When the UK hunkered down into social hibernation in March, a new kind of warrior emerged: our NHS staff, our shopkeepers, delivery and public safety personnel, together with our ever-cheerful postal staff and rubbish collectors, became the nation’s knights in shining armour. More recently, the country fell head over heels in love with a 100-year-old superhero by the name of Captain Tom who will go down in history as the sunny-side up of the coronavirus pandemic.
But what about the other guardian angels who are keeping us alive and kicking through lockdown? Our theatres, actors, musicians, dancers, artists, museums, galleries, and those who work in and with arts organisations, also deserve a big round of virtual applause.
The Covid-19 pandemic cut the blood flow to our arts and cultural institutions overnight, and it showed no mercy. Cinemas and theatres went dark, museums and galleries shuttered, and the curtain came down on opera houses and dance venues. The show seemed to be well and truly over.
Instead of taking a final bow, the global creative industry revved its engines back up and started offering us a slice of culture on a virtual plate, with most of it gratis.
It started with a whisper. The National Theatre gave us the gut-busting One Man, Two Guvnors; the Royal Opera House announced its #OurHouseToYourHouse program; and the London Mozart Players, the Wigmore Hall and the London Symphony Orchestra all pitched in with free streams.
Then the Royal Academy of Arts, the National Gallery and the British Museum made their collections accessible to all, whilst the Tate reached out to kids with the posthumous help of Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock. Sadler’s Wells launched a digital dance stage, and Shakespeare’s Globe announced a free on-demand offering. The Royal Academy of Dance had us pirouetting in our living rooms with their free online classes (Camilla is a fan).
Andrea Bocelli’s Amazing Grace boomed across the globe, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. The BBC announced its Culture in Quarantine programme, whilst Andrew Lloyd Webber dusted off his 1998 Phantom of the Opera, gifting it to the nation for 24 hours.
But it didn’t stop with the big cheeses. Artists, dancers, musicians, actors, poets and singers came out of the lockdown woodwork and started sharing their talents with the world. We’re now dancing, singing, crying, laughing and creating with some of the world’s best talent right in our living rooms – and without spending a single penny.
How to support the creative sector during coronavirus lockdown
I’m not suggesting we all take to the streets and start clapping, but we could, and should, show our appreciation by donating to a sector that desperately needs financial oxygen in order to stay alive.
- Consider making a direct donation to museums and performing arts venues, most of which are accepting gifts online.
- Buy pieces direct from artists and via online galleries.
- Purchase museum memberships.
- If you have tickets for a cancelled show, consider donating your ticket. You can also forward pay for tickets, or become a friend.
- Many museum shops are accepting orders, although you may have to wait a little longer for shipping.
- The Mayor of London has set up a Pay It Forward London which helps Londoners buy goods and services in advance.
- Several theatre and musical companies have setup virtual stages where you pay for access to online productions.
Here’s a big thank you to the arts and culture sector for the laughs, for keeping us excited, steady, motivated and on our curious tippy toes. A virtual bow to the following for keeping the ghost lights burning. Until we meet again!
- The top prize for lockdown quarantine goes to the National Theatre for gifting some top notch theatre to the world, and right from the start. The National, like so many theatres, urgently needs donations.
- Hampstead Theatre and Royal Court are two of the many theatres across the country offering free online productions.
- Tour the Royal Academy of Arts’s Picasso and Paper and Léon Spilliaert exhibitions, spend over an hour in the company of David Hockney or even longer with Monet and the Impressionists.
- 5 million objects can be viewed online on the British Museum’s free online portal.
- The Dickens Museum is uploading highlights of its collection of over 100,000 items. Dickens’s desk and chair, wallet, razors and a hot gin punch lemon squeezer are among the wealth of personal items you can see online (please donate if you can).
- Keep the whippersnappers entertained over at Tate Kids.
- Enjoy daily musical treats and live performances with the London Mozart Players.
- The Wigmore Hall is live streaming every Monday.
- Check out these operatic gems from the Royal Opera House.
- The BBC is providing a one-stop shop for all things cultural with their BBC Culture in Quarantine.
- Take a virtual tour of the Courtauld Gallery.
- Anyone else potty for Grayson Perry? You can catch him on Channel 4 in Grayson’s Art Club.
- Get on down and Bardy with Sir Patrick Stewart and his daily sonnets or Jermyn Street Theatre’s 154 Sonnets, watch free productions from Shakespeare’s Globe and the RSC, as well as live performances of Shakespeare’s works performed remotely by The Show Must Go Online.
- Don’t get your broomsticks in a twist if you missed Harry Potter: A History of Magic at the British Library. You can catch it online here.
- Sadler’s Wells’ digital stage presents a programme of full-length dance performances and online workshops available on page their Facebook page.
- SPACE, a leading arts organisation in London, is launching a series of artist-led ‘home workshops’ for the over-65s.
- A massive transatlantic thank you to the Metropolitan Opera for their free nightly opera streams. The rich programme has included such greats as Luciano Pavarotti, Renata Scotto, Renée Fleming, Cecilia Bartoli, Leontyne Price and Joyce DiDonato.
- Discover 2000 museums with Google Arts and Culture.
- Thanks to the BFI and Netflix for providing emergency funding and to Mayor of London for a £2.3m fund to support the culture and creative industries.
- The Arts Council has made £160 million available through National Lottery Project Grants but much more is required to keep our cultural sector afloat.
Did I forget someone? Let me know in the comments below.
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