Karen Gallagher & Associates: And This Is What Am Doing!
On 10 March 2020 I launched Karen Gallagher & Associates, only to have the country lock down two weeks later. The last 9 months had already brought challenges both personally and professionally where living alone and being isolated had become a new norm. A friend jokingly sent me a WhatsApp message from Rosie Ramsay’s Instagram, a video of her performing CoinciDANCE. She said “do this”, I was like, “what is it?”. She didn’t know and I found it to be TikTok, an App where you record 15 second films, in a simple format, lip-syncing and dancing to famous songs. I took up the challenge, downloaded the App and made my own version just for fun. Posting it on my Facebook page, the reaction was unexpected. Followers requested more and before I knew it, I had done the whole month of April! I had created 30 short videos which I posted every day, so here is my TikTok Covid -19 Lockdown Diary!
As can be seen from this first creation it’s very much of the moment, no real preparation, other than finding a hat! However, I posted this and the response was astonishing (not on TikTok) on Facebook, where I received 196 views and 104 comments. Here are just some examples:
- Love it Karen! Hope to see more! TikTok has kept me going while I’ve been sick, laughter really is the best medicine!
- This has made me laugh, love it Karen
- Oh Karen, this made my day. Love it. You nutter xx
- YOU are phenomenal…lol…cheered me up no end this…
- Actually one of the best things I’ve ever seen. You are on fire lady
- Hilarious Karen, I just love it, looking forward to tomorrow’s now
- That certainly just cheered me up Karen! xx
- I LOVE this, Karen! It made me giggle this morning! Ace! x
The feedback was so immediate and full of enthusiasm, and although it started out as a bit of a ‘dare’ I felt the urge to carry on, to continue making people smile and make my own small contribution, in enabling friends and colleagues take their mind off the current situation we are all living in, if only for 15 seconds!
What Is TikTok?
“TikTok is the leading destination for short-form mobile video. Our mission is to inspire creativity and bring joy” (Tik Tok, 2020)
TikTok is a mobile app that allows you to create a short video of yourself and others (if unlike me you don’t live alone) which often features music in the background, can be sped up, slowed down or edited. You can choose background music from a wide variety of music styles and being 15 seconds means you are not breaking any copyright laws, and TikTok encourages you to post your vids on all social platforms.
The App allows you to set your account as ‘private’. Private content remains visible to TikTok, but blocked from TikTok users who you have not authorized to view your content. You can change to ‘public’ where followers and anyone using the App can view your content.
You can also add videos, hashtags, filters, and sounds to your ‘saved’ or favourites section. This section is visible only to you on your profile allowing you to refer back to any video, hashtag, filter, or sound that you liked. This is really useful as you can scroll hundreds of videos daily and if you want to remember a particular video or music clip you can save to your favourites for later use.
In 2018 TikTok became the world’s most downloadable App on Apple’s App Store with 104 million downloads in that time, thus potentially a huge captive audience!
My TikTok Covid -19 Lockdown Diary!
As can be seen from my first two videos I was simply trying the App out, I had no real clue what I was doing and I chose content that appealed to me and what I thought might make my friends smile.
At this point I had not read about the App and I did not know about the edit features, my initial creations where basically, press record and create all in one shot, I did not know I could play and that there were actual effects I could use! So I posted this on Day 2 and this was the response:
- Just shown Tom both of these & he says you’re bloody nuts (Tom recently passed away sadly, but I made him have a bit of a laugh even when ill)
- Love the slippers
- Glad to see you’ve remembered some of your tango moves!!
- Bravo, more more more, encore, so minxy
- Oh Karen. How comical are you ey.x
- The Slipper Tango…I love it!
- You’re on fire…Keep them coming xx
Finding the Effects
Day 3 and I still did not know that I could adjust the speed, stop/start, add text and other visuals, but I knew there were effects on the App to explore.
At this point I think people started to realise I’m not being myself, or at least the person they think they know. As a woman of a certain age, finding herself isolated, this became quite a liberating platform, I felt connected with family, friends and colleagues and somehow, useful. With 71 views and someone commenting “You are my new self-isolation hero”, I had found my alter ego, the silly App effects where giving me a new confidence, a voice to be me, but not me, and yet, this was me, alone, doing things that I might not have done had I been living with someone else. And people kept posting:
- Mastering the form
- Lip-Sync for your life!
- The best one so far
- You are brightening our days
- My favourite to date!! Love your make-up . Xxx
- Oh my god you’re getting way too good at this! Xxx
- I am wondering lol… I was late checking in today, came to find your TikTok post specially on your page. You did not disappoint! Laughing out loud – you nutter. Xxxx
Dance Trends & Other Effects
With responses coming thick and fast I had to start planning my TikToks. Part of the App is to watch others and take inspiration from what fellow TikTokers are posting which as I said earlier can be a dance, piece of music or original content. This got me on the trending side of the App, following others and learning dances to record. You would think this easy for someone who had trained in dance? But TikTok was originally for younger people (mostly under 30!) so a lot of hip hop, locking and very fast footwork! But ‘Stay at Home’ and self -isolation has meant that people of all ages are taking to the App with varying success. Initially these dances were created before the Pandemic and had group dances as opposed to solo works and that is when, Day 4 ‘Clone Trio’ effect came into its own, check this out!
Day 6 was when I started my first proper Lip-synch. On the App there are absolutely tons of sounds you can use and Gemma Collins, TV reality star is perfect because she is so easy to create a parody out of and for this one I needed ‘props’. So I started looking around the house for a ‘costume’, I should mention this is a person (me) who is renowned for not doing fancy dress, one of my best friends said “who are you, what have you done with my mate?”, after I asked could I borrow her bag of dressing up costumes (more of that later). And This Is What Am Doing! is a TikTok I created, lip syncing Gemma Collins. It captures for me how selfish people can be when confronted with challenging circumstances and yet creating it in a way that is a parody and thus comedy gold!
According to friends:
- This is officially the best thing on Facebook
- Love the headscarf Karen, you make my day
- Daily entertainment from you is fabulous x keep going girl
- You are fab, love it, my daily dose of giggles
- Thank you Karen, I wait each day for these!
- Don’t stop
I continued to post one video per day but I would create 2 or 3 in advance and for Day 10, I ventured outdoors to greet the neighbours! An iconic scene it turns out and resulted in people setting up their own TikTok accounts to both follow me and create their own content. I really had just woken up – any neighbour watching at 7.30am must have genuinely thought I had lost the plot – especially after the 10th take! This is also the thing about these videos once you get into making them they are addictive, both the making and the watching, you want them to be the best they can be so some of them can take hours!
Never been one for dressing up, this whole experience has brought out a whole other side to my personality, making people laugh, with me, at me, it’s not really mattered, what has mattered is it has taken people to a place of enjoyment, it’s taken me to a place where I could embrace being funny, acting stupid and just being me. Over the next couple of weeks I created a number of lip syncs, my favourite was Hyacinth Bucket and Day 17 was my first proper dress up and a character that came back a few times throughout the month.
From day one, there was a trending video called ‘Beauty Mode’, I now realise it was named after an effect that is on the App (but does not really do anything). I just could not fathom how they were doing it as I was still on switch on, record, don’t stop mode! So this was the day it sank in, when I realised you could put the recording on a timer and it would stop or pause and you could edit and come back to it, the magic had revealed itself – it took a while.
I did create a number of dancing TikToks throughout the month, one for St George’s Day, who doesn’t like to spice up their lives and of course for International Dance Day I did a couple of duets. What is good about the App is you can interact with other users by duetting their original post (if they give permission), reacting to their post or having them duet with you. The challenge is learning the dances and if I couldn’t crack them I would just improvise or create my own. Dance like no one is watching offers you the chance to be yourself, live your life as best you can and make it your best life ever! There are lots of tutorials out there be that TikTok itself or YouTube where you can find some of the tricks of the trade, like slowing down the video so you can do the actions and then when you post in real time this happens:
I did not create this month of content in order to be successful on the App, it was mostly to bring a smile to mine and others faces. The ‘for you’ page on TikTok is a feed of videos that are recommended to users based on their activity on the App, by TikTok. Content is generated by TikTok depending on what kind of content a user liked, interacted with, or searched. Users can only be featured on the ‘for you’ page if they are 16 or over as per TikTok policy. Users under 16 will not show up under the ‘for you’ page (FYP), the sounds page, or under any hashtags. Your aim is to feature on the FYP. I think I featured on FYP a couple of times this is usually when others notice you and they comment and like your video. My stand out one was on Day 28 and I created this and posted: “So I’ve been busy in isolation creating my new fashion line #take28 preparing house of social distancing – when you live alone you can do anything!”.
A friend joked: “Am loving you Karen Gallagher brilliant. I think this series is an art work all in itself and will be an important bit of heritage studied by people in the future hahah”. Presenting: And So This is What Am Doing!
By Day 30 I did not think I would a) still be in lock down or b) still creating TikToks but I was, and I am! For my final day in April I could not finish without a bit more of the GC and consider what else life has in store!
Born in Liverpool, Karen Gallagher trained at the Laban Centre for Movement and Dance in London in the early 80s then returned to Liverpool to develop dance in a variety of ways. Artistic Director of MDI (1994-2018) Karen is passionate about dance and how it can effect change in people’s lives alongside how as an Artform it is appreciated through creation and performance
A graduate of Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) with an MA in Social Enterprise, Karen received a BMOBO for MDI’s community dance practice and was a runner up for Merseyside Woman of the Year. She received an MBE, awarded for services to dance in The Queen’s New Year Honours List and is an Honorary Fellow of LJMU.
In 2020 Karen set up and launched Karen Gallagher and Associates to grow her reputation as a mentor and facilitator; tour works by small scale local and international artists and produce events.
RISE Together on BBC Radio Merseyside
Want to find out more about the RISE Together programme? Culture Liverpool’s Head of Arts & Participation and RISE curator, Alicia Smith, took part in the below BBC Radio Merseyside interview with Jermaine Foster. Just press play and skip to 51.50 to catch up now.