Life in Lockdown: John Darvell Prt 3

Life in Lockdown | 31 August 2020


Weekend, yeah! Mind, I now have no concept of days or weekends anymore. My husband is in London, our first break from each other in over 4 months due to Covid-19 rules, to be left alone (with dogs) and an opportunity to kick back and relax.

Relax? Erm, difficult. So, I’ll do some planning instead.

In the early 80s an annoyingly addictive craze appeared, the Rubik’s Cube. I remember hours spent trying to get the colours back together and think I only ever managed 3 sides, rubbish. Well today I’m back at the computer with my own personal Rubik’s Cube: a gestation of three in development works – two new pieces and one reimagined past work ‘And They Have Escaped’ – to get them greenlit and become reality. It feels like this shouldn’t be too taxing so much thought had been put into them before Covid-19.

Close up of a Rubik's Cube

Innovation with technology – tick; a wooden figured puzzle which unfolds to reveal multi art forms in an educational durational piece; our own skin as a performance space using projection mapping; and, iBeacons and location-sensitive video content. Social commentary – tick; talking about dependency on mobile phones; the importance of touch; and, men’s mental health in a digital era. Participation – big tick; all the projects bring together professionals, community and young people in its creation. Partners and funds – well let’s skip over that, it was all early stage.

Yes, then that big elephant in the room, the pandemic! It wiped our landscape clean. Imagining creating work and presenting it in a socially distanced world takes some getting your head around. Well, one thing the Rubik’s Cube didn’t anticipate back then was with a bit of force we could dismantle it and put it back together all solved! And, I’ve started today doing just that with the work I want to be made. I’ve spent the day putting how we did things before to one side. I’ve taken on a persona of an innocent who’s only ever lived in this ‘new norm’ and approached these pieces afresh. It’s not been easy, however, I can see some hope as pieces slowly reform in new ways.

I’m a stubborn man at times. This disease is not going stop me making work, not now I have the drive back too. I’ll get those pieces lined up one way or another.

So, readers if you have a stalled project, my advice, bash it into pieces and put it back together fit for our new world.


Day of rest. It’s been relaxing dog walks, comfort food and a ‘can’t afford this but I’m worth it’ bottle of wine. Ok, it’s also time to reveal a truth, I’m a total sucker for musicals. It’s the only type of show that I get that spine-tingling effect when the power punch of a song belts out. Sorry neighbours, I’ve started playing the Blu-ray refreshed production of Miss Saigon. A good sing-along for one happens. What happiness…

…erm, not quite. That came later, after one more (sort of) work Zoom gig, with my Newbury CrossFit chums.

To put into context, last year, as a man of 51 with an insane number of teaching sessions, my fitness was weirdly still in decline. I took a leap of stupidity into the CrossFit world and what an amazing experience it’s been. Yes, the fitness is intense but it’s that sense of community which really hits my happy hormones and reflects so much of what my creative practice is about: community.

When the crisis first hit Grant Dedden, owner of Newbury CrossFit, asked all his members to sign his Covid-19 response ‘I Pledge’ scheme and commit themselves to a NOCTURN dance activity in future. A real surprise, very touching, I even shed a few tears. To show my appreciation, I’ve secretly persuaded the group, who’ve not danced before, to create together a ‘thank you’ dance video. I’ve armed them with video tutorials and creative tasks. Tonight was our only video rehearsal and much collective belly laughing was heard throughout. I do love my job! [Since writing this we’ve now finished the video so enjoy this snippet of what they’ve created.]

Happiness happens for me when I’m able to bring people with a common purpose together in a shared experience. Working as equals, with plenty of humour and generosity, our alchemy can create something tangible, which is bigger than the sum of its parts. What a great way to end my week. And a fitting way to give you a glimpse of my practice.

Thanks for reading. Stay safe and well, be kind to each other, and keep creating!
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