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INTERVIEW: Artist Evgenia Golubeva on life in lockdown #ArtistsInRetreat

Evgenia Golubeva and doggy Astra photographed at home by Mark Williamson. E1/1/20/9442
Evgenia Golubeva and doggy Astra photographed at home by Mark Williamson. E1/1/20/9442

Writer, animation director and illustrator Evgenia Golubeva tells Herald arts about her life under lockdown.

Tell us about what you do, and how you got started.I’m a screenwriter, animation director and illustrator. I work mostly for kids TV. I write scripts for shows like Hey Duggee, Digby Dragon and Becca’s Bunch. I also write books - my picture book I’m NOT a Mouse is out now and you can order it online from all good bookshops. For five years I studied in Directing for Animation at the University of Cinema and TV in my hometown St. Petersburg, Russia. After that I was lucky to get a job as a screenwriter and director on a kids TV series Moonzy – that was 12 years ago and since then I’ve written more than 50 screenplays, worked on lots of kids TV shows, apps, books and short films.

Where are you spending the lockdown?I’m at my home in Stratford-upon-Avon with my husband who is also a writer [Myles McLeod], our five-year-old daughter and a very noisy sausage dog Astra.

How are you staying connected with the outside world?We use WhatsApp, FaceTime and Skype a lot to stay in touch with family and friends. Also we still keep doing our usual group bootcamp workouts through Zoom. We even had a virtual family roast dinner on Sunday!

Are you managing to do any kind of work?Yes. I’m writing on a new show for Disney, supervising production of my TV show for kids The Question Club in Russia, illustrating a book for a publisher in Belgium and working on a couple of projects of my own. It’s nice to be busy, and so helps not to focus on negative thoughts, and I can escape to the imaginary worlds of my projects.

It’s super tricky though with a five-year-old in the house. Me and my husband have a rota; we divide the day in two halves and swap. We also end up working late after our daughter goes to bed. We have a small house and sometimes it feels impossible to find a quiet corner to do some writing. But we are getting there.

What are the upsides and downsides to being in lockdown?I’ve worked from home for the last seven years, so I’m used to that. Except I miss social interactions. We used to go to Box Brownie [the coffee shop on Henley Street] every morning for our cup of coffee and to see friends. I also find it stressful to go for our daily exercise walk and make sure we are two metres away from people. It’s like some kind of computer game and I can’t relax while walking around town.

I’m worried that my mum or grandparents in Russia will get the virus. My mum is a key worker and she goes to work three times a week. Closed borders make me anxious. When am I going to be able to go to St Petersburg and see my family again? I feel very sad for all the misery the virus is causing, people are losing their loved ones.

But on the other side life has suddenly became so much simpler. I had a very busy diary with lots of book festivals to attend to promote my book, film festivals to go to, talks at events, meetings in London and Europe. It’s exciting but also very tiring. And suddenly I have nothing in my diary. At first I felt lost, but then I felt free and more relaxed. Finally I realised I can get on with things I’ve kept postponing: painting a wall in the garden, replanting our cacti... There is serenity in the whole situation.

Do you have any cultural recommendations for keeping entertained during the isolation?I’m enjoying Noughts + Crosses on BBC and Lost in Space on Netflix. And I’m looking forward to watching The Mandalorian on Disney+.

I love graphic novels especially travelogues like Burma Chronicles and Jerusalem by Guy Delisle. He travels with his wife who works for Médecins Sans Frontières. He documents their life with lots of humour and reflects on the difficult political situations he witnesses. I also just read The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui – a touching story about a Vietnamese refugee family caught in the turmoils of war based on Thi Bui’s life. It made me cry.

I use Spotify to help me find new songs. I’ve been listening to lots of Italian and French singers like Michele Bravi and Isaac Delusion. I used to live in Italy and France and really miss travelling. When I’m drawing – music is my best companion and helps to lift my mood too.

Any other tips for not going stir crazy?Exercise and walks. We go on a morning walk everyday. It’s spring and I love seeing trees in bloom, hearing birdsong and watching the water fall over the weir. We walk around the river or go to the Welcombe Hills. Also I try to do a bit of yoga everyday topped up with a bootcamp session via Zoom with local trainers – Jules Taylor from TaylorMadeFitness and Darren or Oli from Motus Training. Sometimes I do feel really down. But after the exercise endorphins fill my body and I feel much happier again.

Sometimes we go to a new local bakery – Mor Bakery in Bell Court. They sell essentials like eggs, milk, flour, fruit and vegetables as well as baking amazing doughnuts and sourdough bread.

What will be the first thing you do when self-isolation is lifted?I will drive to the seaside for a couple of days! I will hug all my friends and family. Go to Box Brownie to have a coffee and see all the regulars. And finally book a trip to a film festival to watch my short film on a big screen somewhere in Italy or France!

What lesson would you hope mankind could learn from the coronavirus catastrophe?I hope we can realise what a bunch of consumerists we are all – me included. We can live with less things, eat simple food and travel less. Lots of meetings I used to go to London for could easily be Skype calls. I don’t need any more art materials – I have so many I could open a shop! The list is endless. Now we spend less time choosing, buying, planning and spend more time together cooking, chatting, creating.

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