In our new series 'Postcards From Places You Probably Won't Go This Year', we talk to our creative friends around the globe about what COVID-saturated life is like in some of the biggest cities in the world right now. (Spoiler alert: weird.) This week, we visit London via Sarah Williams.
A freelance producer, curator and art buyer, Sarah Williams is the brains behind London-based creative global arts consultancy Soho Curious & Co. This experience, along with her background in advertising, photography and art lead her to co-found Darklight Art, an online platform that sells small edition prints from visual artists around the world.
Sarah talks to us about the artist formerly known as London and her nostalgia for mosh pits from her flat in southwest London.
Where are you right now?
Sitting in my bright yellow kitchen in very leafy Richmond, London.
What COVID restrictions are you living with in London at the moment?
The worst. We’re in full lockdown and have been for… actually I can’t even remember how long for. We are allowed out once a day for a walk and essentials. Pubs, restaurants, sports centres and galleries are all closed, however you can get take-away food and drink. Being mid-winter here it’s been dark from 4pm, so it’s been particularly brutal.
What did you do on Saturday?
A friend came to Richmond and we went for a very ice cold walk by the river and got a take-away coffee. The ground was frozen and people were sliding around on the flood plains in the fields - you’ve got to get the small pleasures when you can these days!
How would you say Londoners are coping with the restrictions?
Without a doubt everyone is really struggling. There are a lot of anxiety and mental health issues. People have stopped communicating with each other because of what has become known as ‘Covid Burnout’ - just low motivation, lethargy and hibernation. We are all DYING to have a drink in a pub with our friends. But it’s not been all bad. There have been some amazing relationships, businesses and personal journeys that have come out in the past year. The best of humanity and community really has shown itself. We’ve learnt a lot and I hope we will take that all forward with us.
What’s it like walking around the city at the moment?
In Central London it’s very quiet. Not many people live there, so there’s no reason to be there. The suburbs are busier with people out and about exercising with their families and dogs.
Oxford Circus Tube Station
Can you describe a typical day for you pre-COVID?
It’s crazy when I think about it now actually. I was ALWAYS rushing. I’d travel for about an hour into central London for meetings on a bus, a train and the London Underground. When I wasn’t meeting people I’d be working out of Soho House. I’d buy an overpriced sandwich and spend about £20 on coffees. I’d rush across town to the gym. Pick up some food on the way home and finally crash on my sofa at 9pm exhausted.
And what about now?
I live on my own at the moment, so I’ve found it’s been really important to keep a routine. I always get up early and when I have the motivation I do some exercise. I have a chat to my cat, which I think I appreciate more than he does... Have a healthy breakfast and start work. I’m lucky, one of my closest friends is my business partner and we have a morning call which usually starts off with ‘how are you feeling today?’ and we go through personal stuff first then we get on with work. We have literally had conversations that go ‘I’ve had a cry and some CBD oil so I think I’m good to start work now.’ She’s been a life saver! She’s based in Amsterdam so we sit on Zoom or WhatsApp all day, sometimes not even talking, but at least we feel like we’re in the same room. In the afternoon I’ve been getting out for a long walk and by the time I’m back it’s usually dark. In the evenings I cook, speak to friends, read, watch something trashy on TV and go to bed.
How do you think the creative world of London is faring?
When tragedy strikes in the world, the creatives really come into their own. Some of the best artworks, trends and brands have sprung up in the darkest times. So a lot of amazing new creative businesses have appeared (my own included!) Obviously there have been casualties, but it’s been amazing to see some artists and businesses flourish. I was speaking to graphic artist Anthony Burrill a few weeks ago and he said last year was his best ever for print sales. So I think if you were able to adapt or happened to do something which suited lockdown life, then it’s worked out ok.
Carnaby Street, Soho
Can you describe London after dark at the moment?
Central London is a ghost town. There have been some very enterprising places that have blossomed though, for example the deli on my street that has started selling way more produce and doing take-away coffees, and are now one of the busiest food shops locally.
When was the last time you caught up with friends in London and what did you do?
In September. I met a friend in Soho and we went for dumplings and sat outside in the sun - at that stage you could eat outside in restaurants. It was really lovely just to be around people getting on with their lives.
What are you looking forward to this year?
When I go for a walk and I have my headphones in a song will often come on that throws me into a fantasy of being in a sweaty mosh pit at a summer festival. Leaping up and down surrounded by my besties, shouting the lyrics. DANCING. That is what I’m looking forward to.
Darklight Art is an online platform selling small edition prints from a selection of visual artists, designed for a new generation of art collectors. Darklight Art wants to break down the walls of the art world and make art accessible and inclusive for everyone, and believes that art has the power to have a positive impact on mental health. A percentage of all profits from Darklight go to Young Minds, the UK’s leading charity committed to improving the emotional wellbeing of young people.