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Musicians in lockdown: ‘My piano kept me going’

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Bolton-based photographer Marge Bradshaw asked musicians to share their personal stories of life in lockdown, after the pandemic left thousands of jobs at risk and hundreds of UK music venues under threat of closure.

image copyrightMarge Bradshaw

Lindsay Garvin – piano tuner, piano teacher, solo pianist

“When Covid-19 restrictions were first announced, I was in denial about the severity of the situation.

“Fortunately, my piano teaching and tuning business has grown throughout the pandemic.

“I think it’s because with more free time, people turn to their creativity.

“I feel very grateful to have had wonderful, loyal students all determined to adapt to Zoom lessons, when necessary.

“It’s been heart-warming to witness students’ continued dedication to learning the piano, despite the many obstacles they faced.

“In anticipation of a bottleneck demand for future weddings, I’m currently rehearsing set lists as a solo pianist.

“I am most definitely looking forward to returning to performing live.”

image copyrightMarge Bradshaw

Simon Kojo Sackey – guitarist for Kojo

“It’s hard to keep motivated to play, knowing that you’ve no gig at the weekends.

“Finances have also been tight.

“My family has kept me going and I’ve spent a lot of time looking after our youngest one.

“On a positive side, I’ve started to record songs again, which I haven’t done for a while.”

image copyrightMarge Bradshaw

Jo Byrne – guitarist, pianist, vocalist for Phantom Voices

“My whole lifestyle has changed as a result of Covid-19.

“I’ve been gigging multiple times a week for the last 15 years and I’ve orientated my life around that.

“To go from being so busy to having nothing at all has been a massive shock.

“While I love writing and recording, I’m primarily a live performer and that’s what I love to do.

“My piano has kept me going.

“Whenever I’m feeling frustrated or fed up, I can sit and play for a few hours and it’s like meditation for me.”

image copyrightMarge Bradshaw

Rick Hughes – drum teacher

“As a professional musician, the toughest thing is that it’s your livelihood and you have no idea whether it will ever return.

“A whole industry in a state of suspended animation with no end in sight.

“I definitely won’t take anything for granted again, that’s for sure.

“My fantastic family have been awesome and kept me from losing my mind on a few occasions.

“Mind you, me and my wife came close to madness home-schooling our eight-year-old!”

image copyrightMarge Bradshaw

Geraldine Green – clarinet, penny whistle, bodhran, piano and cello

“Before Covid-19 struck, I played with the Bolton Symphony Orchestra, Bolton Chamber Orchestra and for my local church music group.

“I also played folk gigs, shows and many, many concerts, both professionally and with amateur groups.

“I’m also a teacher. Pre-coronavirus, I had 22 students – now I have 10!

“The toughest thing is definitely the loss of playing together in my orchestras. It was both my work and my social life – all now gone.

“I miss the spiritual feeling of music, our dear audiences, concerts, rehearsals, friendships and the camaraderie.

“I am grieving the loss of it, horribly.”

image copyrightMarge Bradshaw

Tommy Govan – guitarist for The Govans

“The closure of hospitality has led to all my bookings being cancelled.

“I set up Tommy’s Street Parties, where I would take a gazebo and all of my equipment to a street and people would sit on their drives and listen and dance to my performances.

“It was a lot of fun and it was nice to see people happy with smiles on their faces again.”

image copyrightMarge Bradshaw

Rob Young – guitarist, banjoist for The Two Hats Blues Band and Rambling Rob Young

“I’m really missing [gigs].

“The Two Hats Blues Band were semi-professional and knocked in about 150 live gigs in 2019, every single weekend out on the road, up and down motorways with a van full of gear.

“All of a sudden it was taken away.

“It’s a really tough time for musicians right now and indeed anyone working in the performing arts.

“A world without live music feels like living in a house with no windows.

“Live music is uplifting, it’s nourishing, it’s social glue.

“It’s well and truly missed by me.”

image copyrightMarge Bradshaw

Josh Jenkinson – lead guitarist for The Deadbeats

“Like all musicians, I really miss the thrill of being on stage.

“I’ve been keeping as busy as possible, including recording and composing, as well as building a guitar over the lockdown period.

“You end up lacking a sense of purpose and really miss doing what you’re supposed to do.

“I can’t wait to get back gigging.”

image copyrightMarge Bradshaw

Gaz Jenkins – vocalist, Billy Joel Tribute UK

“I’ve been able to play a few gigs here and there, with my last one being in October.

“People are usually swinging from the rafters, but due to the ban on audiences dancing and singing it was quite a subdued affair.

“I quite enjoyed the break during the first lockdown, if I’m being totally honest.

“I’ve been gigging professionally for over 20 years. I’ve missed out on so many things – holidays, family events, social gatherings – and a lot of my friendships and relationships have suffered because of it, so it was nice to stop and take stock.

“That being said, it’s made me realise that I don’t really know how to do anything else, and that came as a bit of a worry.

“I’ve applied for various jobs over the last few months, but haven’t had any luck.

“I need the scene to come back as soon as possible, so I can reinstate my sense of self-worth.”

Photographs and interviews by Marge Bradshaw.

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