• Sheila V

Curtain Up

Updated: Jun 25, 2020

Covid and The Arts

Every business in Britain has been seriously affected by the dreadful Covid pandemic, but as each week passes restrictions are slowly being lifted to return us to some kind of normality. Cornwall relies heavily on the tourist industry and thousands working within tourism are frantically preparing to open their doors in the coming weeks to welcome the millions of visitors who head to our beautiful part of the world each year. It is a sad fact that many have suffered so badly they will probably never recover.

Our Arts and music scene is a huge part of the Cornish economy; ironically, this is the very sector that continues to be a low priority in terms of financial help, there is also a great deal of worry and confusion surrounding the future of live events. Theatres of all sizes are puzzling over when they will be given the green light and how they can make themselves viable when the time comes. Various ideas have been bandied around on ways to keep audiences safe and socially distanced, but the reality is that no venue will survive if they are forced to limit ticket sales in order to comply with such restrictions. There is no easy answer, but I fervently hope that the government is putting some kind of plan in place to help everyone involved. Between January 2nd and lock down in March I enjoyed 5 theatre performances and 3 live gigs plus attending our local Arts theatre for a screening of BAIT, the BAFTA award winning Cornish film that took the world by storm. Today’s diary is depressing, until a few short months ago the pages were filled with festivals, theatre, music, film and dance performances which would keep me happily occupied until Christmas; gradually every event has been cancelled with vaguely hopeful promises that they will return in 2021.

Like everyone, I am desperate to meet up with my family and friends, but our creative and cultural scene is also a large part of my life and I am lost without the shared joy of watching a drama unfold on the stage before me, standing in a field alongside thousands of others as we are swept away on a tide of music, sitting in a small venue with friends while a local band invites us to give feedback on their latest song, laughing along with a stand up comedian, visiting a gallery, mesmerised by a dance performance, attending scratch nights, improv and poetry nights. There are thousands of people in the creative industry, they are a special breed, whether professional or amateur they feed our minds and souls like nothing else can. We have to fight for their survival and do everything in our power to ensure none of them fall by the wayside; we cannot allow one creative person to be forced out of the industry because there is no financial help for them.

Can you imagine sending your children or grandchildren to a school where they won’t read books, learn an instrument, dance, write poems or stories or take part in the school play?

Everyone went into shock in the early days of lockdown, but performers and creatives across the land slowly surfaced online with new ways of entertaining us. A massive and heartfelt thank you to all the companies and talented individuals, both local and national, who are helping us get through this with their performances and innovative ideas.

I have loved watching an exciting range of West End plays, but our local performers have also done us proud as they sang songs from their living rooms, brought us Northern Soul from their kitchens, told stories and poems, performed cabaret, screened films and hosted online pasty making competitions. There have been film and dance challenges, choirs separated by miles brought together by the power of Zoom, small children directing their own dance shows and films, there are fitness and creative classes, performers chatting about their work and sharing backstage secrets, we’ve even been shown how to make our own shadow puppets. There are photographs of wildlife and fabulous sunsets, yoga and meditation classes, drama, writing and pottery workshops, online painting classes and documentaries about Leach Pottery and Kurt Jackson.

The list of events brought to us by artists and creatives based in Cornwall is an incredible testament to the vast number of talented people who currently find themselves with no live audiences and no income. Everyone has been entertained in some way by the Arts over the last few months, even the people who never go to the theatre and ‘only watch telly’. Whether they have caught up with their favourite medical drama or watched a Scandi series for the first time, neither would have been possible without actors, scriptwriters and editors, costume designers, light and sound technicians, camera technicians, hair and makeup artists, editors, producers, production assistants, location finders, set builders, designers, decorators, scene painters and props finders. Translators are also in demand as we look to distant shores for new drama. Let’s not forget the music we enjoy, every genre from classical to the latest charts is available at the touch of a button all day every day. Where would our films, TV and theatre shows be without musical scores created by composers, performers and musical directors?

Cast and crew working on films for big or small screens, large scale West End shows or smaller local productions, professional companies and amateur dramatics all contribute to our collective health and well being.

A future without the Arts is inconceivable.

Former President Barack Obama summed it up perfectly, ‘The theatre is necessary. Dance is necessary. Song is necessary. The Arts are necessary – they are a necessary part of our lives’.

Photos of empty tent and Madame Wongs - courtesy of Brett Jackson Founder of SWAMP Circus, Empty theatre auditorium - courtesy of Jonathan Aberdeen Manager St. Austell Arts Theatre Empty music venue stage - courtesy of Sandie Foord Sound Engineer and Jam Night Host

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