The Irish Times view on cultural life in the pandemic : A devastating impact

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on all areas of the arts has been devastating.

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on all areas of the arts has been devastating. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on all areas of the arts has been devastating. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

 

Theatres in darkness, music venues silent, cinemas with blank screens, a summer without the sounds of its festivals. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on all areas of the arts has been devastating. Since March, when theatres were among the first places forced to close their doors, there has been no reprieve allowing the sector to function in any kind of normal way. An Arts Council report in July was bleak in its assessment that thousands of artists and arts workers had lost their livelihoods and that the fallout from the pandemic presented a “ profound existential threat” to cultural life in the Republic. The report predicted that full recovery in the sector could take until 2025.

If there is one positive outcome from such a dire situation, it is that at last the precarious situation of artists has been recognised and acknowledgment of the value of their work signalled in the significant increase in exchequer funding provided to alleviate their losses. Our common need for what the artistic imagination can provide by way of vision and reflection, solace and perspective was never clearer than during the dark days of this past year.

The resilient response of the sector in how it has coped and found new ways to deliver drama, music, opera, film and literary readings through digital presentation and performance in alternative outdoor settings is a measure of the ingenuity of creative minds. That creativity deserves all the support it can be given to keep it sustainable into a future beyond the current crisis.

At year end it remains impossible to guess when buildings can permanently reopen and live events will again be feasible or viable. John Maynard Keynes, launching the British Arts Council after the second World War, spoke of the state having a duty to “give courage, confidence and opportunity” to the arts.

The Government has made strides in fulfilling that duty but we must now hope that this belated recognition of the vital role of artistic expression in society remains a core value of State policy in a post-pandemic world.

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