Community Reporter for Covid 19, Dianna Djokey, interviews Roni Edwards, the creative director of Pamodzi Creatives, mother, and person of colour, about her work in the arts sector and how she navigated the pandemic when Covid began to affect her creative practice. This is part one of a two part series.
Dianna Djokey: Can you tell me a little bit about your practice and what you do as a creative?
Roni Edwards: I’m a creative director to a Community Interest Company [Pamodzi Creatives] and that has three strands to it. We do creative community work where I collaborate with local artists based on a social theme, and then there’s the Inspirational Women Of Portsmouth Project that looks to creatively celebrate the women of Portsmouth. It also has an awards night linked to [it] which involves a lot of artists being profiled and celebrated. The third strand is working within schools. So we look to work with artists to deliver creative projects.
How has COVID affected your practice and how you’ve been able to work?
The main impact has been our work with schools. Because of our dance strand, schools can’t facilitate physical space, so there’s been a major loss of income. I haven’t worked within schools since March because of lockdown. This has been a challenge because I wasn’t able to do the collaborative kind of work I do with young people. And then, in terms of the Inspirational Women project and the community project we’ve just had to revise our timescales on what we wanted to achieve. Things have been delayed by three to four months.
As your creative work is delayed, what other means do you have to get by?
I’m surviving by working in Morrisons. I do shelf-stacking for three nights a week. And that’s kind of helped tide me over in terms of my personal finances. With my company the grants that we were hoping to apply for are just not there anymore. We had a plan that should have been in the second year of our three-year business plan in terms of grant applications.
That’s just come to an abrupt stop. The Inspirational Women of Portsmouth project is not going to look the same and we’re not likely to be able to have an event for it, because the sponsors and the funding are no longer available. We’ve been able to go ahead with the apprenticeship scheme because the college that I was working with has been gracious enough to help on the cost of it. As of now we’ve delivered the Creative Transitions School project and been able to start on a podcast and film project on men’s mental [health] but this has now been interrupted with the second lockdown.
Has the pandemic forced you to think differently about how you approach your creative practice, and if so how?
I can’t comment on my dance delivery because I’ve not had a chance to put changes in practice, and actually, I still don’t have a full outline of what the safeguarding requirements are for my dance delivery in schools, delivering dance in three schools and [being] able to maintain creative exploration as the classes work in safeguarded bubbles.
So what you’re finding is that with your creative practice, you’re having to find different new ways of connecting?
Yes, and in terms of moving forward, we’re looking at how we can collaborate with other organizations that have got a little bit more funding to do an event; and whether we have an Inspirational Women of Portsmouth event in partnership as opposed to doing so on our own. The project will take place online, supported by a crowdfund application.
When it came to working at Morrisons how did you find it? Was it hard to make that shift?
Oh, no, not at all. I’m just grateful for the chance to be earning some money. The job came up after like three months of no income at all, so I’m nothing but grateful for the opportunity. I don’t care what it is. I get to feed my kids. So there was not an inner dialogue about this isn’t creative enough for me. I’m like, I’m going to be the best bloody shelf stacker they’ve got out there, as far as I’m concerned. Why would you have an issue with it? It’s paying the rent and hopefully, that’s coming across with the work I’m doing in Morrisons. I’m making sure it’s of excellence. I don’t care what it is, it needs to be of excellence.
And I’ve got to be dependable, at the end of the day, it’s about feeding my kids. That’s all there is to it. My kids need to have food on the table as they want, and I need to pay my rent. I’m totally grateful for it.
S&C has been awarded funding from the European Journalism Centre Covid-19 Support Fund to explore the social impact of Covid-19 on diverse communities and sectors in Portsmouth:
- voluntary sector, including charities, community groups and social enterprises
- small businesses and self-employed people
- BAME communities
- people with disabilities
We have also been awarded funding from the Public Interest News Foundation Emergency Fund to explore the social impact of Covid-19 on migrants, and asylum seekers and refugees.