Cancellations start to flow
By the third week of March the cancellations started coming - text messages and emails from band leaders and agents. Each day the messages came, and I had to relay this to the musicians I had booked.
My business works on a basis of trust. I work as part of a network of freelance musicians. We all play in many bands, bands are formed for individual events, we deputise for each other in different bands, and when people come up to us to ask "how long have you been playing together as a band" often we look at our watches to find out!
Having said that, once you've built a reputation it can be a solid job with a steady freelance income.
There are few contracts but if anyone is dishonest word gets round pretty quickly. So when a gig is cancelled in circumstances like this there's no expectation of a cancellation fee. Just a resigned acceptance.
So, back to my story...
The swing dance festival the following Saturday was cancelled - the guest dance teachers couldn't fly from the USA.
The Sunday afternoon sessions in The Ship in Holborn all cancelled for the forseeable future (I was covering for the trombone player who had broken his hip)
Our monthly session at Nightjar cocktail bar as "The Lapazoos" cancelled - the venue was closing with immediate effect.
Likewise the cocktail bar in Soho I sometimes play at on a Sunday night.
OXO Tower restaurant, where I played monthly, had stayed open for as long as possible: I was told "They have been trying to navigate this fast paced and devastating situation but it's not possible to carry on. Everyone's hope is that the business will be able to return to normal in the not too distant future."
London Landmarks Half Marathon at the end of March, for which a group of us had been booked to play, was pulled.
Bob from Brooklands rang to cancel the jazz session there on 27th March: "Looking forward to seeing you in October"
The wedding in Hackney the following Saturday held out in hope until two days before when they realised they had to cancel. They generously re-booked us for the following year and paid us in advance in full.
Southend Jazz Club where I was playing in April closed.
Tower Hamlets cancelled its St George's Day tea dance in April - an event I'd been bringing a band to for over 10 years. A free event for pensioners in the borough and always a joy to play for them dancing.
Epsom Jazz Club closed until September (I did wonder whether to suggest they just make it till the end of the year for simplicity?!)
Then Chelsea Flower show went - another regular gig of ours. I gather The Queen will be disappointed - it's supposedly one of her favourite engagements.
The Keswick Jazz and Blues Festival in May cancelled - a festival I started performing at over 15 years ago, and even programmed the bands for a few years. Shame I won't get my annual fix of the beautiful Lake District and catch up with friends there.
Walton on Thames, 19th July cancelled. I felt they might have waited, but then again the feeling is "once on a roll, why not cancel everything"!
The big charity picnic and jazz at RHS Hyde Hall for which my band has been playing annually at the end of June went. A lovely event run by the local rotary club that raises thousands for charity as well as paying the band and giving everyone a top evening. If only every gig could be like this.
Swing dance event on 17th April: "I guess you could see this coming, but it is with some regret that I have to cancel our gig because of the Covid-19 issues and related policy."
A few bookings are clinging on in April, but I expect them to go soon, as well as everything in May and June, and likely beyond.
How do I feel? It was a shock to start with, then I was pretty depressed, now I'm resigned to it. I have some savings to fall back on, but some of my friends and colleagues don't. They are frightened and angry, not knowing how they will survive.
Despite this, as is the way with musicians, humour is helping get us through - jokes and funny videos shared on social media, and laughing down the phone.