Jess’s story: Overcoming isolation through music in lockdown

We spoke to Jess Fisher, a young disabled musician who works with local arts organisations, to find out more about her creative social action project funded by TMC.

First of all, can you tell us a little bit about your project?

My project was inspired by lockdown and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic back in 2020. I didn’t really know what to do with myself at the time – I wanted to be creative and share my story. I thought ‘What can I do to inspire other people?’. So I thought I’d share my own story and how music has helped me.

How did you find out about the bursary that TMC was offering?

It was through Inspire Youth Arts. They saw it pop up as part of TMC’s funding opportunities and shared it with me. They recognised that it would be good for me to have a creative outlet and to tell my story, because they thought it was really important to share.

What was the inspiration behind your project?

I think, for me, at the very beginning of pandemic, I hit a low point in myself. I realised that I needed help and support, and I wanted to channel those emotions in a positive way. Inspire Youth Arts were really great at this time; they continued music classes with me and enabled me to have an outlet. I feel it’s important to remember that it’s okay not to be okay. We all need support sometimes and that’s okay – we shouldn’t feel guilty about that.

Who did you want to help through your project?

My target audience was people with disabilities, because I’m very passionate about that. I wanted to say, ‘don’t let the label define who you are’. I wanted people to see a different view of disability. Society always expects us to be okay, but we still have feelings and we’re still human. I wanted to get the point across that even though we might have to do something in a different way, we can adapt everything to make it work – and that’s the same for creative outlets.

How did you approach your project?

For me, the process of delivery was very creative and musical. I wanted to incorporate music but put it into an animation and ‘draw my life’. Drawing isn’t my strong point, so I used the funding to find an animator and use someone else’s skillset. This was a great opportunity, because it meant that I had to communicate with other people during lockdown when we were already cut off from the rest of the world in many ways.

What has the project done for you?

It really boosted my confidence, because I had to work with another artist who lived in another part of the world. Because I took ownership of that, it gave me a sense of confidence in knowing that I can do things for myself and that I don’t always have to rely on other people. It proved to myself that I could take ownership of things and that I didn’t need approval from others to make important decisions.

The project also became a bit of a distraction from the challenges we faced during lockdown. It became this great source of motivation and reaffirmed that I can still do all these amazing and meaningful things.

What advice would you give to other young people who are thinking about applying for funding through TMC?

I think I would give them the advice I gave to myself… I completed my project and realised that I needed to make a few changes. For example, to make it fully accessible, I needed to add audio description and voiceover. I really had to just pause and consider: is my project accessible? If not, is there any way it can be? Put yourself in other people’s shoes and what would you want from the project from that particular person.

What did you learn?

I think the main thing I learned was that you have to be prepared to make changes and adapt with projects like this. For example, I shared the video with one of my colleagues who is visually impaired. I realised quickly that I’d created an amazing piece of work, but this particular person couldn’t access the whole experience. All they could hear was my music, but they weren’t getting the full affect. It really shook a nerve with me. I didn’t want people to not be able to experience the intended impact of my project just because they are visually impaired. I didn’t want anyone to be excluded!

I realised that it should be normalised and standard practice for things like voiceovers and audio descriptions to be added. It can be an expensive option, depending on which route you go down, but it should be a free accessible thing that everyone can use. I’m really thankful for Digit Music, a pro audio organisation, which helped me to make the video accessible by adding voiceover and audio description.

What was your experience of working with TMC and your Creative Coach?

My Creative Coach was really helpful, especially since we were in the midst of lockdown. They ensured I was on the right track and were always there to say ‘you can do this’ whenever I doubted myself. They were able to help in areas I wasn’t confident with but gave support to enable me to grow and develop in those areas, which I’m so grateful for.

I really want to say thank you to everyone involved in the project. It provided me with so much motivation and helped me to realise that I can still do things. TMC made me feel so at peace during such a strange time – a time where no one knew what was going to happen.

How would you describe the Youth Cultural Life Fund in three words?

Inspiring, motivating, uplifting – it was a really uplifting project and I’d do it again in a heartbeat!


Watch Jess’s video!