Lockdown Diaries: Janet & Sharon

Janet and Sharon - members and star performers of Theatre Exchange and co-hosts of Hackney Social Radio, share their experiences in lockdown and how Immediate Theatre’s programmes for over 50s have been a lifeline.

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Theatre Exchange group on Zoom session
Sharon: Hi, I’m Sharon and I am 64 years young (sometimes I feel 25 and other times, 85). I used to work as a secretary and administrator. I live on my own but sometimes wish I had a cat to talk to (they make more sense than some people!).
Janet: My name is Janet, I’m 75 years old, and I used to teach English at Secondary level until I retired. I’ve got 2 adult children and 3 grandchildren, and I live in splendid isolation with my cat, Daisy. She’s not much of a conversationalist though, Sharon. What did you think of being locked down?

S: I hated the first lockdown at the beginning. I had a feeling of foreboding and helplessness. I couldn’t go and see friends and be with family. But it was spring time and I went out walking by the river and it made me appreciate nature more. Seeing the ducks having babies and the trees starting to bud. Whatever dreadful things were happening to human beings, nature still carried on regardless giving such a wonderful spectacle.

J: When we first went into lockdown, I didn’t really mind as we were all in the same boat. We weren’t exactly in the same boat, however, as I became very aware of my age - apparently I was especially vulnerable and had to be more careful than your average person, even though I felt fit as a flea. My daughter and neighbours suggested that I take any exercise at 6.30 in the morning - when there was no one about. That only resulted in me doing no exercise at all! - though I did do a Zoom dance class once a week, and a Zoom keep fit class.

Of course, I did miss meeting my friends, eating out, going to the theatre and cinema - I’m a very sociable person, and not too fond of my own company, so that was the worst effect of COVID for me. But I did manage to keep in touch with people through Zoom, including my family, my drama group, my writing group, my book club, and music hall group. I also treated myself to a new sewing machine, and did some sewing, knitting and crafty things. I also rediscovered my love of jigsaws and did quite a few of them.

I even wrote a poem about it…

Lockdown luvvie 2

S: I didn’t feel safe. The worst effects of COVID for me was seeing how other people were suffering from it. The media was awash with pictures and videos of hospitals full of patients on ventilators. The warnings for people of my age group were loud and clear. If I got it, I would not recover. Since the first wave it has been proven that people of my age and older do recover and I needn’t be so anxious about it, although obviously keeping strictly to the rules, handwashing, social distancing and being aware.

J: I was so lucky that I didn’t catch COVID, or know anyone personally who was seriously ill with it. I think there was anxiety about it being an invisible enemy, but as I wasn’t going out, I wasn’t too anxious about that.

I had been involved with Immediate Theatre for a few years before COVID struck - I even played Cinderella in a version which we performed to several lunch clubs and community centres in Hackney in 2018, plus other projects after that. Jo kept in touch with us all, and we had weekly meetings during lockdown and afterwards, which will result in a Zoom show at the end of this year.

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Janet & Sharon in a performance of Cindy Rella, 2018

S: Yes, Immediate Theatre has been a great support through this. Connection with other members through Zoom, Jo giving us ideas and inspiration to produce plays and improvisations. Connection is so important to someone living on their own and if they can’t meet up with friends and family then it’s fantastic to communicate through Zoom and have a great time.

J: Jo also came up with the brilliant idea of Hackney Social Radio which produces hour-long radio shows every week. This covered all sorts of topics that were of interest to people in Hackney, and I was lucky to be involved in this, presenting certain items and interviewing experts from different fields. A short play that I wrote, Come in No. 49 was also recordered remotely and played on air. All this was rewarding and, I hope, not only interesting to me, but also interesting to the 12,000 listeners who tuned in.

S: I also present and interview interesting people on HSR, which I love doing. It motivates me, and during this dark time motivation is so important. I don’t want to be a couch potato growing old and fat watching TV all day and nothing else. I believe it’s beneficial to listeners who are also on their own to know they’re not alone in having anxieties and feelings of loneliness and get tips on how to be uplifted.

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Janet & Sharon were able to see each other face-to-face after the first lockdown was relaxed. They try to meet up regularly for walks in the park together.

J: I was disappointed that we had to go into a second lockdown, as I think all the people I know observed all the restrictions imposed and were beginning to look forward to meeting up with more people again. Now we’re not even allowed to meet people in our gardens, which I don’t really understand, as open air is open air wherever it is, surely? However, we coped before, so we’ll cope again, and hopefully a vaccine is on the horizon.

S: This 2nd lockdown gives me a feeling of déjà vu. Here we go again on the not-so-merry go round! I will still try to go for long walks - weather permitting - and the exercise and fresh air will give me a boost when I most need it.

J: Immediate Theatre is a lifeline for people who live on their own like me. We have the chance to meet up with our friends weekly, and Jo and Penny have ensured that we have a creative project - Curiouser and curiouser to think about going into winter.

I’m thrilled that Hackney Social Radio is back on air (after a short break), so hopefully we can connect with people without internet access, and we can also discover all the things that are going on in our wonderful borough.

S: HSR spreads encouragement and support, and gives listeners a real life from people from all spheres of life.

J: I agree, and it was so nice blogging with you, Sharon!

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Catch Janet and Sharon on Hackney Social Radio every Wednesday at 11am! Listen on Resonance 104.4FM and online via www.resonancefm.com

To find out more about Theatre Exchange, contact Jo on jo@immediate-theatre.com or phone 0207 862 3031

To get involved with Hackney Social Radio, email hsr@immediate-theatre.com or phone 0207 923 8362