Artists in quarantine: Jim Fortune, songwriter

7 May 2020

The new blog series throws the spotlight on Genesis artists in lockdown: directors, writers, actors, musicians and artists, who have had to figure out ways to stay creative and practise their art in a completely new way, sometimes in extremely challenging circumstances.

The Foundation wants to give the Genesis network an opportunity to showcase what they have been up to, to share the challenges they face and to show, with the intention of inspiring others, how they find resilience and creativity in lockdown.

Jim Fortune 

Jim Fortune is a composer, songwriter and arranger. He wrote the music for the National Theatre’s musical version of Pericles in 2018 and for its Olivier Award-nominated musical Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear – The Musical!, based on the award-winning children’s books by Andy Stanton. He is developing a new musical with NT Artistic Director Rufus Norris as part of the Genesis Music Theatre Programme. 


What’s your current confinement situation, who’s on your quaranteam? 

I am currently confined at my home in North London with my partner Victoria and our small boy, Flynn, mostly writing from my shed-studio at the bottom of my garden, looking at a field. 

Are you able to work, are you inspired by what we are going through or do you find it challenging? 

The whole world seems to be listening to each other right now. We are not going out, but the internet is providing some great, inspiring art. I am finding motivation from amateur choirs to symphony orchestras, to Sondheim tributes to the Rolling Stones getting together online. The forced isolation can only focus the mind. That’s good! 

Do you have a routine to stay creative?  

Yes. A routine for me is helpful. It helps having a kid in the house who needs attention – focused time with him, then focused time alone. We always start the day with exercise (inevitably Joe Wicks) and end the day with a walk in our local woods. Three meals a day with the family also gives the day structure. That’s never happened before! 

Do you think what you’re going through will impact your practice long term? 

I think people who try to write music can be natural self-isolators, so nothing will change there. The whole theatre community needs to continue to collaborate and rely on each other for motivation and support. I hope that will be a positive impact – we are in this together. 

Is there any advice you would like to share to fellow artists, audiences or organisations on how to find resilience? 

It won’t always be like this! I understand that, for a while, there will be a ‘new normal’, but audiences will be chomping at the bit for material that artists are cooking up. There will be an explosion of lovely things to come and we can not only enrich people’s lives, but also (crucially) enrich the economy. It may take some time, but be strong and have pride in your jobs. We matter, so lead from the front. Nothing will ever top the experience of live art. 

What are your hopes for the future?  

Once we can go out, I hope that the arts and artists (especially freelancers) will be valued by everyone in a new way. Maybe people took us all for granted. Also, maybe we will get to hear from people that have found their voice during lockdown – forgot they had a talent, and rediscovered it in all the new time that has been gifted to them.  

Anything to plug?

Lots of things have being cooked in my shed, but nothing to plug just yet. Look out for a podcast I am producing called Rod’s Rod-Cast. Myself, theatre director Sean Holmes and writer/comedian Ed Gaughan, will be asking our (well-known) guests three questions about their future, and they will be performing their favourite song with our house band. 

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