Finding some form of escapism has been a must for many of us since the lockdown began back in March. Next week, culture lovers across Northern Ireland will have something to look forward to with the screening of six new short dramas on BBC Northern Ireland.
Splendid Isolation: Lockdown Drama will be aired on Thursday night, with writing, directing and acting contributions from some of the biggest names in the industry, from Derry Girls writer Lisa McGee and Game of Thrones star Conleth Hill to Coronation Street's Kerri Quinn and Olivier Award-winning actor Anthony Boyle.
Newry playwright Abbie Spallen has played her part too, writing the short film Best Wishes, which makes up one of the six pieces.
Starring fellow Newry native David Pearse, the film tells the story of Kenny, a middle-aged reclusive man whose one link to the outside world, his radio, has run out of batteries.
With no way to hear the news, Kenny is clueless about the pandemic and confused and suspicious when packages of food and Fairy Liquid show up on his doorstep, labelled 'best wishes'.
"It was a very quick turnaround," explains Abbie, who was invited to take part in the project by Jimmy Fay, artistic director at Belfast's Lyric Theatre. "Jimmy just rang up and asked if I wanted to do it and I think it took about a week to do the first draft of the script.
"The thing is with something like this, you can't second-guess yourself. You have to go with your first idea and it has to be the best you've got because it's the only one you have."
Abbie's worked for years as an actor, before turning her hand to writing, taking residencies in different theatres.
Her play Pumpgirl, co-winner of the 2006/2007 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for best play written in English by a woman, was a game-changer that put Abbie on the map.
While the playwright was advised she should spend time in London for her work, when she made her return to Northern Ireland after two years, around eight years ago, she was happy to be home.
"The more you're there, the smaller it is," she says. "It's nice to be out of it and not part of the gossip about who's got what and who's doing better than the next person.
"That not my bag. Everybody has a natural amount of competition, but it doesn't help to compare writers. It's like comparing one face with the next. Our voices are completely different."
It was at home in Newry in 2016, in the house that was her mother's before she passed away not long after Abbie moved back to Northern Ireland, that the writer received a call out of the blue to tell her she'd won the prestigious Windham-Campbell prize and, crucially, a grant of $150,000.
"Before that happened, I was probably at my most poor," says Abbie. "I was at home, pottering about, probably procrastinating and not doing any writing, when the phonecall came. I didn't have a clue it was coming.
"But I went to America to get it and it was really weird. I was really nervous too because they take you over to this big festival at Yale with loads of talks and all these people who are asking who you are.
"Before I went, I thought it was going to be like the Gilmore Girls, but everyone was lovely. Nobody commented on my Primark clothes.
"A couple of weeks after that, I had to go to Germany for work and the cheque was still cashing. I told them 'You'll have to get me a ticket and I'll pay you back' because I didn't have the cash to get there."
She invested some of her grant in launching the costume jewellery business Disco Bunny Design, to take the financial pressure off her writing.
"I used a bit of the cash and set up the jewellery business," recalls Abbie, whose business is reported to be in the top 1% of sellers on Etsy.
"It was something to work on as well as a way of taking my mind off writing. I'd just written a huge play and I was a bit burnt out by that time, but I'm not the sort of person to just stop and rest.
"It was great. It was a way to make my brain work in a different way. While I'd never made jewellery until I started, I just gave it a go and people started to really like it. I follow what sells and balance that work with my writing.
"I meet the deadlines as I need to and I tend to do the jewellery in the evening because I can't write at night. That's what I'm doing at the minute, with about 50 new items to get on the site. I like having a lot going on."
Having personal experience of how tough it can be for those in the creative industries to survive, Abbie says more support should be given to people working in the arts, particularly during the coronavirus crisis.
"There's been a really horrible push from certain corners that there are all these spongers working in the arts," she says. "That really makes me annoyed. These are people with families and mortgages, children and lives.
"These people work hard in their careers, sometimes for very little, and they're always the first to step forward to do charity work, to put themselves out there.
"It was a really trendy thing where a few Right-wing pundits did it. It's as if it became the hip thing to call these people luvvies. The way some people go on it's as if all these thousands of lighting designers and technicians, these jobbing actors doing the rounds and people who write are lying at home on their chaise longues eating grapes.
"Especially over here, there are people in all walks of life who work in the arts and the situation right now is really heart-breaking.
"The way I put it is that my mother was a nurse, but before that she was an actress when she was younger. She retrained and became a nurse and when she was older she was a person with underlying health conditions.
"People do many things in their lives, but at what point in her life was she most worthy of respect? People in the arts are as worthy of respect and support as anyone else.
"Other parts of life are getting back to normal gradually, but the reality is that people might not be back to work in my industry for a long time."
In fact, the situation is so worrying that along with friend and fellow writer Fionnuala Kennedy, Abbie set up the Bread and Butter Fund to offer grants to artists.
The pair raised an incredible £22,000, with an additional £10,000 provided by the Department for Communities. Following its success, Abbie says she's hopeful they'll be able to carry on providing some sort of support, even after the Covid crisis.
"I think we're going to keep it open because we think it's a good thing for people to have during an emergency," she says. "It's a tough industry, which I've seen first-hand, so we'll figure out a way of doing it and carry on if we can."
With the confidence that comes with experience and critical acclaim, Abbie is now able to pick and choose the projects she works on in a way she couldn't when she was starting out as a young actor.
"I like what I'm doing now," she says. "I like the people I'm working with and I made the decision a while ago to only work people I like - and I've stuck to that.
"Like loads of people through their work lives, I'd had a few rough times and I got to that age where I thought, 'No, I'm only going to work with people I respect and people who respect me'.
"I think that comes with experience and I suppose even 10 years ago I wasn't quite in that position, although I was kind of choosy from the off with the writing.
"I'd had all those years as an actor when I took any work going, so when I started as I writer, I thought, 'I'm not going to make that mistake'. I said to myself I'd do what I want to do and be proud of it. It's a good place to be."
While some of her work has been pushed back and potentially lost because of the pandemic, working on Best Wishes for the Splendid Isolation project - a major collaboration between BBC NI, BBC Arts and the Lyric, with support from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland - has been a welcome source of work.
"I'm really happy with it," says Abbie. "I saw the rough cut and I'm over the moon with it. David was great and Cathy Brady is an absolutely brilliant director so I was delighted to work on it with her. I think she did a fantastic job.
"We're all from Newry, which was great, and we were able to film outside my house, all socially distanced.
"I like having a lot going on. If I have some time off, I'll be able to go about two or three days before I'm on the phone to people going, 'Come on, tell me some craic... I'm bored'. I can't be doing nothing for long."
Splendid Isolation: Lockdown Drama will broadcast on BBC Northern Ireland on Thursday, June 25 and on BBC Four on Tuesday, June 30, at 10.30pm