Back in March, just days after schools closed and the country locked down, furloughed folks, with free time now suddenly on their hands, began posting the efforts of their creative pursuits.
Without warning jobs were taken away, and as the reality and boredom started to sink in the wool and needles were pulled out of the darkest corners of cupboards, dusted off, and spiders popped back where they belonged. Mis-shapen, simple, and utterly amazing cakes were arriving in our Facebook news feeds in equal measure, quicker than angry Trump tweets appear after an election. Paintbrushes were picked up and pandemic inspired paintings were popping up all over the place. It seemed that a shift in priorities, a need to escape from constant bad news, and an instinctive drive to express our complex and confusing feelings towards a world turned upside down, inspired many people to get creative!
As an artist and ‘creative arts for well being’ advocate, I relished this phenomena. I wondered why kid’s beautiful drawings in windows to brighten up our streets and say thank you to our extraordinary (and extraordinarily under paid) health care professionals, wasn’t something that we did “before”! Art breathes life into communities; it sends and spreads messages, and it shows people that we care. Seeing retired police officers, hardworking retail staff, frustrated teachers, and so many others turn to baking, crafting and making art was fascinating and beautiful. The creative arts give us so many rich and diverse paths to wander down in times of need, darkness, and curiosity, that we can end up in so many different versions of wonderland, if we just choose to look and jump into the rabbit hole.
So many people – from tiny children, and big kids who lost their activities and friends, to teens trying to take their exams and find their relationships in life, to twenty and thirty something students, workers and self employed, to parents with another role to fulfil, to hard working employees across decades, to retirees without their friends and family, and so many others, all trying to make sense of a world that literally seemed to change overnight – all turned to some kind of creative pursuit to help.
Yet, it seems a paradoxical shame that one of the most ignored and hardest hit industries of the Covid-19 pandemic has been The Arts…
We forget when we dabble in these hobbies, when we watch a film, and listen to that CD or playlist, when we indulge in a boxset on Netflix, when we revel in the National Theatre streaming performances for free, when the American Ballet Company and The Ballet Coach share free dance classes, when we enjoy a folk club or drama group over zoom, when we can virtually wonder around museums and galleries for free to take our mind off things… we forget that all these things that we love, and massively take for granted for our entertainment and keeping us busy are THE ARTS.
But Theatre is in desperate peril. Artists aren’t selling any work. Galleries and studios are struggling. Small artisan businesses are dying out. TV and film production is waning. The make-up artists, stage managers, sound technicians, curators, costume designers, doormen, marketing guys, box office workers, camera operators, food vendors, ushers, lighting technicians, and so so many others are out of work… We turn to creativity at a time of need, yet, the very people we depend upon are being forgotten.
The Arts is a broad umbrella, but it is one that we all fall under and we all need to step up and stand up for it. We must save our creative arts industries, so we can all continue to be invigorated and inspired by it – and in turn, carry on drawing, decorating, colouring, crafting, making, baking, photographing, printing, playing, sculpting, writing, watching and listening. And not take it all for granted.Every rainbow in a window is a welcome sight to us all, not least the key worker coming home from a hard shift, but it also tells a story of a child that leapt down that rabbit hole with excitement and spent some time in their own wonderland; discovering, wandering and wondering, pondering and processing, considering, and creating something wonderful for us all.
Every rainbow, every story, every piece of music, every film, every book, every work of art, every photograph, every performance, every sculpture, every poem… almost everything positive you inhale from the media is due to a hardworking artistic soul’s trip to their own creative wonderland, and a timely reminder for us all to take a good look in the looking glass, be brave and jump, grow tall and fight back, like Alice.
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