Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Matt the Hat

Today’s instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series comes from Matt the Hat. We’re looking for your stories, so please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown

When lockdown happened we were getting ready to launch this year’s Street Food Circus series. My work is really seasonal and I’d spent four of five months preparing for a busy festival season. All the preparations were in place to kick off in April then lockdown happened – just as we were in the middle of finalising all the marketing.

That was hard. Mentally, we’d put a lot of preparation time in – we were at amber and ready to go green with a really full summer of festivals and events. Of course, a lot of people working in the events industry, particularly music and arts festivals, were in the same place – everything prepared and geared up ready to go. Then nothing.

I’ve got a really big annual wall planner in my office at home. I just remember sitting there at my desk staring at this planner on the wall opposite at all these now non-existent events and thought, that’s got to go. I took it outside and burnt it!

Early on in lockdown I remember thinking, is this going to be a month, two months, more? That level of uncertainty as an events organiser is really difficult when we’re trying to give people a definite answer about what’s going to happen this summer. I could say yes, let’s plan as if it’s going ahead – but who really knows? We’re all just waiting on the next government briefing to find out what’s going on. It’s especially tough for the street food traders who face so much uncertainty around when they might be able to come back.

For us, on the business side, we’ve been looking at different ways we can diversify and adapt.

We’ve been developing the idea of Street Food Cinema for the last month or so. We wanted to do something that had a positive focus in a time when running events is very difficult. We’d seen people starting to run drive-ins around the world and thought, we can put our own slant on this – bring the ingredients from Street Food Circus and sprinkle those over it in a way that makes it fit for Cardiff and with our Welsh traders.

It’s been a challenge, but we’re just finalising all the different systems that need to be in place to meet all the various restrictions. It’s been good to have something to focus on and look forward to. If you’re an event organiser, the idea of just stopping and losing an entire year is not feasible. Hopefully it’ll prove a success – people seem to be excited for it.

On the home side, we’re just trying to enjoy the time with a level of acceptance and taking every day as it comes.

Though I work mostly in Cardiff, I live in Carmarthenshire with my wife Gabi and Beau our two and a half year old. We live in quite an isolated house down a single track lane. We’ve got our local farmer that we see every couple of days and some local walkers from the village so unless we decide to go outside of our little bubble we don’t see anyone.

I’m taking some positive things from this experience, though. We went into lockdown on the change of season from winter to spring and being so close to nature where we are you really notice that change of season. I normally live a pretty fast-past life so the chance to slow down and notice things more has been really positive. Although it’s not easy juggling work and looking after Beau, it has been great to have that extra time with him at home.

It’s made me look after myself better too – I’ve been healthier during lockdown and being at home. I’ve started running every other day which I’ve not done before – I always told myself I didn’t have time.

It’s been a mentally challenging time so finding an hour a day for exercise and meditation has really helped and I hope I’ve built that into my life now. I really don’t want to stop that – I’m definitely going to keep that in my day.

There’s a certain amount of acceptance that we’ve had to change our routine under lockdown. I’ve found that good, to feel able to slow down more than I normally would.

Matt the Hat is founder and ringmaster of the Street Food Circus.

Follow Matt on Twitter @mattlahat / Matt on Instagram @matt_la_hat.

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