News and latest entries from my blog…
Well, 2020, what a year it's been...
Things have been very different here at PMHQ with no events to play at during the Coronavirus outbreak, but I kept the live music flowing this Summer with my live Tuesday lockdown sessions.
Now, as we find ourselves gradually coming out of the lockdown period, things are starting to move again. Weddings are starting to happen... shops, restaurants etc. are opening up - Joe Wicks has even done his final PE class!
So - it seemed an appropriate time to bring the live sessions to a close. 15 weeks and 170 songs later, Mrs Mac and I will be raising a glass to the final lockdown session. It'll start at the usual time of 8pm on Tuesday 28th July, and we'll be doing a double session with a recap of your favourite songs from the last few months!
Been enjoying the live sessions? Why not donate via PayPal using the button or QR code above and help out a musician during a tough time!
If you'd like to hear a song again, let me know and I'll get it on the list for you 🙂 Here's the full list...
The Kooks - She Moves In Her Own Way George Ezra - Paradise Tom Walker - Just You & I Jack Johnson - Better Together Jason Mraz - I'm Yours Stevie Wonder - Superstition Paolo Nutini - 10/10 Stereophonics - Have A Nice Day Beatles - Here Comes The Sun Bob Marley - Stir It Up George Ezra - Budapest White Stripes - Seven Nation Army Kings of Leon - Use Somebody Walk The Moon - Shut Up And Dance Ed Sheeran - Castle On The Hill Toploader/Darkness - Dancing In The Moonlight/I Believe In A Thing Called Love George Ezra - Shotgun Bastille - Pompeii Blackstreet - No Diggity REM - Losing My Religion Bob Marley - Jammin' The Killers - Mr. Brightside Guns n Roses - Sweet Child 'o Mine The Rolling Stones - Satisfaction Oasis - She's Electric Bruno Mars - Uptown Funk Eagle Eye Cherry - Save Tonight Fleetwood Mac - Everywhere The Lumineers - Ho Hey Foo Fighters - Everlong Ed Sheeran - You Need Me, I Don't Need You Bob Marley - Is This Love Stereophonics - Dakota Jackson Five - I Want You Back Bob Dylan - Like A Rolling Stone Jimi Hendrix - All Along The Watchtower Oasis - Champagne Supernova Daft Punk - Get Lucky Scouting For Girls - She's So Lovely Sam Smith - Latch T'Pau - China In Your Hand REM - Man On The Moon Bob Marley - Three Little Birds David Gray - Babylon Ed Sheeran - Perfect Van Morrisson - Brown Eyed Girl Coldplay - Viva La Vida The Wkend - Blinding Lights Bastille - Laura Palmer Justin Bieber - Love Yourself KT Tunstall - Black Horse and The Cherry Tree Travis - Flowers In The Window Coldplay - Clocks Green Day - (Good Riddance) Time Of Your Life Jackie Wilson - (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher & Higher Mumford & Sons - Little Lion Man Bob Marley - No Woman No Cry Tenacious D - Tribute Olly Murs - Dance With Me Tonight Stevie Wonder - Signed, Sealed, Delivered Ed Sheeran - Shape Of You Beatles - She Loves You The Kooks - Naive Tracey Chapman - Fast Car Bruno Mars - Marry You Red Hot Chili Peppers - Dani California Mumford & Sons - I Will Wait Coldplay - Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall Paolo Nutini - Pencil Full Of Lead Jack Johnson - Sitting, Waiting, Within Coldplay - Adventure Of A Lifetime Mcfly - Star Girl 5ive - Keep On Moving Backstreet Boys - Everybody (Backstreet's Back) B*witched - C'est La Vie Take That - Back For Good Britney Spears - Hit Me Baby One More Time Katrina & The Waves - Walking on Sunshine Wheatus - Teenage Dirtbag Bryan Adams - Summer of '69 The Proclaimers - 500 Miles Oasis - Wonderwall Tina Tuner - Proud Mary Otis Redding - Sittin' On The Dock Of The Bay Temptations - My Girl Martha & The Vandellas - Dancing In The Street Al Green - Let's Stay Together Smokey Robinson - Tracks Of My Tears Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell - Ain't No Mountain High Enough Bill Withers - Ain't No Sunshine Marvin Gaye - Heard It Through The Grapevine Stevie Wonder - Isn't She Lovely Keb 'Mo - Closer Waterboys - Whole Of The Moon Ben E King - Stand By Me Pulp - Common People Jake Bugg - Lighting Bolt Coldplay - Yellow Travis - Driftwood Ed Sheeran - Sing Snow Patrol - Chasing Cars Beatles - Come Together Arctic Monkeys - I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor The Jam - A Town Called Malice Take That - Never Forget Oasis - Don't Look Back In Anger Elbow/Beatles - One Day Like This/Hey Jude The Black Keys - Lonely Boy Steve Miller Band - The Joker The Coral - In The Morning The La's - There She Goes MGMT - Kids Razorlight - Before I Fall To Pieces Ed Sheeran - Bloodstream Foster The People - Pumped Up Kicks Queen - Crazy Little Thing Called Love Red Hot Chili Peppers - Under The Bridge The Fratellis - Chelsea Dagger Don McLean - American Pie Beatles - All You Need Is Love Adele - Skyfall Smashmouth - All Star Jack Johnson - Upside Down Pharrell - Happy Greatest Showman - A Million Dream Frozen - Love Is An Open Door Blue Swede - Hooked On A Feeling Bee Gees - Stayin' Alive Elton John - Can You Feel The Love Tonight Stealers Wheels - Stuck In The Middle With You Huey Lewis & The News - The Power Of Love Grease - Summer Nights Dirty Dancing - (I've Had) The Time Of My Life Rolling Stones - Sympathy For The Devil Beyonce - Crazy In Love Ed Sheeran - Don't Mumford & Sons - The Cave Arctic Monkeys - Mardy Bum Adele - Rolling In The Deep Pulp - Disco 2000 Travis - Why Does It Always Rain On Me? Kings Of Leon - Sex On Fire Oasis - Live Forever The Verve - Bittersweet Symphony Foo Fighter/David Bowie - Times Like These/Heroes Ed Sheeran/Blackstreet - Shape Of You/No Diggity Daft Punk/OneRepublic - Get Counting Lucky Stars Jackson Five/Jessie J - I Want You Back/Price Tag Ed Sheeran/Macklemore - You Need Me/Thrift Shop Lady Gaga/Eurythmics - Bad Romance/Sweet Dreams Spice Girls - Wannabe Hanson - Mmmbop Backstreet Boys - I Want It That Way One Direction - What Makes You Beautiful Carly Rae Jepson - Call Me Maybe The Calling - Wherever You Will Go Bon Jovi - Livin' On A Prayer George Ezra - Blame It On Me Jack Johnson - Good People Cornershop - Brimful of Asha Avicii - Wake Me Up Amy Winehouse - Valerie Sam Cooke - Wonderful World Ed Sheeran - Barcelona Coldplay - In My Place James - Sit Down The Kinks - Sunny Afternoon Tom Petty - Free Fallin' Michael Jackson - Man In The Mirror Foo Fighters - Best Of You
Do you have a small or intimate wedding celebration coming up? Maybe a wedding ceremony with reduced numbers or a garden party at your own home? If you're interested in having some live acoustic music at your small event, you can contact me for a bespoke quote using any of the following methods:
It's early July 2020 as I write this, and we've just gone through an extraordinary few months. The Coronavirus lockdown brought our country to an abrupt halt, and of course this meant the postponement (and sadly, cancellation in some cases) of thousands of weddings.
Thankfully, things are slowly starting to reopen, and in England weddings can now take place again! Wonderful news for those that want to tie the knot, and aren't too worried about having a large party/celebration.
With limited numbers and some extra precautions, weddings are slowly starting to happen again - and the positive news is that regulations are likely to be relaxed further in the coming weeks.
Live music at smaller weddings
Although it may be a little longer before we can have big evening parties, DJs and live bands, in the short-term smaller celebrations are the way to go!
If you have a wedding coming up this year, chances are you've had to downsize. Some ideas I've heard floated around for this year's weddings have included:
- Small ceremonies with just close friends and family (maybe then a big belated party next year!)
- A wedding ceremony followed by a reception at their venue, as soon as government guidelines allow - but more than likely with reduced numbers and no evening party.
- A complete change in plans! A small legal ceremony at a church or registry office, then a garden party in the afternoon/evening with close friends and family - in line with COVID guidelines, of course.
Live acoustic guitar music at smaller weddings/parties
So how does this tie-in with what I do? Well, although the majority of my weddings for 2020 have now postponed until next year, I'm starting to receive a lot of queries from couples looking to go ahead with smaller celebrations this year.
I'm absolutely happy to quote for weddings and small parties from July 2020 onwards - I understand this probably won't fit in with my traditional pricing structure, so if you have an event coming up and want some live music, pop an enquiry over on my contact page, or via email@example.com
The addition of a live musician may be exactly what you need to make your day feel more special. If you're having a small event in your garden for example, you can book me to come along and play some tunes as you eat, or provide the ambience while you relax in the sun with a cold glass of something.
It's those special touches that make your big day - well, special. You don't have to have 200 people, a marching band and doves flying down the aisle! The small moments are the things you'll cherish - like the memory of chatting with your closest loved ones, while you have some fantastic live music to listen to. And hey, if you want a huge party (who doesn't?!) well, we can do that when all this is over and done with.
Is live music permitted currently?
At the moment, evening celebrations are a no-go in England, but of course guidance is changing all the time so do check the Government website for the latest guidance.
Currently, live music with one singer and instrument may be permitted at ceremonies as long as your venue and registrars etc. are happy with your plans. Taken from the current Government guidance (correct on 9th July 2020) re: singing at wedding ceremonies:
"Where required for the marriage or civil partnership, only one individual should be permitted to sing or chant, and the use of plexi-glass screens should be considered to protect guests, as this will further prevent transmission and the screen can be easily cleaned"
Personally, I think the plexi-glass screen can be avoided as long as there is plenty of space. I'd suggest at least 5 metres between the performer and any other individuals, more if possible. I also always sing directly into a microphone, which will effectively work as a shield to provide further protection.
Post-wedding ceremony receptions at wedding venues are not allowed at the moment, although this is likely to change in the near future. Instead, many people are choosing to have a BBQ or small gathering of close friends/family in their garden, in line with COVID guidelines.
If you want a bit of live music to give your small party a lift, acoustic music is a winner. I play covers of many different genres, with my unique guitar/vocal style and my loop pedal magic. Followers of my YouTube channel will be familiar with my loop pedal work, and the live sessions I've been streaming online!
Contact me here if you're interested in having a chat about live music at your intimate event.
I write this on a drab, drizzly Saturday afternoon in early July 2020. It's the 4th July - American Independence day, my parents' Golden Wedding Anniversary (congratulations Mr & Mrs McIntyre!) and what has been enthusiastically nicknamed "Super Saturday" - the day when UK pubs re-open their doors following the COVID-19 lockdown.
This year has been extraordinary. We're right in the thick of the Coronavirus disruption, and I think every now and then it's important to take a step back and look at how quickly everything has happened.
It was January when we first started hearing about the virus spreading quickly in China. By February, cases had started appearing in Europe and a month later, we in the UK were in full lockdown mode. Four months later and we've got used to social distancing, face coverings, zoom calls (endless quizzes...) and of course huge impacts on our careers and personal lives.
The Wedding and Performing Arts industries have been two of the hardest hit. Aren't I glad then that my job neatly straddles both?!
The New Normal
It's late afternoon and usually on a Saturday in July I'd be packing my music kit away, having played some live music at a wedding. But this is the "new normal" for those of us affected by the dreaded Coronavirus. For me, this Summer has consisted not of playing music, but mostly of bike rides, DIY (LOTS of DIY!) and working on various projects to keep me busy and looking forward.
As a full-time wedding industry professional with one toe in the music industry, I thought it might be interesting to share my personal experience of Coronavirus. Some of you reading this may not realise that music is my full-time profession. Often people assume that I play guitar at weddings on the weekends for a bit of pocket money - not so! This is my livelihood, and it's come to a dramatic pause this year.
I've played music all my life, and I first started making a career out of it roughly 15 years ago. Having performed on the open mic circuit around Bristol regularly, I secured a residency at Illusions Magic Bar on the Clifton Triangle (sadly now consigned to history!) I have fond memories of performing on packed Friday and Saturday evenings.
How I became a wedding musician
I played my first wedding gig around 2010, after someone had seen me performing in Bristol and decided to book me to play at their big day. From that wedding, word of mouth brought me another couple of bookings and it was at that point that I started focusing on playing live music at weddings.
At this point I was working full-time, but I decided to ditch my job in IT a couple of years later (being an outdoors person, I never was very good at the 9-5 office job life). It was quite a dramatic career change - I became a part-time Postman (Postman Pat!), focusing on music at weekends and taking on as many gigs as I could physically manage.
Weekends at that point generally looked like this:
Friday: 5am start for work, returning home around 3pm to snatch a couple of hours sleep before some dinner, then head out to a gig, returning home around 1am.
Saturday: it always took me a while to get to sleep after a gig (musicians will know that "wired" feeling you get for a few hours after a lively performance), so the 5am start always used to hurt the next day! I'd do my shift, back home to sleep for a few hours and out until late again. Sundays were generally a write-off!
Building the business and going full-time
By 2015, the wedding business was really starting to take off. It was clear that there was demand for high-quality live music at weddings, and frustratingly I was now having to turn away work. Getting a weekend off as a postie was like gold dust, and it got to the point whereby I was declining more wedding bookings than I was taking on.
In early 2016 I made the leap into full-time self employment. A scary time, but I dived in at the deep end, doing as much promotion as I could, attending every wedding show that would have me, and increasing my online presence. Bookings started coming in thick and fast - from 30 or so weddings in my first year, this doubled in 2017, eventually leading to my busiest year in 2019 when I played at 72 wonderful weddings!
And then... lockdown
Although Summer 2020 was looking as busy as ever, it was a slow start to the year with just one wedding in February. It was a memorable day - a huge storm blew in that weekend and I was down on the Devon coast. The journey took an hour or two longer than usual, as 60mph winds and torrential rain battered the motorway. When I arrived at the venue, the videographer warned me that the storm had blown his car down the road, the winds were so strong!
Little did I know that wild day in Devon would be my last wedding performance for some time. It was about to be my busiest March and April ever, with lots of wonderful Spring weddings to look forward to - then all of a sudden everything ground to a halt with the lockdown announcement.
Up to now all weddings have been forced to cancel or postpone since lockdown, but there is some light at the end of the tunnel with the reopening of small wedding ceremonies.
The government's latest guidance around ceremonies has been a little muddled, but I am seeing weddings start to happen in England - finally some positive news! I'll write a separate blog on intimate weddings, and if/how live music can happen at these celebrations so keep an eye out for that.
Adapting to the current climate
Despite weddings legally now being allowed, the restrictions and uncertainty have forced many couples into making the difficult decision to postpone until next year - some couples are even finding that dates for their venue are so limited, they've had to move their date as far as 2022.
Although I'd dearly love to be returning to work, I don't blame anyone for postponing their big day. I'd be doing the same if it was my wedding. Currently there's a limit of 30 people who can attend - and this appears to include staff/suppliers, so in reality the number of guests is going to be significantly lower than this.
Some peculiar, arbitrary rules (including the particularly bizarre advice to wash hands before exchanging rings - as if the couple haven't had contact with one another before the big day?!) have been advised. Whether this will happen in practice seems unlikely, but it's certainly enough to put people off. You want to enjoy your big day after all, not be worrying constantly whether rules are being broken. I'm hopeful some of these restrictions will be further lifted soon, so that we can get back to some kind of normal sooner rather than later.
Postponements and moving dates
For those of us in the wedding industry, I can't lie - it's been a headache, and I really feel for the poor wedding couples having to rearrange everything. There's no "one size fits all" approach to postponing or changing dates unfortunately. Every venue, wedding supplier and wedding couple has their own challenges and personal situations to face.
I can only speak from my own personal experience. This has been a huge learning curve for me, having never dealt with anything on this scale before. The end result is basically that I'm postponing dates for all my couples without any charge or penalties, unless it's for 2022 or beyond in which case a small yearly price increase applies.
In the unfortunate event that a couple are only able to supply me with one alternative date which I'm already booked for, I'm doing my best to work around this and try to come up with alternatives. For example, evening live music rather than daytime music. Sometimes I'm able to travel to two venues in one day, so this has worked out well in some cases.
I'm trying to be as flexible as possible - none of this is anyone's fault and it's really important to remember the stress and impact this has on everyone.
The impact on couples and wedding businesses
If you're reading this, chances are you're either a couple due to get married, or a business within the wedding sector. I'm a sole trader, and I deal with all my couples on a one-to-one basis (no agencies or middlemen) so part of my job is to have great personal relationships with my couples. At the same time I've built a strong network of friends and contacts within the wedding business, so I'm in a good position to see things from both sides.
There's no two ways about it - this is difficult for everyone. When lockdown was announced my phone and inbox exploded with enquiries and I, along with most people, had a really tough week mentally. It was overwhelming and I think many of us got somewhat lost in our own heads. I certainly know I was guilty of this.
As time has gone on, the extremes of emotion have calmed down a little. The financial situation as a small business remains extremely precarious, but personally I'm doing all I can to keep things moving forward, staying as positive as possible and staying in regular contact with my couples and fellow industry friends.
Empathy and patience
I feel that it's more important than ever to have empathy for the person you're speaking with. At the moment we're mostly communicating via text - emails, whatsapp, instant messaging. You never know what state the person is in mentally, and what their personal circumstances are, and this is always exacerbated by communicating solely via technology.
If a bride or groom seems angry or upset with me, I try to take a step back now and wonder why it may appear this way. Maybe they've had a terrible morning dealing with rearranging their guest list... maybe they have loved ones that can no longer make it... maybe a family member is ill... maybe their financial situation is reaching tipping point and they're having to think about cancelling their wedding. It could literally be any number of things - and of course, it can often just come down to misinterpreting how the email/message is worded. Sometimes a perfectly friendly email can come across differently, depending on the language used and the mood of the person reading it.
In the same way, I'd ask that brides/grooms have patience with us as wedding suppliers - particularly people like myself who are sole traders and deal with every aspect of the business. From admin, business and promotion, right through to accounts and of course delivering the service on the big day, us small business owners have a lot on our plates. I don't always get everything right! But I like to think that in the cases where I have got things wrong during this pandemic, I've recognised my shortcomings and have learnt from them.
Well, this has turned into quite a rambling blog! It was intended as a short comment on the wedding and music industries (I didn't even get on to the Performing Arts industry, which has been hit even harder), but it turns out that I had more to say than I thought.
I hope some of this has made for interesting reading, and maybe given a small insight into what's gone on behind the scenes in the wedding industry for small businesses like mine.
Every time I get a set back, I try to think: onwards and upwards! I'm a naturally optimistic person, and I have total faith that things will get back to normal sooner rather than later. Wonderful wedding celebrations will return, couples will be able to have their dream days once again and you know what - they'll mean more than ever.
I love every wedding I play at, but going forward I really think we'll cherish every moment that little bit more. Every interaction we have, every special moment shared - everything is going to feel so much more meaningful on the back of this pandemic.
There's always room for hope and optimism. I can't wait to get back to work, and I hope that if you have a wedding coming up, you've made peace with either postponing or maybe having to scale things back a touch. Whatever happens, let's enjoy every moment of the celebrations when they come around, and always remember the most important things in life.
I wish everyone all the very best throughout this - stay safe and well, and we'll get through it together!
Written by Pat McIntyre - singer/guitarist and wedding musician based in Bristol, UK.
An update on the current COVID-19 pandemic for my current wedding couples. With the situation changing so rapidly, please keep an eye on my blog, Facebook and Instagram - but here's an update on my current policy re: postponements/cancellations (as of 17th April 2020).
With the lockdown now extended until at least 7th May 2020, I have now moved or sadly cancelled all my upcoming weddings between now and then.
I still have a lot of weddings booked in from July onwards, and I'm very aware that it's an uncertain time for any couples getting married this Summer. At the moment, we have to rely on the government's advice. I feel that it's very unlikely weddings will be going ahead during May or June, but none of us have a crystal ball so it's very difficult to make any decisions at the moment.
Here is a summary of my current policy re: postponements or cancellations:
- Any weddings that cannot take place through no fault of the wedding couple (ie. government lockdown, venue closed, or other legitimate reasons), I will rearrange to any date of your choosing at no extra cost, assuming I'm available.
- If I'm not available for your new date, sadly this will amount to a cancellation of my services and my cancellation terms will apply, as stated in your contract. No refunds will be issued, and the outstanding balance may be due - depending on how far ahead your wedding is.
- In the event of the above point applying, I would ask that couples to claim on their wedding insurance for any losses.
- If your wedding is coming up later this Summer, but you've decided to postpone, this is totally understandable as things are very uncertain. This will amount to a cancellation of your current booking with me, so you will need to rebook with me if you wish to secure my services on your new date. This will unfortunately forfeit any deposit/reservation fee already paid.
This is an outline of my main terms/policies during this epidemic. I hope that everyone considers these to be fair and just - I'm trying to be as flexible as I can, whilst finding a way of continuing to run my small business which has taken a big hit.
I think an element of flexibility is required from both myself and my wedding couples at this time - if you have any questions about the above, or any difficulties with finances or payments, please do discuss this with me and I'll do all I can to help.
You can contact me with any queries on firstname.lastname@example.org
Stay safe and well everyone - I for one am looking forward to all the amazing celebrations we'll have once we're on the other side of this!
Well - I've been putting it off, but I guess it's about time I addressed the elephant in the room. COVID-19 is here to stay for a little while, and I'm sure we're all tired of discussing it, hearing opinions about it and watching the 24/7 news coverage. However, it would seem remiss of me not to write a few words about how this thing is affecting my business and the longer term implications.
I'll write a separate blog on the specifics of what this means for my wedding couples, but the rest of this blog will be more of a personal take on the situation, and a little look back at what has happened, and how quickly it all escalated.
In the middle of this strange and unsettling time, there's also a few positives to gleam from it, so I'll end this blog post with some of things that have picked my spirits up during the Coronavirus outbreak.
This thing has moved so quickly, it's been hard to keep track! The last couple of months have been bizarre, so let's rewind to the start of year and remember how it unfolded...
The Coronavirus outbreak hits China hard, with severe lockdowns announced. The first UK nationals to contract the virus are confirmed, but are quarantined to prevent the spread of the disease. Britons returning from Wuhan are placed in isolation when returning to the country, and we saw video footage on the news of people in hotel rooms trying to keep their spirits up, whilst confined to the four walls of a Premier Inn for 14 days!
At this point, I don't think many of us acknowledged how serious this was going to become. We watched it happening elsewhere, not realising that it was absolutely inevitable that the same would happen on our crowded island.
In February, the national mood here in the UK started to shift a bit as the virus began to spread in our country, on a small scale at first. It seems crazy now to think back to what I was doing in February, and how unconcerned we all were about it!
I'd had a busy January of wedding fairs and meetings with couples, and was looking forward to another manic year ahead. In mid-February I played at my first wedding of 2020 down in Plymouth, in the middle of Storm Ciara. It was a hair-raising journey down the M5, and it was still blowing a gale and raining just as hard on my trip back home later that evening. It was a late finish anyway, but the slow journey time due to the storm meant I didn't get in until gone 3am.
The wind was blowing so hard down on the coast that the videographer went out to get something from his car, only to find his vehicle 20 metres or so down the road from where he left it!
Anyway, back to Coronavirus, and I although I remember hearing about it in the news, I hadn't even considered the disruption that lay ahead. I, like the rest of the country, was just carrying on as normal. Little did I know that February's wedding would be the last wedding I would play at for some time...
Well, March was quite the month, wasn't it? This is when it all started happening, and the nightmare became a reality.
In Mid-March, the number of UK cases started growing quickly. In Italy, the numbers were staggering. Hundreds of deaths per day. Tens of thousands of cases. Spain looked to be on a similar trajectory, and other European countries were being hit hard. It was clear that this thing was about to hit us with the same severity - if there's one thing we've learnt, this virus doesn't discriminate. Celebrities, footballers and other public figures were testing positive - it all started to become very real.
The immediate threat seemed to be to older people, and people with underlying health conditions. A letter was sent out to all over-70's in the UK asking people to self-isolate. The government stopped short of announcing a full lockdown at this point, and for those of us in the wedding industry, this was probably the hardest time, as everything was just so uncertain.
No lockdown yet... but could weddings go ahead?
The UK government started holding a daily briefing, and advised people to avoid social situations whilst limiting their contact with other people. Steer clear of pubs, clubs and other public gatherings and work from home where possible, we were told.
But what did this mean for weddings? Our industry was thrown into chaos as us suppliers started receiving (understandably) panicked phone calls and emails from brides/grooms who wanted to know how we were reacting to it, and what they should do.
Confusion reigned supreme and there was no guidance as to what we should do. Registrars started downsizing their ceremonies and venues pondered whether to close their doors, some taking the difficult decision to close. Brides and grooms didn't know whether their Spring/Summer weddings would be able to go ahead. The financial implications were huge - people stood to lose a lot of money, as it looked like insurance companies wouldn't pay out unless the country officially went into lockdown.
It's hard to emphasise how stressful this was for everyone. I was completely overwhelmed by enquiries, most of which were understanding and perfectly reasonable, but I was juggling trying to do the right thing on a human level whilst making decisions that would seriously affect my small business. I had a few moments where the anxiety and stress hit me really hard, and I'm not ashamed to say that I cried in the arms of my amazingly supportive wife on more than one occasion!
She, meanwhile, was dealing with managing a theatre school and was due to put on two big shows, just as the situation was escalating. With roughly 150 children and their parents to deal with, a team of teachers to manage and a rapidly changing situation, she was also near the end of her tether. Our self-employed businesses faced an uncertain future.
And then, the announcement...
Glued to our TVs, phones and tablets, we watched as our usually jovial PM stern-facedly announced that we were now entering a period of lockdown.
As I watched, I recall a chill running through me. The implications of this were huge. We're incredibly lucky in the UK live in a free society. This was a completely unprecedented thing - we're being asked to stay home and isolate ourselves. No exceptions, we're not even able to see our friends and families. All these things we take for granted, suddenly our entire perspective changed and we realised - this thing is much bigger than any of us.
So that brings us up to the present day. It's April 13th as I write this, and after the fast-moving, ever-changing situation in mid to late March, it now feels as if things have settled somewhat, in my little world at least.
After the initial shock of the announcement wore off, I felt a strange feeling of relief take hold. At least now we had some certainty. Weddings would be postponed during this lockdown period, now it was a case of working out the logistics.
After initially only announcing financial help for the UK's employed workers, the government eventually launched a scheme for self-employed workers like myself. Although this will not come close to replacing my lost revenue, it will at least mean that I can continue doing this as a full-time job, assuming that we do get back to some kind of normal before too long.
The tone of my conversations with wedding couples changed from panic and uncertainty to a resigned acceptance. If there's one thing we're good at in Britain, it's our "stiff upper lip" attitude. It'll all be ok in the end! So some weddings have to be moved - it's not the end of the world. We'll deal with it, and maybe it'll be a bit later than planned, but these celebrations are going to be all the more meaningful when they end up taking place.
My lockdown life
Other than having no work at the weekends, lockdown hasn't actually had a huge impact on my day-to-day life. Yes, it's been strange not going out of the house or seeing anyone, but it's not been a huge change as I do most of my work from home anyway.
To finish this blog post I thought it would be nice to reflect on some of the positive aspects to come out of this peculiar situation we find ourselves in.
Long walks and quality time with Mrs Mac!
It's been ironic really that since this lockdown was announced, we've had an almost unprecedented spell of glorious, sunny Spring weather. I can't really remember a period in March/April when it's been so warm for so long. We've enjoyed heading out and enjoying the lovely parks in our local area, and have dined al fresco in our small garden.
In a world where work tends to dominate everything we do, it's been really nice to slow the pace of life down a little. We've done lots of gardening, done odd jobs around the home that have been put off for weeks/months, and done an almost unnatural amount of baking! I love cooking, so it's been nice to put lots of care and attention into creating delicious dinners, and we've tried to eat as healthily as possible.
An exercise a day keeps Corona away
Well, that's not entirely true, obviously, but I do think it's SUPER important to get outside and get your one form of exercise in for the day. Staying fit and healthy will definitely help keep your immune system in check, and getting exercise does wonders for your mental health. Whether it's a run, bike ride or a walk in the park, it's important to get the blood pumping and get those endorphins flowing.
I'm so glad the government stopped short of a complete lockdown and allowed us out at least once a day for some fresh air. I've enjoyed runs down by our local river, and many of you will know that I'm a passionate cyclist so have been out most days on my bike.
The distance covered has been a little shorter than usual, as I think it's important not to stray too far from home, but it's been beautiful getting out on my bike with hardly any traffic, lovely clean air and some stunning sunshine.
Getting the creative juices flowing...
One thing that's been a huge positive from having more time on my hands has been sitting down and making a list of things I want to achieve. I've started planning projects that I've just not had time for in the last few years! One of these includes FINALLY releasing a solo album of my original songs - long overdue. I'll be writing, re-writing, finishing off and recording some brand new songs over the coming months, so keep your eyes peeled for that!
One thing that's been brilliant throughout the isolation period has been the use of technology to stay connected. Using apps like Zoom, Houseparty, Whatsapp and FaceTime we've all been video calling each other to check in with friends and family. Services that we take for granted usually have become essential methods of communication.
Many of us performers have taken to live streaming performances from our own homes. While it will never take the place of a proper live performance, I've found it a really fun way to interact with people - seeing the comments come in and having people request songs in real time has been a joy! I really enjoyed my first #tuesdaytune live last week, and will be broadcasting again tomorrow at 7pm on Facebook live. Here's an HD recording of last Tuesday's performance:
Other creative projects on my list include recording the Acoustic Wedding Album volume 3 (vol 1 and 2 available here) and re-learning the piano! I've launched a brand new website:
I actually learnt to play piano before I taught myself guitar, so I've wanted to improve my piano skills for a long time. Now seems like the perfect opportunity to take some lessons and hopefully get myself up to a standard where I can start performing at weddings. I love the idea of being able to combine both instruments and give more flexibility to my wedding performances.
I'm hoping to launch this website properly in 2021, and maybe start tinkling on the ivories at my first wedding!
Community spirit and the kindness of humanity
It's been truly heartwarming to see some of the amazing tales of kindness and compassion as a result of this crisis. In all walks of life, people have been doing amazing things, from large fundraisers to small, but equally important gestures like checking your elderly neighbour is ok.
The NHS asked the general public whether they'd be willing to volunteer to help with everyday tasks, and were overwhelmed at the incredible support received! Within hours, hundreds of thousands of people signed up to register their interest in helping out. At the last count, it was about three-quarters of a million people - incredible!
The #clapforcarers movement has been wonderful - a show of appreciation for our incredible NHS health workers who are literally putting their lives on the line during this. These people are the true heroes, and once again we appreciate how incredibly thankful we are to have free universal healthcare in this country, and amazing people working to save lives.
It's also been lovely to see the outpouring of love towards usually undervalued workers like supermarket staff, delivery drivers and bin men/women, to name but a few. As a former postie, I know how important it is that these services are still running. These brilliant people are literally keeping our country moving during a time when everything else is grinding to a halt, and retaining a sense of normality when things are far from normal.
Well, I've rambled on far longer than planned, but in honesty it's been quite cathartic articulating my feelings! I do feel that it's a time when we all need to talk this through, and make time for each other.
If any of my brides/grooms (or wedding industry friends!) want a chat, do pick up the phone and we'll have a chinwag.
Take care, stay safe and look after one another.
Pat McIntyre - singer/acoustic guitarist for weddings. Bristol, UK