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The year that was | Creative Feel’s editor-in-chief reflects on a year of publishing during a pandemic

As this year draws to a close, our editor-in-chief, Lore Watterson, reflects on a year of innovative publishing during a pandemic, and highlights a few of her favourite projects and pieces featured on Creative Feel this year. 

The year that was

Creative Feel editor-in-chief

Closing the doors on one of the most extraordinary years of our lives, I cannot help but agree with John Lennon’s lyrics in his song, Beautiful Boy, ‘Life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans.’
     This certainly happened to us here, to the Creative Feel team. We started off with the most amazing plans for 2020 and were busy with the content for all our print issues throughout 2020. We had just agreed on some wonderful partnerships, like William Kentridge’s The Head and the Load, with performances in Johannesburg; partnering with the big Art Fairs and galleries, sharing the music with SA’s outstanding orchestras, reviewing extraordinary dance, theatre, and looking at student theatre, taking part in the National Arts Festival, and partnering with the annual BASA awards, when the lights got turned off and stages all over the world became dark.
     With the lockdown at the end of March, we started working from home, or, as one of our supporters said, we started ‘sleeping at work’. Even now, all these months later, we still do just that. But we adapted while life certainly happened to all of us – a different life, a challenging life, and a life never before experienced in the arts. We had to act fast to adjust to a new life that somehow seemed to happen only in virtual space, but at a very fast pace. We all had to find ways of sustaining a livelihood, and, in particular, helping our artists to survive, to earn some badly needed compensation for their work.

In response to all this, Creative Feel set up a portal that allows artists to continue performing and creative spaces to stay open to the “virtual” public through live streams, live events and forums. Through ticketing and donations, these virtual events bring in a much-needed income for these spaces and for the artists, through to today and into a still uncertain future. We have been able to show online what South African artists are capable of and what extraordinary work is being done.

Right from the beginning, this portal has been generously supported by many of our long-time clients who use the Creative Feel Virtual Events Portal to share and support the arts community during these difficult days and beyond. With their help and a special COVID-19 relief grant we managed to grow the site through hard and dedicated work by the whole team and, in particular, by our great Digital Content Curator, Angelia, who did not even sleep at work – she simply did not sleep until it was up and running. Today we all continue to dedicate our energy to this new portal and the statistics reflect the success of this wonderful engagement. Chris, my fellow publisher, managed to keep the high interest of our readers in the special new Creative Feel Virtual Vault and shared so much about South African heritage and culture with us all. The special lists we have compiled here show the most successful postings across the portal during this challenging year, the year that was.

Digital publishing is very different to print and it was amazing how Creative Feel adapted to this challenge. It educated all of us along the way and we managed to make it fun. There is so much more than just posting on our site, there are the dedicated newsletters we send out that keep our readers informed, and social media also needs constant attention and engagement. The pace is much faster and the ‘turn-around’ time of getting information out there is so much quicker.

In the middle of all this scramble for change and hard-fought success, we had to bid farewell to our editor, Tammy, as she took up a position elsewhere after seven years here with Creative Feel and we want to record our gratitude for all her sterling contributions. We were really fortunate to persuade David Mann, our long-time contributor, to take on the challenge of being editor and he has stepped so very successfully into that position. Thuli, our dedicated interface with our community, has had (and still has) a challenging task to promote business for our portal. It is the same old story: If it’s on the Internet, it must surely be free? Certainly, we are not the only ones experiencing this phenomenon, as media worldwide have had to deal with this problem.
     To keep communications flowing with e-mails, WhatsApp and Zoom is the norm today and I wonder if we will ever go back to the old way of working, all together in an office. Are we planning to go back to print? What does the future hold in 2021? I think I have to go back to John Lennon, (who actually would have celebrated his 80th birthday during lockdown; it was on the 8th of December 40 years ago that he died) and certainly to agree with his words: ‘Life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans.’
     Let us see what life is going to be like for us all in 2021. I for one hope most of all that a successful Covid-19 vaccine is made available to everyone, and very soon! Some of our obituaries, and my own personal experiences during 2020, were sad and so hard to cope with.
     Wishing you all a special restful break. We will see you all in 2021 with new energy, new ideas and, please, Keep Safe, Stay Healthy, and Take Care.
     – Lore

Lore Watterson’s 2020 Creative Feel highlights:

Before the pandemic and the postponement of The Head & the Load, I conducted a rich and insightful interview with William Kentridge about the project.

Standard Bank Gallery’s virtual gallery tour, because it was one of the very first complete virtual gallery postings.

Blessing Ngobeni’s Chaotic Pleasure which spoke truth to historical and present-day systems of power and oppression.

Following the JPO Virtual Spring Symphony Season, we spoke with JPO CEO Bongani Tembe who told us to ‘Never waste a crisis’.

Theatre projects that seized the opportunity to create during lockdown, such as Hlakanyana, an Afrofuturistic moulding together of traditional folklore and contemporary issues and styling.

Anifa Mvuemba’s virtual fashion show was a wonderful creative experience that we just had to feature on our Virtual Events page.

To celebrate Women’s Month, the Creative Feel team spoke to some of the women making RMB Turbine Art Fair happen.

The launch of UJ Gallery’s Moving Cube is providing access to arts education through virtual platforms and expanding the range of sensory engagement. We chatted to their debut featured artist Willem Boshoff, which you can read about here.

The 23rd BASA Awards did a wonderful job at adapting a full ceremony to the virtual realm. We loved the dedicated micro-site they put up, too.

All of the Life Under Lockdown interviews we did with various South African artists and arts practitioners were a definite highlight of the year.

Our Virtual Vault became a wonderful repository of South Africa’s cultural and natural history.

Our partnership with the National Arts Festival, which went virtual in 2020, and gained a new CEO, Monica Newton, and new artistic director, Rucera Seethal.

Finally, 2020 saw us beginning our exciting partnership with the My Body My Space: Performing Arts Festival. Look out for the first ‘festival on your phone’ in 2021!

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