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View from: Cat Loud

30 July 2020

Part of Supercool's Arts + Culture In Lockdown series

Cat LoudWriter and Singer


I have always felt on the fringes of art and culture, so Hi and Hello! I’m very happy to be here.

Coronavirus came at a very strange time. Well, there isn’t a normal time for a pandemic, but it arrived when I was already in the depths of an existential crisis about my work.

After writing and performing my own cabaret shows for five years, gigging as a singer around Edinburgh and working in a cafe to stay afloat, I felt incredibly stretched, exhausted and unfulfilled. This economic model isn’t unique to me – most freelancers I know have been plodding away in other sectors in the hope that, one day, they’ll be Full Time Artists. As an artist, and I hope I’m not alone in this, What I Do and Who I Am are very close to being one and the same.

Being an artist without being able to do anything with the art I’ve made is the human equivalent of “if a tree falls in the woods”. For a long time, I’d accepted that rejection, being skint and feeling like any kind of moderate success is at least ten years away were now part of my outlook on life. Part of who I am as a person, as an artist. I was starting to get a bitter taste in my mouth, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it at all.

And then the pandemic took away all my work; performance and hospitality. Having one foot in each sector made it tough to find financial support that would pay my rent, so I moved back in with my parents. My hometown survives by and large on tourist trade, so finding a job here wasn’t going to be an option. So, without any warning or planning, I have leaned in to what I’ve been given – something I’ve been yearning for – time to write.

… without any warning or planning, I have leaned in to what I’ve been given– something I’ve been yearning for – time to write

All this started with a group email from a screenwriting opportunity I’d applied for: cancelled, inevitably. A moment of deep disappointment, and then – I formed a writing group from it. I Replied All, asking if anyone wanted to connect and talk about our writing projects. Cast the line, see what bites.

And now? Nathalie, Mhairi and I have been Zooming every Monday since May. They’re two brilliant screenwriters, and sharing our ideas, frustrations and aspirations made me feel Part Of Something again. Long may Writers’ Mondays continue.

What next?

I sculpted and polished my CV, finally. I dusted off my LinkedIn account. I deleted Instagram off my phone to kick the scrolling habit. Opportunity after opportunity popped up on my radar. Channel 4 and The National Film and Television School ran a series of networking seminars, and my LinkedIn blew up.

I’ve connected with producers and entrepreneurs and creative professionals who want to talk and plan and make work – suddenly The Industry seems less faceless and scary than it did a week ago, when I was sitting in my childhood bedroom feeling like Ariel in The Little Mermaid, longing to be where the people are.

I’ve connected with producers and entrepreneurs and creative professionals who want to talk and plan and make work – suddenly The Industry seems less faceless and scary than it did a week ago

And beyond? I’ve realised I’m a writer.

I’ve got my head down, tied my ideas to the ground, and committed to doing a different kind of work than what I’ve been used to. So far, I’ve written a TV pilot, a fantasy adventure film (I didn’t see that one coming), two shorts, a flash fiction podcast about Miss Havisham, and now I’m working on my first full length play.

Black and white photo of a Victorian/Edwardian era bride; her eyes redacted with a black rectangle
Havisham Kills Time – a podcast by Cat Loud

I don’t think I would have made this commitment had the opportunities – the callouts for new writing, the seminars to help people feel connected – come my way. And not that anything I’ve made is any good – I doubt my abilities constantly – but the artist I am now in comparison to the one I was before is more self-sufficient, more assertive and more hopeful.

I don’t feel like I’m locked out of a grand building, battering the door, begging to be let in. I feel that I am a useful part of a bigger picture, and I can’t wait for career Show And Tell; for things to open up, for people to be with each other again. I have something to say for myself now. I have a mission statement. I know what I want the world to look like and I know that what I make has to contribute positively in some way.

But, I’d like to stress here that I am not seeing anything about the pandemic as a silver lining.

Watching the industries I’ve been in and aspired to be part of come so close to collapse has been frightening. Fearing for my own safety and that of those I love is frightening. Wanting the world to change for the better and feeling helpless has been frightening. I am simply aware of how lucky I am. Spending time with my family has been a gift. My sister, a behavioural ecologist, hasn’t been in the same country as me for three years, and we’ve spent more time together in 2020 than we have since we were teenagers.

I will never have this life again, for better or for worse. But for now, I’ll sit with my parents, my next story forming in my head, and be thankful.

I don’t know where I’m going, but I know what I’m not going back to. Onwards.

Part of Supercool's Arts + Culture In Lockdown series

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