Life enclosed – creativity for wellbeing

PGRs Matthew McKenna and Chee Man Tang (Michael) from the Institute of Local Government Studies and the Department of Theology and Religion respectively, have been turning to music to support their mental health and wellbeing through the lockdown.

Matthew writes:

At the risk of sounding ungrateful for the privileged position I find myself in, it seems to me that I have experienced a double whammy of irony in the past few months. I finally moved out of the family home and moved to Birmingham to begin my PGR career into the study of public policy failure and just as I was beginning to settle into life at UoB, the world enters into the biggest global public policy failure seen in generations and I am back in the family home.

This has led to a drastic (and maybe permanent) restructuring of my daily routine and has required me to adapt and make peace with the psychological demands of sleeping, eating, researching and relaxing within the confines of a small selection of walls. A sense of hopelessness engulfed me to begin with (because who wants to conduct a three year PhD from their bedside desk?) but this has been mitigated through balancing my vocation as a researcher with my passion as a musician. Together with my good friend, Michael, who is also a new PGR at UoB and a talented producer, we have created the track Life Enclosed.

Although my intention was just to create for the sake of passing time and my insanity, Michael has pushed me to make it into something bigger and better than I had ever intended. Created in a depressing situation, I hope the track does not reflect my initial sense of hopelessness I was experiencing when the song was first conceived. Instead, I hope it provides some form of escapism from the daily grind of lockdown living, for this is what our hobbies and passions should provide us in times of crisis; comfort, familiarity, reflection and perspective. 

Michael writes:

Researching and writing are daily tasks for me, but finding a balanced life in the chaotic situation we find ourselves in is not easy. Although I only arrived in Birmingham from Hong Kong in January, I have decided to stay in Birmingham during the global pandemic. I based this decision on the fact that I have loved my time here and I have made friends, many from the indie music scene. Music is not just a passion for me, it is connected to my research which revolves around theology and rock music.

During the day I write about the creative landscape of rock music and its theological implications; in the evenings I contribute to this creative landscape. Yet, at the start of the lockdown I was lacking motivation with both my research and my creativity, life seemed like it was in slow motion. Then Matthew asked me to collaborate in creating music and since then my motivation has slowly returned.

I encourage anyone struggling with motivation to pick up a hobby and throw yourself at it, whilst it may seem like a distraction, once you return to your research you will find yourself motivated and refreshed. For me, music has enormously enriched my life and inner soul and I believe it has this effect on everyone. Through the creative process of making music, it empowers my inmost soul to motivate my spirit and continue my research again. We are biased and would encourage you to pick up an instrument, but if not try painting, photography, or any form of art.

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