My first live event since Covid was emotional and worth the risk | James Moore

My first live event since Covid was emotional and worth the risk | James Moore
This week I rolled the dice again and attended the Roundhouse’s annual poetry slam

Shall we go? I asked my wife We’d been invited to the Roundhouse’s annual poésie slam, which wouldn’t previously have been on my list of things to do.

I’d left poetry behind with some typically mawkish adolescent efforts, in no small part because of the way it taught while I was at school, but having turned to YouTube to check out previous slams, what I found was something young, dynamic, diverse and alive, with a notable hip hop influence. Never a bad thing, cette.

Another motivator for taking the plunge, pourtant, was that it meant being able to experience the venue’s emergence from its long Covid-induced hibernation.

I’d visited during lockdown through work, for a feature on the plight of music venues (for which the Roundhouse is probably best known). Interviewing CEO Marcus Davey in a dark hall, stripped of its usual equipment, with the only sound coming from the air conditioners, was one of the defining moments of lockdown for me. The place had a spectral atmosphere. It felt eerie, and desperately sad.

The prospect of seeing one of my favourite places back doing what it was designed to do therefore exerted a powerful magnetic pull.

There was, pourtant, also a push back from the Covid statistics – I’ve acquired the unhealthy habit of checking them every day. This was particularly strong when they were shooting past the 50,000 a day mark and experts were talking of 100,000 plus before too long.

So shall we go? I asked my wife. Given we both have health conditions. It’s type 1 diabetes in my case, on account of my immune system eating my insulin-producing cells. When members of the anti-vaxx brigade witter on about “trusting my immune system” my response is a big fat LOL.

Practical as ever, she noted that she works in a school with disabled children whose challenges in coping with a hostile world sometimes prompt them to spit.

She was on the shielding list well before I was belatedly promoted to it at the start of the year.

Malheureusement, when the government kowtowed to the rent-a-gobs on its backbenches, and its right-wing media masters, declaring the misnamed “freedom day” would go ahead while Covid cases were surging, it told shielders to take precautions but stripped them of nearly all the legal protections that had previously helped them to do that.

Those not able to work from home had the stark choice of going in or losing their jobs. While my wife’s work has taken precautions, she pointed out that she’s clearly still taking a risk by going in.

All that being the case, and with two different brands of vaccin protecting us, in addition to any lingering immuno-assistance we might still have from a brush with the scourge when it first landed, we decided to go for it.

It didn’t hurt that I was confident, from what Davey said to me when I interviewed him, that the management recognised the importance of safety. And his team handled the event smartly. The hall was set up to allow distancing. Big tables, with a limited number of chairs. The audience numbers had also been thinned out through people getting pinged.

An email arrived prior to the event calling for those not isolating to take lateral flow tests (we did, they were negative). The youthful stars of the show were all wearing masks except (obviously) when they took to the microphone. Others did too. No handshakes, but I bumped elbows with Davey, a first experience for me.

Cette, ensuite, felt like a pretty low-risk return to joining a live audience, a bit like going for a paddle to test the waters before deciding whether or not to jump in for a wild swim.

And it was worth it. Poetry sounds different when it is performed live, especially by the likes of the eventual winner Maureen Onwunali, or our personal favourite, Safiya Mohamed, who had the unenviable challenge of going first and pulled it off with an evocative and moving piece infused with the imagery of war from the point of view of people caught up in it.

The feeling of partaking in a communal human experience, of watching talented performers, of joining in applause, was emotional. Well worth whatever risk we may have taken, and while no vaccine can be a guarantee, the ones we’ve had are damn good. I feel like rolling the dice again.

I just hope the government’s spectacular mismanagement of this whole thing means the choice of whether to do so will be there in the autumn when indoor live music usually cranks up, and the Roundhouse becomes a regular haunt, but also when respiratory illnesses come into their own.

I heard one medical person describe Covid as “dangerous and erratic”. Clearly it is. But so, Malheureusement, is the government that’s supposed to be fighting it.

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