By Rachael Abbey, Co- Artistic Director and the Yorkshire-st person we know.
I’ve had a lot of different jobs in my life. My first job was as a peer support worker for a youth organisation. I’ve worked in energy management, retail, and once as a camera woman who filmed Brian Blessed coming out of a helicopter. That was a weird day. But for the last 5 years I’ve worked in theatre one way or another. Five weeks ago we headed to London to start the London run of Beach Body Ready. Today, I woke up at 4 am to start work at 5 in a food distribution centre. If I’m perfectly honest, this isn’t quite what I was expecting to be doing, but the new normal has taken over very quickly. Here’s my life before: 8am – wake up in a hotel 9am – Get on a train to another city 11am – Get the set into the theatre 1pm – long lunch, maybe a nap 5pm – tech rehearsal 7.30pm – show time This is my life now: 3.45am – alarm goes off 3.50am – alarm goes off 3.55am – alarm goes off 4am – alarm goes off 4.05am – begrudgingly get out of bed 4.15am – India picks me up 5am – start 8 hour shift 2pm – get home and very obviously nap and/or play video games 8.30pm - bed I took a job as a key worker about a week after we had our London run cancelled and the schools shows the week after were getting shut down too. We had no idea what was happening and I decided to get a job because A) I wanted to be able to help a little in these uncertain times and B) I quite like getting paid. People have said to me, “Ahh Rachael! That clap at 8pm on a Thursday is for you too!’ and I can’t help but feel a bit weird about that. Its not about me, the theatre maker who just needed some financial security for a little bit. It’s about people like my Mum, who is a carer. She is high risk for contracting Covid-19 and yet she still goes into work everyday because she felt guilty about the prospect of not going to work and looking after people because its her job to care, both emotionally and literally the job. And she’s a bloody good carer. She’s hardworking and resilient and still treats everyone with the love and respect people should get in their homes. She’s a hero, the work she does is important and she makes people smile on the daily. What a great combo. I have several key workers in my family, as a lot of people do, and honestly, I love them. Not just because they’re family, but because they make people safe, healthy and happy every day. And really, isn’t that all we need? To be safe, health and happy? (Which is why everyone needs to stay at home y’all.) The work I'm doing is very physical, I’ve got biceps for the first time in my 29 years on this earth, (they’re small but they’re definitely there) and I’m drinking more water than anyone has ever done before. I’d rather be at home, as a “resting actor’ aka unemployed. You get really good at being at home, busying yourself and generally not spending money. I’m quite comfortable staying indoors, texting mates, doing admin and listening to music. If I could, I would be sat at home playing my PS4 in my sparkly tracksuit, not a drop of make up on, and drinking wine all day every day, but that isn’t really an option for me ( I do it on my days off though, don’t worry!) There are a lot of reasons why people have just become key workers right now. Whether its furlough payments don’t cover the bills, lost jobs, or you were already unemployed and you knew things were going to get tougher. However, there were so many people who were key workers before the phrase even really existed, and will continue to be for years to come. They’re making a difference to people’s lives every day. They really are the backbone of this country and I sure as hell hope that people don’t forget that once this is all over. They deserve our respect, the deserve better wages and generally they just deserve more. I’m a key worker because I need the money. My family and friends are key workers because they care, and because they’re heroes.