I probably don’t need to tell you that 2021 was a right ‘mare of a year. Covid…lockdowns…it was crap…you may recall.
We thought we’d been particularly unlucky when the fridge-freezer broke down and no-one was allowed to come out and repair it!
But, in that first dismal lockdown-Christmas at Denton Abbey, I soon discovered that things were about to become devastatingly worse.
My beloved Missus only went and got ‘The Big C’ (that stands for Very Big Bad Awful Terrible Breast Cancer…with a side order of Thyroid Cancer).
I’ll spare you the worst bits of Anna’s journey, but there were times when I thought I was never going to laugh again.
Meanwhile I had PTSD but despite that; my chores had quadrupled. What’s more; I had to learn how to master appliances that - up until that point - I’d managed to give a wide berth. Anna wasn’t even allowed to pick up a kettle! So all household duties fell to MDEsq.
Forget that stuff though, my most important job was trying to get ‘er indoors to STAY indoors (anyone who knows my missus will know that she REALLY ain’t one for following the rules…)
The chemo made her extra-vulnerable. Even so, she’d been so pumped full of adrenalin and other crap that she felt like she HAD to ‘walk it off’… which meant GOING OUTSIDE. So I was torn between letting her speed-walk round the park, and rugby-tackling her as she tried to make it out of the front door.
Thank F***, she’s now well and truly on the mend, and you’d think after the most terrifyingly terrifying time of my life, I’d be bouncing off the walls with joy!
But when the immediate threat was over, surprisingly, I found myself in a deep depression. After months of keeping Anna locked up (at which I’d failed) I’d become agoraphobic, and was struggling to cope with normal life.
As Covid restrictions started to lift I was stuck indoors, wearing a heavy-duty mask, and the thought of travelling on public transport made me break out in a cold sweat.
I tried hypnotism, therapy and (legit) drugs. My only other idea was to say “YES” to everything, “Maybe that will force me out of my mental malaise”, I thought. Before you know it - I’m doing a screen-printing course, a ton of podcasts and online talks, comedy improvisation classes (with no physical contact obvs) and (most challenging) a month-long ‘internship’ at St Luke’s.
It all helped enormously, but I still felt traumatised every time I stepped out of the front door.
Then, in May, I was contacted by Marc Lewis: boss at the famous ‘School of Communication Arts’ in Brixton.
“Do you fancy doing a ‘residency’ at the SCA for a week?” He asked me.
“DO WHAT????!!” I replied.
That meant I’d have to brave the tube… all the way down South London…for a whole WEEK!
But I’d promised myself to agree to everything, so I HAD to say yes.
When I arrived on the Monday they were just finishing their morning briefing. I was invited to introduce myself, and, despite my shattered nerves, I stepped/wobbled up to the front of the room.
A crowd of young people…A CROWD…young…my brain cell was working overtime.
“They’ve obviously been socialising,” I thought to myself, “at least half of them DEFINITELY have Covid…It’s all over Mark - this is The End.”
But as soon as I picked up the mic, my troubles seemed to magically disappear…
During that fun-filled week I ended up delivering three two hour talks along with reviewing countless portfolios and general mentoring and stuff.
I had this pre-conceived idea that young people are afraid of comedy. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I remember many of their portfolios had me in stitches! There were loads of ridiculously funny ideas that were miles more entertaining than the advertising I see on the telly.
There were plenty of stylish concepts too - nicely finished and beautifully designed.
The general standard was bloody brilliant, and the teams seemed to have just as much personality as their books (tons).
Marc had requested I make one of my talks about posters. Luckily I had the perfect revered tomes necessary for that important task: two of my old scrapbooks, aptly titled - ‘Good Posters Vol 1 and 2’
My ancient tomes of wisdom 'GOOD POSTERS' vol's 1 and 11
...I even showed them some posters from my 'old' portfolio
I simply went through the posters one-by-one, told everyone why I liked them and then asked what they thought…I don’t know if they learned anything, I know I did.
I started to ask them as many questions as they were asking me. I couldn’t help myself, I was genuinely interested in their take on current advertising.
At no point did I wear a mask or keep myself at arms length. I was too busy enjoying meself.
I would have been bloody stupid not to try and tap into their energy and enthusiasm, so I briefed them on some important projects of my own like, ‘How do I get back into advertising?’ and, ‘How do I shift the last few boxes of my (almost) sell-out book?’
I not only got concepts that I’m going to use but they made me copious amounts of posters with my smiling mush on them. Many Cobra Kai (my favourite TV show) themed bits and pieces, including a fantastic advert (for MDEsq) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KP-xTLZKWkk - thanks Ellie & Chip. And much, much more (like a custom-made keyring - thanks Duncan and Laura)
Only last week I got a personalised calendar/not calendar through my letterbox.
I’m more than a little touched… and unbelievably, cured.
Thanks to all at SCA, you got me laughing again (and hopeful about the future of advertising).
See you all again real soon!
Agatha O’Neill, Aiste Linauskaite, Andreas Ioannides, Archie MacGillivary, Ben Ecclestone, Cameron Casey, Cat Bayley, Charlie Stuart, Chip McCoy, Clarissa Johnston-Ward, Diana Motekaityte, Duncan Clark, Ed Rees, Egan Cardoso, Ellie Keyes, Yem Akingbade, Liz Eisen, Hailee Li, Holly Killen, Jessica Redfearn, Kat Samuel Lwahas, Khadija Alban, Klaudia Mroz, Laura Hutchison, Louise Amalie Hagerup, Magda Barbosa, Moshood Balogun, Nina Saei, Obinna Iwuji, Odysseus Miltiadous, Sam Pilkington, Sarah Lisgo, Zuza Grabowiec, Toni-Ann Cover, Cat Bayley
SPECIAL THANKS to Marc Lewis, in particular for inviting me in the first place.
Amy, Tom, Ian and the rest of the SCA gang… and of course Pip the Dog