unprecedented (but not unexpected) kindness

Author: Emily Childs

“It’s a bit mad isn’t it?”

Most of the emails I have had last week said this. It is. A strange time – I’ll stop saying unprecedented, I’m sick of hearing the phrase….

It’s typical of this wonderful sector that we work in to describe it like this, to downplay the gravity of the situation they find themselves in and to try and remain upbeat. Generally, everyone I speak to is trying to stay positive whilst making incredibly difficult decisions and minimising the impact on their teams.

It’s what the cultural sector does best when the going gets rough, and it does it with as much good cheer as it can muster. It has made my heart swell to see the myriad ways that the sector, its partners and its audiences are supporting each other.

Not all of my calls this week have been cheery. Many are deeply concerned about the future of their organisations and the sector as a whole. Whilst the news at the end of last week went some way to alleviate some of those concerns, it doesn’t completely address those of freelancers – which makes up a huge proportion of the sector. I find I’m now no longer talking about this feature or that bug, but just asking how people are feeling and generally having a chat.

Likewise, many of the people we work with have been asking if we’re ok too, checking in, sending best wishes to anyone off sick. It’s genuine concern and it’s hugely appreciated. In a strange way it’s been nice to feel connected to everyone in this way, despite being more remote from everyone than usual.

This is why I work in this sector. It is a community full of Good People. I wish there was more I could do to make this easier.

Something that has certainly helped at Substrakt, is to try and remind ourselves of the good things happening around us. It might sound frivolous but we’ve put a few things in place to help us with the situation we find ourselves in. I’d like to share some of those things with you, lots of people have been posting similar things – it’s good to get out of the bad news cycle.

General sector loveliness

The examples I’ve seen online of those working in or with the cultural sector supporting each other is heartwarming.

One of the greatest examples was the practically immediate response of some partners to help venues facing closure and cancelled performances. CrowdEngage immediately ceased monthly billing for clients and created a tool to assist with refunds/donations of tickets.

Spektrix followed suit with a similar system-agnostic tool, free for the entire sector. Once live it immediately saw a healthy percentage of tickets converted to donations.

Ticketsolve, Patronbase and Tessitura have done the same – as I’m sure all the ticketing providers have (or are in the process of doing as I type). It’s heartening to see industry partners spring in to action and leverage their technology and technical teams to such great effect to support the sector. It’s what we’re all here for after all and I’m so proud of my friends, colleagues and peers.

Keep propping each other up everyone, it’s giving me all the feels.

Remote working

As a digital agency we do a lot of remote working as it is, with colleagues based across Birmingham, London and Chicago and some team members who work remotely every day. So we’re pretty well set up for that.

Zoom is our best friend, it’s the video conferencing tool we’ve been using for a few months now. It’s better than any of the other tools we’ve used and the last week it seems lots of people have discovered it too. The audio is great, Ash and I even managed to record episode 3 of the Digital Works podcast with it.

It’s really great for meetings and if you can use the video function I find it really helps to see people’s faces.

Since we’ve all started to work from home we now have virtual lunch every day using Zoom. It’s a recurring meeting that anyone can join if they fancy a chat. Without it, we would never have realised that our Technical Director Stu leads a secret double life as a pirate… and a dinosaur.

Screen grabs of a man on a video call dressed as a pirate and as a dinosaur


If you’re not used to running meetings via video conferencing, it can take some getting used to, my colleague Elisa has put together some useful tips in the helpful guide – Remote-Meeting-Guidelines. If you want to chat about remote working or any of the tools we use, just drop us a line.

Surviving social distancing

Last week Ash set up a “Good News” channel in Slack, our internal message tool. This is specifically for sharing good news stories, rather than pictures of empty shelves or infection rate stats. It’s a nice distraction, here and are some of my favourites.

The good folk at the Black Country Living Museum doing good things!

The police in Spain entertaining people during lockdown

The Lord of Twitter himself, Adam Kozarsky who is now at the Royal Academy, doing his thing. Adam is the man you need in dark times…

There are lots of cultural orgs opening up their archives or streaming performances online, a lovely example was the live streaming of Eugenius! the musical, in support of the charity Acting for Others.

Alongside any and all otter related content, another personal fave is that NASA made their entire media library publicly accessible!

I’m also very much enjoying the hashtag #ShowUsYourShelves

And if none of the above make your heart swell then check out these mischievous elephants (I appreciate the Twitter handle)

or this adorable couple, who I challenge you not to fall in love with. I might have had a tiny cry…

I realise we’re only really at the start of all of this, and there is still a lot of uncertainty, it’s going to be difficult and nobody knows what the sector will look like at the end of this. I know that the sector will continue to support each other and find a way through, it always does. If anyone wants a virtual coffee or a FaceTimeWine, just give me a shout.

Stay safe friends x

“We know what we are but know not what we may be.” (Hamlet)