John & Tiiu - A Creative Collaboration
We catch up with member John and volunteer Tiiu, whose remote friendship has blossomed over the telephone, often joking about the monotony of life in lockdown and discovering a mutual love of music. Together they have written and performed a poem, which reflects on life in the time of Coronavirus.
Tell us more about how you began to have regular contact during lockdown
J: We became friends as it were at Headway, and she knows about music. I call her Thai because it’s easier for me to remember and say it. We had friendly phone calls, “how is all going?” and that…and then we started talking about the song. I like it at Headway because you can become better and the people there are on the same boat, so it’s nice to receive calls during lockdown.
T: Since Covid hit, we were forced to close down the main offices, so that we could ensure the safety of the members, volunteers and staff. These new changes threw up new challenges as to how we would support all of the service users daily. It's due to this that we, as volunteers, we were asked if we would be able to help out by making weekly phone calls to members to keep relationships open, boost morale and make sure that everyone is getting the support and help they need, regardless of is the centre is open.
Have you heard the final edit to the song yet?
J: I heard it the other day, add more base to it!
What does music mean for you?
J: Music means everything for me. From your earliest days, from the belly of your mother, all you can hear is a heartbeat – that is a rhythm! And carries on through your life. Music makes you happy, nostalgic, makes you feel. I can’t personally sing very well but I love it! All music is good in my books: soul, classical…except young music, that it’s only “boom boom boom”, all the same. Back in the day songs were different, nowadays all song sounds the same. I’m a bit opinionated…
"I think communicating with other survivors, all at different stages of recovery and life, really helps physical and emotional wellbeing"
What does art and volunteering your time mean for you?
Volunteering means a lot to me because I think it's incredibly important to give back, if you can. Also, I think communicating with other survivors, all at different stages of recovery and life, really helps physical and emotional wellbeing, so if I can help others by sharing my journey, I feels it's vital to do that. I had no young people around when I had my Stroke, I hope that one day, my work can give someone else, the support I didn't have in the early stages of my recovery.
As for Art? Well, this is an entirely different question. My art has become my expression. From the early days in hospital, I wrote poetry. Not that I'm a poet, but for me, it was vital to write down my emotions and try to get them out of my body, which was already so clogged up by the tension of what had happened to me.
I honestly think had I not written; I would not have recovered so well. Theatre was my passion before my injury and remains my main focus, I have just had to revise how it works for me.
My biggest regret is that I never continued singing, but I think that as I continue moving on I will reconnect with it again one day.
Tell us more about the lyrics of the song
J: I was asked, can you write something about how covid-19 and the lockdown has affected you? That’s what I talk about in the lyrics, when you can no longer see your friends and you hop eto have a chat in the future. Covid -19 divorces all from one and others. We need company, people to talk to.
Tell us more about the lyrics and the song and who would you ideally would like this song to reach?
T: After speaking with John and hearing about his passion for music, I felt an immediate connection, as I too have a passion for Soul, Blues Jazz, classical and Opera. As our chats went on, as expected, they often revolved around the pandemic, and I just had a thought that perhaps we should write a poem to get our feelings about the pandemic out of our bodies and onto paper. It was from this, that I suggested making it into a song. From there I contacted James (music co-ordinator), who sent us some music ideas, which John made comment on as to what he would like. Once the music was confirmed, I set about writing the lyrics. All of the words came directly from Johns poem, so it's completely his.
I'm unsure who I would like this song to reach. For me, it's much more about finding creative ways to create work, despite the pandemic
What’s your favourite thing about working with John?
T: John is hilarious! He always makes me laugh so much. It's like I'm catching up with a friend when we chat. We joke about the monotony of it all and the never-ending cycle of "Homes Under The Hammer". I've learnt so much about him and find his life fascinating. From his passion for soul and blues to opera and his time in Italy. I never would have learnt all these things had I only been chatting at Headway. I really hope that when this is all over and we are back at the centre, we can continue to engage in this way, and I truly hope I can also learn more about other service users and their lives.
"Lockdown has given us the chance to realise what’s important"
What has been positive during lockdown, what have you learnt?
J: It has given us the chance to realise what’s important. Time to reflect on things, what has been there before. Now and in the future, you will appreciate things a bit more.
T: Lockdown hasn't been particularly positive. I've mainly learnt that I'm not so great looking at a screen. That my head doesn't cope with it for long. I think it has highlighted the issues I have with my cognition and too, mental health. I don't do too well with lots of writing either as I'm a very practical person and suffer with Dyslexia so, yeah, not great.
On the bright side, if I can take anything from this, it's that I've found calm to recognise what my body is telling me. I often ignore warning signals and push through, but I've started understanding my body's signals, and am finally saying no to things, when I feel I've got too much on.