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Leigh Thorne

Artist / ICT and Media technician

As a cosplayer, artist, and ICT and Media Technician, coming to grips with my new condition, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), has been challenging. Predominantly affecting my hands and neck, it has limited the projects I can work on successfully and so I have focused mainly on my cosplay (costume-play) as the parts are larger and less fiddly than trying to manoeuvre a pencil on paper.

I would usually pack my ‘Ecto-Van’ with multiple costumes and head over to the UK to compete in competitions as my alter ego, ‘Dax79’. I would escape reality and become someone or something else for a few days, competing for trophies and making new friends on the way. However, this year, as a consequence of the pandemic, physical venues are closed. But this has not stopped myself or fellow cosplayers. Our community has moved online, into the cyber world, which in some respects seems entirely appropriate when considering the themes of many costumes.

I managed to compete in London and New York with the same cosplay on the same day, something that would never have been possible before COVID. Cosplayers still meet for masquerades, trading the stage and lights for a screen and camera. The audience, now the world rather than a few thousand con-goers, clutching onto their ‘Mystery’ boxes and wearing Pikachu ears, observe and participate from their lounges and bedrooms. Welcome to the Couch Con!

Once the masquerade is over, the judge’s votes are in, and the public has hash tagged my work, I turn the computer off and return to my normal life: husband, father, friend, technician. Knowing that conventions may not be seen for some time, I have turned to my laptop, writing short films that involve my cosplay and filmmaking skills, bringing pop culture characters to life, even if it is just for a few views clicks on YouTube.

Thanks to my RA, I shielded at home with my wife and little girl for much of the year. We were unable to leave and had deliveries dropped off to the house. I became closer to some friends and began losing contact with others.

As an ICT technician at a primary school, I was still on the frontline. Putting the teachers into the homes of pupils, whilst working from their respective homes. My house became a bank, school, and a server room. In its way it also became a cosplayer of sorts!

Each day I look to my hands that are ever changing with RA. I am hoping that a combination of synthetic and tetrahydrocannabinol drugs can slow the process and give me some extra time to enjoy my arts that are so much a part of my identity.