Living in a Zoom Box

I’m living in a box. An online box. I thought it would feel more claustrophobic.

Since the world went into lockdown, and physical contact between people ‘ended’, I moved all of my human interactions onto Zoom. I’d never heard of Zoom before lockdown, but people started talking about it and dropping it into conversation, so I thought I should probably have it. I had Facetime and WhatsApp of course, but these now sounded like old has-beens and Skype, like a make of yogurt from the 90’s. So I joined Zoom. Only to find it’s pretty much the same as every other platform – but because it started with a ‘Z’, I thought it might be more space-aged. And those are the thoughts of a very shallow brain. But still…Zoom was connecting me to other worlds, and that was A START.

The first people I zoomed were some of my bandmates. We were all testing Zoom, to see if we liked it, to see if it worked. It did work, but I’m not sure we all liked it that much because we only repeated the experiement one more time in the whole of lockdown. We discovered quickly that if everyones microphones are left on throughout the ‘Zoom meeting’ (which they were because we hadn’t learned about muting yet) then things soon sounded like 800 people talking all at once in the Taj Mahal. So for the rest of Lockdown I was content to see my colleagues every Sunday, when the Ukulele Orchestras of GB released its latest lockdown video. For months we have worked hard in our isolation, negotiating with our families which corner of the house we might use to make a music video, and would they mind being quiet whilst we found our location shots, sorted the lighting, did silly things and performed to camera. And would they make sure the cat didn’t get in. Especially that.

Actually those lockdown vids consumed a LOT of hours and that was just ‘front of camera’ stuff, never mind the glueing it all together. I didn’t have a crew, or even an interested family member who might hold the camera instead of me having to sellotape it onto a tripod which it fell free from constantly, costing me dearly in replacement screen protectors. The amount of swearing at the phone, the tripod, the world and its inhabitants I did during the lockdown filming was frankly, rather shocking (even to me and I’m from Manchester). Eventually I forked out £25 for a tripod adaptor and things got a lot better.

In the end, it was all worth it because THE INTERNET has meant that we have been able to create stuff and share it with our audience and hear back about what they thought. Almost like doing a show..

Another huge positive for me has been that the pandemic, which robbed me of my livelihood the moment our last gig in Sweden was over and theatres closed, nudged me gently towards online teaching and coaching. This has been transformative. I wasn’t quick off the blocks to do this, but I did it eventually and got a website built and took a leap of faith that it was all going to work ok on Zoom. It has!

Over the weeks I’ve gathered a group of regular students from all over the US including North Carolina, Boston, Arizona, Oregon, Wisconsin, Kansas, and California as well as up and down the United Kingdom. It’s amazing to me to be able to teach so far and wide, to have such a varied group of people to get to know – from my youngest strummer at 10 to people who’ve retired and have more time on their hands to play now. And as I sit at my desk in London, the evening slowly drawing in, some of my students students have just had their breakfast or are on a lunchbreak on the other side of the world. Amazing.

I’ve really enjoyed meeting these new humans, being introduced to the music they love and introducing them to the music I love. It’s great to share exchanges with new faces and uke groups, as we look out of our little Zoom boxes and play ukulele. Long may it last, this box life. It’s made so much possible, just when it felt like the world was closing in.