Jonathan Brigg — “Support from Help Musicians was vital and the calendars were a great way to thank the charity”
Jonathan created an annual cartoon calendar to fundraise for Help Musicians after we supported him through the pandemic
A career in music may be one of contrasts, offering incredible highs but also times of crisis, and this journey is exemplified by composer Jonathan Brigg’s experience.
Jonathan had been steadily carving out a career in music, securing residencies with orchestras as esteemed as the London Philharmonic, but in 2018 began to experience difficulties.
He noticed that his right ear had become increasingly sensitive and certain noises would trigger a burning sensation in his ear. Amidst the success he was having, Jonathan ploughed on with his hectic schedule and ignored the pain as best he could for almost a year.
Covid exacerbates difficulties
Like many musicians at the beginning of the pandemic, Jonathan lost the majority of his upcoming work overnight. Coinciding with this stressful and uncertain time, Jonathan’s burning pain suddenly spread to both his ears causing him even more distress.
The discomfort was overwhelming — everyday noises like the sound of laughter, birds or passing traffic caused a sensation that he likened to, “sunburn inside the ears”.
Jonathan had managed his tinnitus, a condition in which sufferers experience high-pitch ringing in the ears, for a number of years but things could not continue. The situation was unbearable, “like having a whistling kettle in each ear that you can’t shut out”.
When he contacted his local doctor to seek urgent medical help, they were unable to see him due to the pandemic. Jonathan was now in a position where he had lost his work due to the pandemic and any work he could do from home had become impossible due to the pain it would induce. Understandably, he found himself increasingly fearful for the future of his career.
Reaching out to Help Musicians
Jonathan got in touch with Help Musicians and although he initially planned to apply for financial support, through online research learned about our Hearing Health support.
Not only were we able to arrange financial support to cover his daily living costs, but we also referred Jonathan to a specialist ENT consultation. The tests confirmed his hearing loss but from there, steps were taken that would improve his situation.
Medication was prescribed and we also covered the cost of essential custom-designed ear plugs which have allowed Jonathan to hear much more comfortably and have immeasurably improved his day-to-day quality of life.
Over time a combination of medication, the custom ear plugs and cognitive behavioural therapy have reduced the intensity of his tinnitus and calmed his anxiety. Significantly, he also noticed that the more he spoke about his hearing difficulties, the more his fellow musicians opened up about their similar issues — he began to feel much less alone.
Towards the end of 2020, Jonathan was in a much healthier state and credits us with being, “the first piece in the puzzle of putting things back together.”
Throughout the course of the year, Jonathan had started drawing, something he hadn’t done since studying for his A‑Levels. He took an online course in illustration and began drawing humorous musical cartoons. These sketches started to get attention, and by mid-November 2020 he had been encouraged to turn them into a calendar.
“I thought first and foremost I could do this as a charity calendar, not only to offer something back to Help Musicians given how much they’d helped me but also to raise awareness about the work you do.”
250 calendars were sold in the first year and to demonstrate his gratitude to the charity, Jonathan donated £2 per calendar sold to Help Musicians. He has sold hundreds in the years since and continues to donate a portion of the proceeds to us.