seasoned pros. We laugh, we occasionally cry, but mostly we talk about a wide variety of different issues.

It’s not therapy, it’s a peer support group, although at times we do have guest therapists if the subject is a tough one. Over 2,000 people have connected to the group in some way or other, which I find incredible for something I thought might run for just a few weeks!

The lockdowns were filled with uncertainty, and despite the world opening back up last summer, instability remains as we bounce between variants. Returning to work also brought its own problems, with many colleagues experiencing a loss of confidence in their ability to cope with the long hours and demands of the job.

“There’s something about sharing the experience with others going through the same thing that is validating”

The Back Lounge’s latest venture is a workshop series in association with the Tour Production Group (TPG). I’ve been involved with TPG since the early days as co-facilitator of The Mental Welfare Group, which I run with production manager Nick Gosling.

Last year, we did a mental health first aid training course, which was invaluable, but we’ve both come across situations on tour when we didn’t know how to support colleagues dealing with varying levels of addiction.

Music Support – the charity that provides help and support for the UK music industry affected by mental ill-health and/or addiction – helped to hone the idea for a related workshop.

Via TPG, we raised the funds required to create the course and then ensure it could be delivered monthly, free of charge, for crew and backstage workers. It was important that the course was free to attend, as the sector was struggling financially.

With the pandemic receding, the three new sessions aim to make touring better as we navigate a potentially very busy year

The course is now open to the wider music industry, and we’re about to start our next round of fundraising to keep it going throughout 2022.

Last summer, The Back Lounge held three workshops aimed at helping people ease back into work, which were really popular. With the pandemic receding, the three new sessions aim to make touring better as we navigate a potentially very busy year, so we took inspiration from TPG’s three pillars: sustainability, mental health and diversity.

The Road Map to Sustainable Touring took place in January with 90 attendees. TPG’s Jamal Chalabi (who does amazing work, including persuading tour suppliers to engage in environmental best practice) co-hosted with Nathalie Candel, an upcoming tour manager who specialises in sustainability. The aim of this session was to show that there are positive steps towards sustainability that everyone can take, whatever the size of the tour.

This month’s workshop, Better Mental Health on Tour, is led by the Music Industry Therapists Collective, which is headed up by psychotherapist Tamsin Embleton, who is currently putting the finishing touches to an amazing book on mental health on tour.

The common theme throughout the workshops is the eradication of stigma around tricky and sensitive topics

Facilitated by psychotherapist Jodi Milstein and The Roadie Medic, Dr Arun Castro, the focus is how we can better look after ourselves as the work ramps up to likely unmanageable levels this year.

It will be held on 17 February at 6 pm (GMT). Finally, on 3 March at 6 pm (GMT) we have How to be an Ally, hosted by Joanne Croxford and Keely Myers, who set up the Diversity and Inclusion safe space at TPG and are also involved in 3T: Tour Tech Training, helping provide Black women with technical skills for touring.

We’re in a crewing crisis because so many people have left the business, so this really is an opportunity to rethink, recruit, and introduce diversity backstage by creating a welcoming and supportive environment.

The common theme throughout the workshops is the eradication of stigma around tricky and sensitive topics or taboo subjects so that open dialogue can become the norm.

Meanwhile, The Back Lounge will continue to provide a friendly community and connection in what can often be a brutal and sometimes lonely business. It will always be free to attend, you can drop in whenever you please, there’s no membership required, and everyone is welcome.

 


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