Coronavirus: we need the arts to survive this too
PUBLISHED: 09:34 29 April 2020 | UPDATED: 10:00 29 April 2020
During the Covid-19 outbreak, support for the arts and heritage sectors has never been more important – both for us and for them, says Rebecca MacNaughton.
Over the weekend, I did all the things I don’t usually have time for.
I took every single book off my shelves and rearranged them. I listened to three podcasts back-to-back. I finished a box set I’ve been meaning to finish for months, did a virtual tour of Blickling and watched all four Indiana Jones movies. The novelty of staying in, of having time, hasn’t quite worn off.
In fact, if lockdown has taught me anything over the last few weeks, it’s about what makes me tick.
Most of my peers are doing the same: they’re burying their noses in good books, trying out new recipes or catching up on the TV that, until now, they hadn’t found time for.
In a hundred years, this bizarre moment in history will be marked by Instagram posts of the same three objects: a half-finished jigsaw, a sourdough starter and an immortalising screenshot of Netflix’s Tiger King.
Lockdown is different for everyone. For those who don’t have children or live separately from partners, this is the reality: we wake up, we potter, we eat - and when we want a distraction, a comfort, a sense of escapism, we turn to our full shelf of books and our streaming queues on Netflix.
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The realisation is troubling, actually. After all, we’ve been conditioned to believe that these things – the arts – aren’t that important. They’re not the initiatives the Government tends to fund and they were not, growing up, the target-driven subjects I was told to focus on.
‘Hard’ subjects – science, engineering, maths – are, of course, saving lives, but in lockdown, and when those nurses, doctors, virologists and carers come home at the end of a long shift, it’s the arts - the books, theatre, films, TV, music, dance, art - that’s saving minds.
We’re lucky, really. That we are alive, now, when a whole back catalogue of books, music, film and TV is available at the touch of a button. Lucky that we can watch a National Theatre show from the comfort of our sofa or do a 360-degree tour of our favourite museum. We’re lucky, too, that we can get this globally; we can immerse ourselves in other cultures, other languages, other times and places – especially when travel, right now, is limited if not impossible.
Once we are through the other side of this, this will all continue. But only – and this is the scary thing – if we invest in it.
READ MORE: 7 virtual tours of Norfolk museums and galleries
When the lockdown is lifted, it won’t be the supermarket we go to first, but the museums, the galleries, the libraries, the theatres, the concerts and the parks. We’ll be able to browse the shelves of our favourite book shops again and go to the cinema. We’ll meet our friends and family at National Trust sites and in museum spaces, and we’ll be grateful that they, these places, got through it too.
But to do that, we need to ensure that they do and without support, many won’t. Staff have been furloughed. Doors have been shut. Book tours and gigs cancelled and postponed. All of these things are waiting for us, hoping for us, needing us to show our support.
I boxed up 30 books over the weekend, to give to a local charity shop when all of this is over. But I’ve already ordered five more and bought a further gift certificate – because I know, right now, that every little helps.
If, like me, you’ve ever wondered about buying that book or those theatre tickets or donating something, anything, to a local or national museum, then do. Now. It might feel like a luxury but their survival, and ours, depend on it.
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