My job is a very complicated one. It all started as something that I created – it’s like my baby. It’s called ‘Smash The Silence’. It’s an awareness event that has local young musicians aged between 15-24, that perform for awareness of speaking out for mental health. The past two years it has been supported by Camden Council and Headspace, but two years before then, it all started as a small community service project I started in 2016 as a part of Max Potential, a youth mentorship program. This four-year journey I can say I loved every moment of it. However, I can honestly say this year has been one of the toughest.
COVID-19, like for everyone, has been one of the most bizarre things to hit the music industry. It has caused concern for many musician’s wages, their certainty of employment and the value of live performance. It has also changed the landscape of how we perceive our mental health. Smash The Silence was made for mental health awareness for youth, helping create a safe space for people to express and understand their emotions with the power of music, and in a time where youth employment, social situations and education has been changed, there is a lot of talking that needs to take place.
Smash The Silence is usually a pretty simple process for me – find musicians, lock in the day, get support from mental health organisations, find a speaker to talk about mental health and that’s it. All of that this year changed. It was heartbreaking at first, I believed it wouldn’t happen and I wouldn’t have the support or the resources to do it on my own. It was weeks after that seeing musicians doing online concerts that inspired me to make it an online program.
The big issues I faced here were very clear – I don’t have financial support to pay someone to film this, which would mean I would have to, with zero videography experience. Additionally, I would have to justify the importance of having a program like this run during COVID-19 and ensuring the safety of everyone involved, including myself. These issues appeared as obstacles, however I challenged them to be excuses. This mindset allowed me to know how important this program is to me and how important it is to young people.
I started to learn the skills I needed to learn, which obviously took a massive toll on my own mental health. I was pushing back important things in my personal life such as university, my relationships and my own health to make sure that I was showing people that this program is extremely important during and after COVID-19. It continues to be a struggle, however I gained emotional support from my family, friends and colleagues and as they saw the results, they believed in me and this program.
Adapting to a new online space where my program had never been before meant that I was able to access new audiences that I had never before. These intimate events I coordinate are usually a limited amount in a small environment, and I had to find a way to deliver this in an online space that felt safe, respectful and open. Additionally, I had to also ensure the safety of the people sharing their mental health journey, as the content can be triggering for people who may be struggling, so it was making sure that I was keeping open communication with Headspace to approve everything before it was made public on the internet.
I am currently halfway through the online Smash The Silence program and I love what I’m doing. It was emotionally draining and showed the importance of adapting what you do to suit the current state. This program was never made for online, and now, I can use this content to not only help expand my business but enrich the content I make by learning new skills and producing at higher qualities as I move further along.
I have also learned how to better manage myself. I struggled at the start and found myself sacrificing things that mattered to me to prove something, when ultimately, I can balance and still succeed by organising my time and understanding clearly what is needed for me to provide to both mine and professional standards.
To conclude, the disruption of COVID-19 was a blessing to me, despite learning in a very difficult way. Smash The Silence is something I am very proud of, and I now have an online support network that is sharing that with me.