May 2020

When All This Is Over: The lyrics are in!
22 May 2020

When All This Is Over: Catch up on lyric contributions

In preparation for writing the virtual choral anthem When All This Is Over, I asked people from all over the South West to answer two questions: What are you longing to do once lockdown is completely over? And what do you think you’ll miss that has been surprisingly good about this time?

A deluge of imagery and ideas came back. Although inevitably I haven’t been able to use them all in the song, they’ve all been hugely inspirational in helping me form the final lyrics. You can find them all below. Thank you all so much!

The next step is under way, I’m frantically writing the song, ready to upload the rehearsal tracks for participants to learn on 29 May. At which point – get learning!

Thomas Johnson.


What are you longing to do once the lockdown is completely over?

Meet up with friends, visit my family, give everyone ENORMOUS hugs 🙂

To shake a hand, to hug a friend and perform in a theatre, LIVE.

I want to feel the waves at my feet, to smell the ocean and walk along the shore.

After the  lockdown I am longing to hug and kiss my grandchildren on the beach with the sun and the sea, then I am going to sing, sing, sing with real people.

I’m longing to hug all of my best friends and people I know who have been alone.

To lie in bed with my partner who I haven’t seen in 8 weeks and just to be snuggled.

I cannot wait to hug my friends when this is over.

I am longing to put my arm around a good friend’s shoulder. When the moment takes me. Without a second thought. Casually.

I am longing to see my family and friends and have a big old party to catch up.

I’m longing to hug my friends and tell them in person how much they mean to me.

I’m longing to see my family after living in Bermuda for the last 12 years, I made it to Glastonbury but couldn’t quite get to Taunton to see them before they had to isolate.

Go to the theatre with friends.

I’m looking forward to finally dropping my toddler off with his grandparents and spending a whole day to myself.

To be held in the arms of my most loved but separated person, strongly and for some time.

I long to share in what has become a most rare and precious gem – to join in touch with the people I love – a hand to hold, a kiss on the cheek, or a hug to treasure – I long for the physical contact that unites us beyond measure.

I can’t wait to connect with people in person: physically embrace my loved ones, travel to other cities and make strangers into friends, shake a hand, feel a hug, give someone a reassuring pat on the shoulder.

I’m desperate for a self-care treat like a sauna and swim.

I actually can’t wait to be stuck in traffic (as we always are) driving to visit my in-laws miles away- we always sing silly songs and play games with the kids!

Going to a café and travelling!

I can’t wait to jump into the sea and just float there for a while.

Have wholehearted hugs with the people I love.

I’ll miss allowing myself ample time to get things done and taking time out each day to meditate and reflect: things that often get overlooked or de-prioritised when faced with a busy schedule.

I can’t wait to see my grandparents and give them a massive hug. Also to get back to school, and see all my friends. But the first place I want to go to eat is McDonald’s!

Walking on Devon’s beautiful coastal paths and having a hearty pub lunch on route.

I really want to take the kids to the beach again and feel the sun on my face and the cold water around my feet, whilst building a sand castle.

To throw my solitary arms around my wonderful son and daughter, to hug and hold them really tight, and to shower them in a crazy blaze of touch and talk and laughter and love.

I am looking forward to pouring pints again!

I am longing to sing along in the car with my 7 year old grandson.

I am longing to hug my 94 year old Mum who is 300 miles away from me in Wales, and to tell her that I love her.

I’m looking forward to being able to travel to a coast with my caravan and enjoy the sunshine amid the bustle and friendliness of a campsite. Preferably the Med, but Cornwall or Wales would do!

Go to the pub, queue at the bar, elbows jostling merrily and order a beer, only just hearing the bar person’s response.

I want to be able to walk down the aisles of the supermarket and not worry about standing close to a stranger, because, I think in the future, I will be more likely to speak to them than I was before lockdown.

I am longing to feel the sand beneath my toes, and the sea breeze on my face, and to freely embrace those I love without letting go!!!

To hug. And to hold… So tightly you can feel them breathing. Feel their heart beating. A human infusion.

Once lockdown is completely over I am longing to spontaneously hold my loved ones’ hands again without hesitating in fear for them and myself.

Return to my local boxing club. Sport is very important to me, what will an Exeter Chiefs game be like without the roar of the crowd?

Enjoy a cold pint in a pub garden, bathing in the warmth of the golden summer sun and the comfort of convivial company, surrounded by the gentle babble of strangers talking.

I’m longing for a freshly pulled pint of Bristol Beer Factory real ale at the Lazy Dog – or any other pub for that matter!

I’m longing to stop Zooming!

I’m longing to sit at a feasting table with the glowing faces of my whole family, sister, brothers in law, sons and grandparents.

When lockdown is over I want to run down the high street, hugging strangers at two metre intervals – if they’ll let me of course.

I am looking forward to hugging and spending quality time with my mother, she is 96 years young.

My son coming to visit, and seeing my friends again.

I am longing to see and hold my daughter.

Hugging my friends walking and talking up close, sharing a meal with them.

Going back to a small village in the mountains to a place that feels like home.

To hug someone, hold a hand, stroke a face, is a yearning to have in tomorrow’s world.

I’m longing to thread my way through the bustling crowds of humanity at Chennai Central Station to catch the 6.00 a.m. Shatabdi Express to meet my Indian in-laws in Mysore.


What do you think you’ll miss that has been surprisingly good about this time?

The treasure troves outside half the houses here as everyone is decluttering and offering stuff for free.

Pollution, lack of traffic and silence.

The peace, the tranquillity, the sound of the birds. The camaraderie felt as we all heed those words… stay safe.

I loved the lockdown, I loved the peace, the safety, the kindness of strangers and the warmth and care of a community together.

But I will definitely miss wearing only pyjamas!

I will miss my children’s laughter inside the house and the riot of birdsong outside it.

I’ll miss this really special quality time that we’ve been able to have with my two little boys and my partner.

The quiet roads and the friendly neighbours.

I’m going to miss the free time to reflect after this lockdown, it’s made me value my family.

The relaxing of time, no stressful rushes out of the door for school and work.

I’ve really enjoyed gardening again, something I just haven’t had time for before.

The scent of trees and blossom on my early morning run, drinking in the pure air.

We don’t have a garden so I’ve started arranging flowers – colourful bursts and sprays of them all over the flat – roses, lilies, tulips, peonies. It’s been good to enjoy their colours and shapes more closely than before, to witness their blooming and also to notice how they decay too, and to learn how much beauty there is in that. Then to pop off the flowers’ petals, dry them out on the windowsill for a few days and add them into my daily baths. I’ll miss having the time each and every day just to lie there – soaking, submerged and serene – simply watching my home-dried petals floating on the surface of the water.

I’ll miss the hope and idea that humanity might make radical changes once it has had time to collectively rest and reflect.

Dancing and singing in my pyjamas while I’m ‘at work!’ 

Spending time with my cat Brian and being able to finally diet 🙂

Being at peace with doing absolutely nothing.

The chance to breathe, pause, reflect which has nourished my soul.

The best thing is spending time with my Mum, Dad and Brother. Getting up early to watch the sunrise over Dartmoor, it was amazing.

Access to free online courses, performances, dance classes and singing opportunities.

The amazingly creative and helpful ‘keep the children occupied’ ideas on the facebook Family Lockdown Tips and Ideas group.

The welcome hush of the traffic-free Bristol streets where blackbirds call through the quickening air and where I dream, at least for a while during gloriously sunny April days, of a kinder and more sustainable world. 

I will miss the time I’ve had to learn to juggle.

I will miss having socially distanced chats with all the lovely people who have been walking past my isolated house whilst taking their daily exercise.

I’ll really miss the company of my 3 children – they’re young adults (2 are students and normally away from home), and we’ve been playing chess together (not something we’ve ever done before), and they’ve been singing and playing guitar together. It’s been like an extended holiday of the type we will not get to do anymore now that they’ve effectively flown the nest.

When all this is over I will miss doing nothing and not feeling guilty.

How peaceful it’s been out there, quiet streets, bird song and insect sounds having a chance: everything a little slower and more manageable.

The clear skies without any plane vapour trails.

I will miss the stillness and calm that lockdown has brought (yes we’ve had chaos and tantrums with three children at home, but life has had a slower pace).

Lockdown granted me time. Permission granted.

The simplicity of waking. And wondering…. time not only to sow my radish seeds, but to really watch them grow.

I’ve moved back in with my parents and brother for the lockdown and I’ve spent more time with them in the past few months than I have since I left for uni six years ago – I’ll miss the comfort of the routine we’ve built together and the chance to spend time with them.

Working from home. Having my 7 year old son as a work colleague and having tea breaks with my wife in the garden.

The tight bonds, formed out of necessity and struggle but also a shared feeling of the essentialness of our work, between my colleagues at the hospital.

I’ll miss living in a quieter city – bird song and clear skies.

The sunshine, you just know it’s not going to last once lockdown’s over.

Having the time to see the world around me move from winter to summer on my daily walks.

What I’ll really miss is ‘being’ without working, at 50 this has been my early ‘retirement rehearsal’ and boy! it’s been good..

I will miss having my family around at all times, and not having to rush around doing things which now seem unnecessary.

The lovely quiet roads outside my house and peaceful walks.

I will miss the fact that eating custard out of a tin with a glass of wine for lunch is seen as perfectly normal.

I will miss the relief of just having time to be, not  being able to plan anything just to allow time to pass with no sense of urgency or the feeling that I should be achieving something wonderful, just having time to walk and be with my wife and myself.

Days that fold into each other, holding my boy so close as though my life depended on it.

To hear bird song, bees buzz, trees rustle; these may be lost ‘back’ in tomorrow’s world?

I will miss not fretting about whether I’ve packed everything I need for the regular commute from Bristol to Amsterdam.



15 May 2020

The Time Is Now commission: Jump, Fall, Fly to release film about mental health in lockdown

As part of our Time Is Now commissions, visual theatre/circus company Jump Fall Fly are set to release Boom!, a short film exploring mental health in this time of lockdown. Using circus, original music and stunning visuals, Boom! follows an extraordinary day in the life of a young person and tells a story about a key-worker relative. The film invites the audience to embark on a magical journey through the conscious mind, exploring ideas around connection, curiosity, loss, hope and love.

“We like to make shows that matter. Through a slightly surreal and heightened representation, we’re exploring what it’s like inside the brain and offering a creative starting point for discussions about our mental health.”

Lehla Eldridge and Anthony Eldridge-Rogers, founders of Jump, Fall, Fly

The short film will be released in early June 2020 on our website and on jumpfallfly.com. Soon after the company hope to run a series of workshops with young people in Devon about creativity and wellbeing.

Boom! is one of five new projects recently supported by Exeter Northcott through The Time is Now commissions. Other projects include: a virtual choir singing an anthem called When All this is Over, a series of podcasts about creativity in rural communities; an interactive game taking place around Exeter and a digital installation playing with the state of ‘hanging around’.

Looking for Singers! The Time is Now commission
11 May 2020

We’re looking for participants for The Time Is Now virtual choir!

As part of Exeter Northcott’s The Time is Now commissions, composer Thomas Johnson is asking the South West’s locked-down community to consider what they are longing to do once lockdown is over and what they might miss which has been unexpectedly good about this time.

Thomas will turn people’s responses into a brand-new fully-formed song, complete with harmonies. With the help of backing tracks (and sheet music for anyone who’d find it useful), anyone can join in by learning the song and sending in a video of themselves singing. Thomas will then mix all entries together to create a virtual choir singing a digital anthem for our time.

“This will be a digital performance for now and for posterity, expressing our hopes and fears, as we live, together but apart, through this unsettling stutter in history.”
– Thomas Johnson

It’s so important we come together as a community and find creative ways to try to understand what’s happening in our lives and in our region. This is an invitation to anyone in the South West, no matter what level of singing experience you have, to take part.

We’re also making plans for the choir to sing together live at Exeter Northcott Theatre once it re-opens after lockdown. We can’t wait to see the Northcott back open and full of people from our community singing loud and proud!

Interested in taking part?

Follow the following steps:

Step 1
First of all, please consider your response to two questions:

What are you longing to do, once lockdown is completely over?

What do you think you’ll miss that has been surprisingly good about this time?

Please write just one sentence in response to each question. We’re looking for colourful and vivid responses!

Then send it to thetimeisnow@exeternorthcott.co.uk by 11pm on Tuesday 19 May.

Step 2
On 29 May, we’ll email you and give you access to the song, sheet music (if you find that useful, if not  – don’t worry) and your part. You will need to learn your part and take a video of yourself singing. A simple recording made with your phone is all that is needed – nothing too technical!

You’ll need to upload your recording by 11 June.

Thomas will then edit all your videos together to create a virtual choir.  The song will be published on our website on 22 June.


I don’t have any singing experience, can I join in?

Yes, absolutely. You don’t need any experience at all.  We will provide sheet music only for those who might find it useful.

How many people can take part?

We want lots of people to take part but we can’t work with more than 50 videos. We will select on a first-come-first-served basis and will let everyone know when we’ve reached capacity.

Will I perform this live?

We would love When All This Is Over to be performed live once the Northcott re-opens. You are not obliged to do this if you take part in the digital choir but we’d like as many people as possible to participate in the staged performance.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Kelly Johnson, Marketing & Development Director at the Northcott: k.johnson2@exeter.ac.uk.

05 May 2020

A poignant message about isolation #ItsInOurHands

Fifty years after it was first performed on the Northcott’s stage, Robert Lindsay has recorded a speech from The Roses of Eyam, which he says feels more poignant now than ever:

“It’s an extraordinary story of isolation and survival thanks to the bravery of the community.”

The Roses of Eyam is a historical drama by Don Taylor about The Great Plague that swept Britain in 1665/66. In the play, families shut themselves away in their homes fearing that contact with others will invite the infection. Many die but the villagers’ self-isolation finally proves successful; they adapt and continue until no other cases of plague are found in the country.

In Lindsay’s recording the speech ends with a rallying call to come together to defeat the infection:

From today until the plague is over this village must be enclosed.
We will draw a boundary line of stones around us and until we are sure that the plague has finished its work here, that line must never be crossed.
I can see the fear in your faces. There is fear in my heart too. We are all liars if we don’t confess it.
But with your help, we can win.
We can give our enemy the bare minimum of sacrifice he demands.
The time is now.
And the answer is in your hands.


Daniel Buckroyd, Artistic Director & Chief Executive:

“Sometimes we must look to the past in order to consider our future. This year marks the 50th anniversary of this play’s first performance and yet it feels startlingly relevant now. As with every theatre grappling with the current crisis, we are adapting our plans, supporting and being supported by our local community.  I very much hope that we’ll be able to embark on a community production of The Roses of Eyam in the coming year. These are dark days but we are determined that the theatre will return stronger to give voice to those in our community and brighten up our lives.”

We recently unveiled plans to undertake a two-year project to engage the community in our archive and received £143,000 in National Lottery funding to allow Devon communities to delve into the archive’s rich history, its stories and voices, and to build upon it by generating new memories. With this new reading of The Roses of Eyam, we hope to show you a little bit more about the theatre’s history and we’d also like to invite you to consider the role and relevance of theatre now.