As part of PRS for Music’s On with the Show campaign, PRS Members’ Fund are offering a series of webinars focusing on creativity and wellbeing with BAPAM.
Facilitated by Dr Terry Clark from the Centre of Performance Science, who has a particular interest in creativity, mental practice and performance psychology, the series will provide a safe space for members to reflect on the past year and their creative practice.
Ahead of the event (5 November), we spoke to PRS Members’ Fund’s own Athena Pite about the upcoming webinar, the impact returning to live music is having on performers and how the Fund can help PRS members.
Athena Pite is a welfare and development officer for the PRS Members’ Fund, a registered social worker and mental health first aider.
The PRS Members' Fund provide support and advice to PRS for Music members and their families who are struggling financially, physically or emotionally and are in need of help. For more information, head to their website.
'Yes, it takes courage to reach out, yet as human beings needing support at different times is a fundamental part of experience. It really is okay to seek help, and no-one is judging.'
What is your role at PRS Members’ Fund?
Welfare and development. I’m part of a small yet fantastic team! I’ve responsibility for the more complex applications that come through, spending time listening and talking with members whose situation is multifaceted about their specific circumstances and the challenges faced; taking a holistic approach that considers their mental/emotional, physical health and financial wellbeing, as well as environmental factors (like housing, or being a carer or parent). Based on the conversation, I’d plan and provide specific tailored advice and support, which could involve several different things, and make recommendations to our Trustees regarding grants. Prior to the pandemic, this would usually be done via a home visit. I also provide ongoing follow up contact and support where needed.
On the development side – exploring different ways to support members – for example delivering webinars with partner organisations, our next event with the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine takes place on 5 November (11am); creating an impact framework to review what Fund support and activities work well, identify the key findings for consideration by trustees to shape future strategy, that kind of thing. I spend time building and nurturing our relations with our partner organisations, as well as proactively seek new opportunities for developing the Fund’s offering to members.
We’re also looking at beneficiary demographics to see how representative of the overall PRS membership they are, and what else we could be doing to reach as broadly as possible.
'Sometimes a concern might be physical regarding the use of the voice, for instance or other health matter. We’re also aware that the impact of the pandemic has led to an increase in alcohol or other substance that has been detrimental.'
What has been the most common form of support you’ve found yourself offering to members since the pandemic began?
Initially, the main thrust of support needed was financial. No real surprise there, given the circumstances of the pandemic and the tremendous negative effect on musicians and songwriters during lockdown. The high numbers of applications to the Emergency Relief Fund mid-pandemic – undertaken with PRS for Music and the PRS Foundation - meant the key aim was to get monies out to as many members as possible, as quickly as possible. The fall-out continues to be huge, and we know from research of the significant link between poverty and mental health.
Raising awareness of our partnership with Music Minds Matter (the 24/7 confidential support line), where members can access free 1:1 counselling continues to be crucial, and our figures show a continuing upward trend in those using this service. We regularly reach out across social media and through our various webinars to highlight the wellbeing resources freely available to PRS members, and, although it’s not always easy to do, we’d really encourage anyone not to hesitate to get in touch.
How has the return of live music impacted the mental wellbeing of performers and music creators?
We know there is insecurity and anxiety – about performing, about being in front of an audience again after a long absence, creative blocks, finances, travel restrictions, venue protocols and of course the complications of Brexit – all very stressful. Sometimes a concern might be physical regarding the use of the voice, for instance or other health matter. We’re also aware that the impact of the pandemic has led to an increase in alcohol or other substance that has been detrimental. Whatever the situation, we can ensure members are directed to the most appropriate source of support.
We mustn’t forget too that there are members who may need to continue to shield due to their own or others’ health concerns, which might prevent them from returning to live performance right now.
'It’s not a one-size fits all approach, and we’ll guide members based on our conversations and understanding of what might be useful.'
Have any of the members you’ve spoken to been unable to begin playing shows again as a result of their mental health?
It can be a bit of a catch 22; when mental health and wellbeing is affected, being able to focus or concentrate on what needs to be done – creating music, setting up gigs, showcasing work, maintain creative or social connections can all be overwhelming to deal with. In addition, if someone is worried about paying bills, thinking about performing (with all its inherent challenges) is probably not going to be the main priority on their mind.
What support can the Fund offer to those people?
The support the Fund can offer in these circumstances, especially if they’re struggling financially, is to let us know so that we can look at a grant to help them through the time of crisis and allow them some breathing space. Next, we signpost and encourage members to access the help and tools that are out there specifically in the music industry, not only through Music Minds Matter, as mentioned earlier, but through a range of tools and online peer support groups and so on. It’s important there are different routes – for example, if someone doesn’t want to talk, we’d suggest the NHS approved Thrive app, free for PRS members, which has lots of step-by-step exercises, a CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) online programme and a live chat function which can support members with anxiety or other concerns. It’s not a one-size fits all approach, and we’ll guide members based on our conversations and understanding of what might be useful.
Why have the Fund chosen BAPAM to team up with for the webinars?
BAPAM are the largest provider of Performing Arts Medicine in the UK. Not only are all clinicians, counsellors and therapists with BAPAM fully registered and accredited, they also have experience of and understand the challenges of the music industry. BAPAM therefore have a huge range of expertise to draw on. That means our members can be reassured that any professional they have contact with through them is confidential, safe, and governed by quality assurance frameworks and the best practices possible. Free physical assessments are available to PRS members.
'To know one is not alone can be incredibly empowering and helps to build confidence as well as a network of support.'
What can members gain from attending the webinars?
The webinar series will enable participants to share and develop tools to understand what motivates them, enhance creativity, tackle the inner critic and develop goals for their own circumstances and practice in preparation for a return to work and/or performing. They’ll also have access to experts in various fields.
Connecting with others can reduce the sense of isolation that many members tell us they experience. To know one is not alone can be incredibly empowering and helps to build confidence as well as a network of support.
What key piece(s) of advice would you offer to a performer or music creator looking to begin touring again?
Know yourself; what works best, what your stressors are, and how to limit or counteract those. Connect with strategies and others that you know will nurture and support you. Utilise your breath (it’s always with you!) and mindfulness techniques. Know too that - despite how you may be feeling - that there is support and information out there. Yes, it takes courage to reach out, yet as human beings needing support at different times is a fundamental part of experience. It really is okay to seek help, and no-one is judging. The Fund is your Fund, we are here for you.
BAPAM, Help Musicians, Musicians Union and Music Support are just some of the other organisations who have plenty of free resources for you to take advantage of.