A forgotten art, again
In the wake of controversy surrounding the government’s failure to support the arts through the pandemic, Sophie Porteous weighs in on what this lack of support might mean for the industry, and what could be done to help save it.
Throughout lockdown many turned to the arts: people listened to music, they watched TV shows, they toured galleries virtually and they read books. The arts are integral to our society, and the industry reportedly contributes over £10bn a year to the UK economy. Live performance is the way in which most musicians, comedians, and other performers can earn money to fulfil their dreams, but in mid-March the coronavirus put a stop to this. Festivals were cancelled and the West End was completely closed, it was a tragedy – not only for those whose career is in the arts – but also for our culture.
Now, with the second lockdown having begun, the prospect of these industries being able to make a full return this year seems extremely unlikely. Yet it is not only the lockdown that seems to be limiting the arts. The re-emergence of a campaign suggesting that ‘Fatima’, a ballerina, could retrain for a new job in a cyber (she just doesn’t know it yet) was poorly timed, and felt like a kick in the teeth from a government that already seems to be doing little to help the creative industry.
The prospect of these industries being able to make a full return this year seems extremely unlikely
Throughout school, those who preferred music and art to sport or STEM subjects often felt like their achievements in these areas were side-lined. Music was often seen as purely something to be added to the CV hobbies, and pursuing a career in acting or performing was often not something that many would be pushed towards. So when it came to light the government was allowing sport matches to continue while theatres were to remain closed, to many it felt like yet another time where sports were viewed more highly than the arts. Indeed, even our own University has been allowing indoor sports while refusing to let any music societies run socially distanced rehearsals or even auditions. As someone who loves performing this hurt, and so I can only imagine the pain felt by those whose livelihoods depend on it.
Even our own University has been allowing indoor sports while refusing to let any music societies run socially distanced rehearsals
Many people have been trying to raise awareness of this issue, with some participating in a protest outside Westminster and others performing on Britain’s Got Talent. After the government introduced the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme many began to suggest the idea of a ‘Seat Out to Help Out’, with the government paying for half of the seats in the theatre, allowing for theatres to run at half capacity, but still potentially reach the usual profit margins. Not only does it have a catchy rhyme, the government had already implemented such a scheme to boost other areas of the economy.
There feels like more could (and should) be done by the government in order to support the arts. With organisations such as the Theatre Support Fund seeing a lot of support, it certainly seems like this is an issue of importance to the British public, as well as world-wide. Indeed, perhaps when this lockdown is over the government could rethink their strategy of how to support the arts in making a recovery.