There is no doubt that 2020 was a devastating time on so many levels. For small organisations and self-employed practitioners like ourselves things looked very bleak for quite a while. Participant numbers fell away rapidly, freelance work dried up completely and community projects had to be shelved. Being very much a person-to-person practice, lockdown wasn’t looking good for us. Lack of income forced us to give up our studio, and we also had to close down our fundraising company.
On the other hand, being faced with restrictions forced us to be creative. We embraced Zoom early on, although that brought with it a considerable learning curve and technical difficulties we hadn’t foreseen. We lost a lot of participants who couldn’t or didn’t want to fathom the technology, but we also gained some from further afield than would otherwise have been possible. We were able to combine some groups that wouldn’t have been possible when they were located geographically, so we were able to streamline our practice.
We changed our business model, going from separate classes with individual fees to a complete programme with a monthly subscription. A year on, we feel this enables us to offer a more rounded service, which people can tailor to their individual needs and timescales. It means that, although our customer base has shrunk considerably, it has become a community in itself which fits nicely with our community-minded values.
We changed the way we structure sessions, recognising that online interaction is different to in-person and we have come think that doesn’t mean either is better or worse – they’re just different. At first we tried to continue to do what we had done in person online, but we have now evolved a different way of working for the virtual format. Another discovery was the value of making video and audio recordings to support the live sessions. We hadn’t considered this before, but we now find it’s a great way to add value to the monthly subscription.
The most fundamental change is still in progress. Having our own studio will mean improvements in the way we deliver the online programme. It will give us a better space to deliver sessions and record our practice videos, and when it’s safe to do so, we will be able to work in-person with individuals for practice sessions and personal therapy. The new location also offers scope for walking therapy as well as talking therapy and movement therapy, it will be a place to refresh and re-build from. Covid-19 changed the shape of our practice completely. While weren’t unhappy with the old one, and we certainly wouldn’t have wished for the pandemic to happen, we are really excited by the new shape that is evolving.
(pic: early bloomers at the studio – symbols of regeneration)