As more and more Australians self isolate as a result of COVID-19, and with the likelihood of a full shutdown growing, a movement that grew out of a bottleshop conversation is building momentum. And it’s one that centres on mental health.
“The idea started when I saw these videos of Italians in lockdown, singing to each other from their balconies, and I thought, 'What’s the Australian version of that?'," says Richard Jefferson, from Liquor Barons Bull Creek in Perth’s Southern Suburbs. "And how it’s sharing a beer with a mate and having a 'Cheers!’.
“Obviously, with restrictions, a lot of people are self-isolating and social distancing and that can lead to feelings of loneliness and anxiety. So, this then became a way of checking in with mates and, for those well enough, sharing a ‘virtual cheers’.
“It’s an important message to share that, even if you have to isolate, you’re not alone."
Having come up with the concept, the next step was to spread the word.
“Emboldened with positivity, I called to Simon [Thai] across the shop, 'I think I’ve just had a great idea!' Not being the first time I’ve announced such a thing, he let out a patient sigh and replied, ‘OK, what is it this time?’
"After hearing it, he immediately got on board ... Who doesn’t enjoy sharing a beer with a mate?"
The simple concept initially involved tagging a couple of others in their immediate network, passing the baton to the next drinker, and sharing these on Facebook beer groups Australia wide. However, this spread quickly and already the likes of Mitch Dudarko, owner of Beaten Track Brewing, Steve Finney, general manager at Otherside, and Dan Dainton, owner of Dainton, have posted videos.
Being an open source idea, much like the #keepinglocalive campaign, it's been picked up by breweries quickly. Cheeky Monkey’s national sales manager Brendan Day was tagged early on and the idea of sharing positivity has resulted in the #dontdrinkalone beer, a session ale on which the brewery is deliberately making no margin. After all, they figure, this is about a making positive connections and talking about mental health.
“The reason I got behind this so much was, in world where we are already feeling so many pressures, I think a lot of us recognise a weird phenomenon: we are the most connected we’ve ever been but also the most isolated," he says. "A lot are superficial connections that lack the authenticity or deepness of a real connection, and for a lot of us those real conversations and connections are with a mate over a beer. I just don’t want see this disappear while we self isolate.
“Using a video medium makes it real, more so than a text. It makes you see the real emotion: the body language and unspoken words. Let’s use this amazing technology we have to stay connected on a real level while we self isolate, and let’s not lose that that over a beer.
“It’s similar to the #keepinglocalalive campaign, which I loved. By keeping our local businesses alive we are able to keep our local communities alive. It’s about more than just products on a shelf: it’s keeping food on somebody's table, as well as enjoying a local beverage."
He views the two campaigns as complementary too.
"It’s the same idea about support and care for each other."
Cheeky Monkey’s #dontdrinkalone beer – which features the #keepinglocalalive campaign message – is out soon. However, drinkers in WA will have to adhere to new liquor purchasing limits which came into effect on March 24.
As part of the #keepinglocalalive campaign we hope to run a Postcards from the Edge story every day, highlighting the ways in which people are adapting to survive. If you've got a story you think is suitable – or have something to add to the campaign resources – drop us a line.