Some two months ago now, many of you will remember my piece for Yorkshire Bylines, ‘Becoming a second-class citizen in a financial crisis: a personal tale’. It told the story of how, after having become unemployed at the end of July following the completion of the funding stream and project that had in the main paid my salary, I had reluctantly accepted the need to claim universal credit.
Becoming a second-class citizen
I have found the entire process totally depressing and demoralising and the longer it has gone on the worse and scarier it has felt. Plans have had to go by the wayside due to the cost, meaning the connection with family and friends is reduced, only increasing the sense of isolation and impending doom. Every visit to the supermarket has seen an increase in the price of many staple foods. I have, though, become an expert shopper and often find myself thinking ‘why didn’t I buy that in the past?’
The worst moment was probably when the picture of my smart TV went completely, as usual just after the warranty expired. It still sits in its accustomed position until it can be repaired or replaced, but that won’t be any time soon. For now I have attached a laptop to a monitor and this works, and I have begun to listen to a lot more music.
I must admit I love Christmas; I always have. This year is going to be different though. Presents will have to be reduced significantly, as will the festive food and drink. These may all seem like trivial things, and no different to the actions hundreds of thousands of people are having to take in the teeth of this present financial crisis. My problem, and it may be true for others in this situation, is that you come to a point where you cannot see a way out of it.
Getting back into the workplace
As I highlighted in my previous article, job hunting has been the most demoralising part of the entire process. Four months ago, I was running a thriving multi-purpose heritage building as well as being involved in many other cultural and community activities and events. Now? Well, it reached the stage where I had applied for over two dozen positions, had undertaken interviews for two jobs (both of which went to internal candidates) and yet, I was still without employment. You really do begin to think it is your fault.
I enrolled on all sorts of potentially useful online courses (run by the Reed Employment’s ‘Jets’ programme). They were worthwhile and informative, but the rejections kept coming. Eventually these people began to admit that it was more than likely my age and the commuting distance (I don’t drive) which was a factor, something I had probably been aware of all along. The situation occasionally made me want to pack it in, but that’s not me.
It was one night in late October that was to change things. It came in the form of a suggestion from a friend in a late evening text message. “I have been thinking, you have lots of skills, contacts, friends, and experience in the heritage and writing fields. What could you do if you were self-employed?”
I didn’t sleep much that night.
For those who don’t know, for several years I have run the ‘History and Heritage Yorkshire’ Twitter site. My aim was to bring the county’s amazing backstory to a wider audience. Along the way I have been fortunate to gain a brilliant group of followers who have supported and encouraging and have willingly shared their own knowledge and experiences.
With this background – and with the support of a good friend who is also very tech savvy – I formulated the idea of producing an online magazine of the same name as the Twitter site. Once the ball started rolling it almost careered out of control, but with the stabilising brakes applied it is now progressing well.
I have been helped both by the Jets programme and by the local job centre, but mainly by an amazing group of friends, writers, historians, and others. All of which means that on Friday 2 December, the first ever edition of History and Heritage Yorkshire magazine will be published. I am excited. I don’t know whether it will work, and I realise that it is going to be a slow process, but I had to do something. Finances are still a problem and will remain so, but at least I’m moving forward (the situation was driving me mad).
I have also managed to obtain some freelance work with a theatre company, something I want to build on over the next year. And I do have a small safety net of universal credit for a year. But my energies are primarily being poured into the new magazine now. I know it is an excellent product, with interesting and entertaining articles. If you’re interested and in a position to support me in this endeavour, the magazine (together with access to two podcasts and a heritage walk) can be is accessed via our Patreon Page for a subscription of just £4 per month. Or for those wanting to support this new venture for a year at £30, please email [email protected] by 14 December.
It is the support of many, many people who have helped me through these last few months and I’ll be forever grateful. And before anyone asks – yes, I will still be writing on heritage and culture for Yorkshire Bylines. Without the experience I have gained through the Bylines Network, I wouldn’t have even considered the idea. I’m optimistic for where this will all now lead.