For the best part of 20 years as an event organiser, I could be found with a clipboard and radio at events of all shapes and sizes, from a disused Indian restaurant transformed into a pop-up cocktail bar in Nottingham to major music awards shows around the world and brand activations in muddy fields at UK festivals. The drill was always the same: work (very) hard and play hard (which is easy when clients are booze brands, and you have free stock on tap – literally!).
Working in that environment, away from home a lot, your colleagues become your family, which makes the whole experience much easier, but it also led to me feeling incredibly stressed most of the time, losing sleep, making bad food choices, and drinking more than I was comfortable with (but not enough to make me do anything about it).
At the end of 2017, following my own version of burnout, I left that fast-paced world, which was a very difficult but life-changing move as it created headspace, led to me accidentally giving up booze (which was only meant to be for 90 days but has had such a hugely positive impact on me that I’m still alcohol-free four years later, but that’s another story for another day) and saw me follow a dream of moving into the charity sector.
At the height of the pandemic in 2020, my old industry friends introduced me to Music Support, the charity that helps those who work in music and live events who are affected by mental ill-health and/or addiction. I contracted with them for a year and was thrilled to become a permanent fixture at the beginning of 2022.
“Two years of lockdown have had a lasting impact and led people to reflect more seriously upon the state of their mental and physical health”
Fast-forward to June 2022 and I’m back in the festival field, somewhere I never intended to return to professionally. This time though, it’s as part of Music Support’s Safe Hub team, who provides a space backstage for anyone working at the festival to speak confidentially to a Mental Health First Aid-trained peer or simply take time out.
My colleagues had warned me that, in the past, people have been reluctant to speak to our team but, thankfully, times seem to be changing. Two years of lockdown have had a lasting impact and led people to reflect more seriously upon the state of their mental and physical health. We have had plenty of meaningful conversations with crew and artists alike who are so grateful to see Music Support at the festival and are willing to open up about their mental health and addiction challenges.
Our peers are relieved to be working again and back with their long-lost work/bandmates, but they’re also massively overcompensating for time off and money lost during Covid, which is leading to the inevitable burnout we all promised ourselves we’d not allow to happen again. There is also a lot of anxiety surrounding returning to large crowds. Isolation became familiar and comfortable to people, and they’re seeking solitude wherever possible, from leaving the production office for five minutes to take time to refocus, to refusing to take their mobile or radio to the loo (been there, done that!).
“One of Music Support’s core services is empowering our peers to look after the wellbeing of their colleagues (and themselves) through training in mental health first aid and addiction and recovery awareness”
One of Music Support’s core services is empowering our peers to look after the wellbeing of their colleagues (and themselves) through training in mental health first aid and addiction and recovery awareness. We’re so encouraged to have spoken to those who have already taken our training, sharing how it has impacted their lives professionally and personally, and to others who are determined to take the training once ‘silly season’ is over.
On that subject, I know all too well that when festival season comes to an end, it will provide the opportunity to take some much-needed time off, but it may also leave people feeling deflated or with a lack of purpose (PED or post-event depression as I “fondly” remember it).
If you are UK-based and facing mental health or addiction challenges, Music Support is here for you. You can call our confidential helpline on 0800 030 6789, Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm, to speak to a trained professional with “lived experience” of the highs and lows of working within the industry.
You are not alone.
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