It’s coming up to a year since the pandemic brought an indefinite end to conventional live music in the UK. Stripped of their dominant source of income, musicians have been left to seek out alternative ways of keeping themselves afloat, while the government continues to leave them stranded.
The lack of sufficient financial support for musicians has left charities and small businesses to pick up the slack. Rooted in Manchester, Coronaverses Collective is a non-profit organisation collecting poetry and artwork into topical zines. All profits from sales of the zines are donated to partner charities including Mind UK and Help Musicians.
As a music journalist, Baldwin has had insight into the recent abandonment of the music industry. She chose to dedicate the Collective’s second zine to the frustration felt by those whose livelihoods have been disrupted by the pandemic.
I caught up with Baldwin after the second issue’s successful release. From the beginning of the first lockdown, she noticed that poetry and artwork being created by her friends were incorporating the pandemic in interesting ways.
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“There were new words emerging that hadn’t been used together before like “furlough” and “Covid”, Baldwin explains. “All this new language was being reflected in people’s work”.
The second issue focuses on the state of the UK, reflecting anger about where the country is now, but it also looks back on “what we’re missing and what we can look forward to”, she says.
Creating print versions of the zines is essential to Baldwin. She wants to give artists and poets who typically publish their work online a rare chance to see their creations on a physical page. Equally important was deciding where the profits of each zine would go.
Baldwin got in contact with George Fleming from Save Our Scene UK and joined their Crowdfunder for Help Musicians. The charity offers support to musicians at all stage of their careers and has been a lifeline for many during the pandemic.
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The Manchester-based Neo-Soul / R&B group Lovescene received a grant from the MOBO Help Musicians Fund which assists musicians who are underrepresented and underfunded. “We are a band that is predominantly of colour and that’s not reflected everywhere in Manchester”, explains lead singer and producer Pops Roberts.
Struck by their first Covid-induced gig cancellation a day after the UK entered lockdown, Lovescene turned to the Help Musicians Fund for extra support. Roberts had no doubts that herself, her bandmates, and every other musician facing financial trouble were deserving of financial support, yet for some it can be an uncomfortable experience applying for funding.
“Imposter syndrome comes into play”, Roberts says. “I know so many creatives who deserve a grant but haven’t applied because “why do you need this money?” is a really ominous question to have to answer”.
Lovescene devoted the extra time they had during lockdown to writing and recording new music and were able to perform a home concert for Manchester’s Finest in February. “It’s a real testament to having the right people around us”, Roberts explains. “Without having a [circle] of people we really respect and have good working relationships with, we wouldn’t have been able to do it”.
After facing several rejections elsewhere, Help Musicians were able to provide funding to help keep Lovescene going, as well as recruit a string section and local gospel choir for their debut album.
“I think sometimes we need reminding of what is possible, especially with live music disappearing. I hope that when this album does come out and people know it was made mostly during the pandemic, it will inspire people not give up”, Roberts says.
Coronaverses Collective is playing an important role in helping musicians like Lovescene get back on their feet at a tough time. “We’re a small publication, we’re not talking about billions or thousands of pounds”, Baldwin says. “But anything we can do to raise awareness is worth it”.
Digital and print versions of Coronaverses Issue 2 are available on the Collective’s website.
Submissions for Issue 3 – focusing on womanhood – will be opening soon ahead of its Summer release.