BLOG: Wellbeing for the Arts and reflecting on Arron Hough
When I decided to start a theatre blog. I wanted it to be a love letter to theatre. I intended to celebrate theatre and comment on anything related to the industry that has affected me.
I realised that there would be highs and lows but I wanted it to be positive.
I didn’t expect such heart-breaking news to be the topic of my first blog since its launch.
I officially launched this blog on Christmas Day, an achievement of three months of planning in secrecy with the support of some amazing friends and have been encouraged by the reaction and warmth with which it has been received.
I had an incredible Christmas and Boxing Day. I spent Christmas Day in Cumbria with my family and watched Mamma Mia 2, spotting Stagey friends.
I spent Boxing Day in my home town with some close school friends, in a tradition we have every year, where we meet up eat lots of food and play board games and usually talk about all their children and my escapades as a single gay man living in London.
I went to bed, staying over at my friend’s in her daughter’s princess bed with her Elsa and Anna dolls. With a full heart and a full stomach thanks to all the dessert and company of my friends that evening.
I then received a devastating text message from my ex boyfriend Marc, a musical theatre graduate from Urdang Academy who had recently returned himself from working as a performer on a Fred Olsen cruise liner.
Marc had read the tragic news about a young performer named Arron Hough who had fallen overboard from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship on Christmas Day.
As the news began to filter through the industry and social media, it became apparent how many people it was affecting.
I didn’t know Arron, but he was the year below Marc at Urdang, and was the client of a friend of mine.
Marc’s experience on a cruise ship has been a positive one. I was worried for his safety before he started the job as well as his sanity. Being away from home and isolated for so long for the first time in his life.
Marc went on to thoroughly enjoy his experience working on a ship, with his intentions to return for a second season later next year. For him, his story turned out well.
For others, I have heard and know stories from people who have found working on cruise ships incredibly difficult. It may seem the most glamorous experience, but like the dark icy seas these ships sail over, beneath the surface for these individuals the experiences can vary; often conflicting with the perception we get when we see the sunny Instagram pics they post from these exotic destinations.
The outpouring of love and messages of hope and support regarding Arron, shows the industry at its best, coming together in support and comradery.
It is also a poignant reminder to look out for each other, especially our friends, to pay closer attention to their needs and wellbeing and never take for granted what people might be struggling with.
Last April, Tom Keeling and Sian Willet set up “Wellbeing for the Arts” a social network and initiative to knock down walls, stigma, and barriers which prevent us from reaching out to each other. They host bi-monthly meet ups which enable people to come together and talk or just feel supported.
Tom says “Sian and I created Wellbeing for the Arts so that anyone in our industry could come and experience a safe and loving space to be themselves. Somewhere to learn wellbeing techniques like mindfulness/meditation or some yoga or other exercises to just deepen self-enquiry.”
Their mission being to “make our industry (and ideally world) a more loving, kind and tolerant place to work”.
You can find out more about the “Wellbeing for the Arts” website by joining their Facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1147779342030452/?ref=share
Or follow them on Twitter.
The search for Arron was suspended by the US coast guard after crews covered more than 3,700 square miles and searched for a combined total of 83 hours.
Commander Christopher Douglas said: "Suspending a search is one of the most difficult decisions we have to make as first responders, and it is never made lightly. We've been in contact with members of Mr Hough's family throughout our search efforts and know this is a very difficult and painful time for them.”
My thoughts go out to all of Arron’s friends, his family, his agent Russell, and everyone who served with him on the Harmony of the Seas.
*Since publishing this blog a charitable fund has been set up for the family of Arron Hough. If you would like to donate towards this the link is: