Breaking out of lockdown

Never really been a fan of the Manchester International Festival (MIF). My taste tends towards the more modest fringe side of theatre. The Festival linking up with Yoko Ono seemed particularly appropriate especially as the High Priestess of Pretension didn’t even bother to show up.

Why then, having reservations about the Festival, have I volunteered to be one of 160 people marking the opening of the 2021 MIF by dancing, down Deansgate—the main road in Manchester?

COVID of course.

Our dithering Government is making two-steps-forward, one-step-back moves towards loosening lockdown restrictions and, like most people, I’m getting impatient. Have a feeling that, having had so much taken away, I’m due something back: a celebration, something to prove things are improving. Taking part in a group event might just do the job.

Besides, I’m becoming reclusive. Never been the most sociable of people but am becoming decidedly weird. During lockdown, my teeth began to break and, as dental care, like competent government, is now a thing of the past, cannot get treatment. Developed eating habits which, while not serious enough to be called a disorder, have still caused me to lose over two stone and become very self-conscious about eating in public.

With office working restricted, gyms closed and theatres well and truly off-limits, have seen only a handful of friends in over a year. Like most theatregoers, during the initial stages of lockdown, I compensated by watching recordings of shows online. But the novelty has faded and now I’m back to the most basic form of entertainment: reading. Manchester Library offers a wonderful cheap (well free) service providing access to pretty much any book I’ve ordered. Consequently, I’m tearing through a mountain of books and enjoying it immensely.

I’m now worrying this is becoming the norm; that I’ll perceive staying home, reading and listening to records as a replacement, rather than a substitute, for socialising and visiting theatres so when venues get the all-clear to reopen, in 2025, I won’t be interested.

I need something to push me outside of what is becoming my comfort zone and get involved in a project that requires a bit of effort—shaving, changing clothes, leaving the house, getting on a bus and talking to people—which has fallen out of habit. Sea Change, the opening ceremony of the 2021 MIF, seems an ideal opportunity. Besides, it will be a challenge to go from an observer, standing back and commenting on events, to someone actively participating.