The Freelance Diaries: Trying to stay safe and sane throughout the COVID-19 sports broadcasting drought

Kate Lamb, working in happier times at the 2012 London Olympics

Kate Lamb, freelance technical resource manager and technical producer, provides a personal insight into how her life has changed since COVID-19 rocked the world.

2020 was set to be a big year for me – and now it will be memorable for a very different reason.

I’ve been working in the television industry since the early ‘90s, working my way up from post production runner in London, through transmission engineering and studio engineering. Now I run my own limited company specialising in vision engineering, technical resource managing and technical producing, mainly for sports broadcasters, working on international and domestic events both large and small.

I live in the North West of the UK with my broadcast engineer husband and our four children, aged between nine and 20 years old.

We are not unfamiliar with sudden and significant change; in 2015 one of our daughters was diagnosed with leukaemia and we were extremely grateful for the support we received from my husband’s employer and my broadcast clients. Because of this we were able to continue working, albeit in a reduced capacity. She has been in good health since 2017 and work has steadily increased for me since then.

Then last April, my husband was made redundant from a job he had held for the previous 13 years, so he joined my company and we now run it together.

I worked out that with careful budgeting we could last for three months, but after that time it’s so difficult to predict what the situation will be and what the sports broadcasting industry landscape look like when we all return, that I can’t be certain.

We saw a significant increase in our workload towards the latter end of 2019 and the start of 2020. We were negotiating a possible regular international contract through the year, in addition to the usual large international events such as the Euros and the Olympics, as well as regular domestic sporting events.

A regular contract in London saw us take over the tenancy of a flat down south as this was more cost effective than a hotel on such a regular basis. We even considered taking on employees as we were turning work away; 2020 was going to be a bumper year!

As news of the spread of Coronavirus broke my first thought was of family; my niece has lived and worked China for the past three years. As the virus spread, we realised that our work was going to be affected.

Freelance technical resource manager and technical producer, Kate Lamb

My husband had been booked to fly to China as part of the Formula E broadcast engineering contingent. But one after the other, the bookings were cancelled. By the third week of March our diary was near enough empty.

At first, I spent every day glued to the BBC News as the government briefings were televised. I listened to the huge support packages the Chancellor was announcing, and then realised that none of it applied to us.

I made phone calls to organisations only be put on hold for so long that eventually the call would automatically disconnect.

It dawned on me that unless we could find another form of income we were just going to have to ride the storm unaided.

I worked out that with careful budgeting we could last for three months, but after that time it’s so difficult to predict what the situation will be and what the sports broadcasting industry landscape look like when we all return, that I can’t be certain.

It will have changed for sure.

Will our broadcast clients be able to bounce back? Will their requirements be the same? So much of sports broadcasting is OB based, will budgets have been put under so much strain that remote productions will have scaled back significantly, with minimal engineering requirement?

So much is unknown at this stage that it’s hard not to become submerged in negative thought, and mental health is so important, as we all know.

So we are trying to use our time constructively. We are looking at creating and developing our website and staying in touch with as many clients as we can.

My husband is busying himself getting all the jobs done that had been put off round the house. Meanwhile, I have been doing domestic chores, helping to school the kids, getting creative with craft projects and trying not to think of the empty flat down south that we can neither visit nor cancel.

We are trying to focus on the positive of each day; the great weather, so much time to reflect and recoup some energy, and lots of family time.

Above all else, I hope and pray that we stay virus free during this time as there are two members of our household that have underlying health issues (which is why we decided not to risk shop or delivery work as an alternative form of income).

Our past experience has taught us that good health cannot and should not be taken for granted whatever your age.

But it has also taught us that both in business and in life, the ability to adapt and embrace challenging circumstances will ultimately lead to success.

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