People Value the Arts Until They Don’t
It’s a proper job until it isn’t, so let’s give it to the robots to do
It is late March 2020. The UK has just entered its first lockdown after the then Prime Minister Boris Johnson implored the country to stay home, protect the NHS, and save lives. That first lockdown lasted several months, easing from mid-May through to the end of June when most other restrictions were lifted.
That meant for three months, we all had to find something to do. Not everyone sat around twiddling their thumbs. The country seemed to be split between those on furlough and those who were able to work from home. Parents homeschooled kids and everyone had at least a little bit more time on their hands.
For those crucial months of an unusually hot and dry spring, going for beach days, to theme parks and other tourist attractions… basically anywhere outside where you might see lots of people, was out of the question.
And so we turned to entertainment of an indoor nature — books, comics, TV and films, board games, video games, theatre broadcast live, and every other form of entertainment not listed here. They were all a lifeline to so many people.
Neoliberal capitalism demands constant productivity and monetising everything including our hobbies, and frowns on art for art’s sake. But the fact is without entertainment, we would all have gone quite literally insane.
This is as true in normal times as it is during a pandemic though. People need downtime. We need days out, a change of scene, regardless of our choice of entertainment.
We have never valued art enough
During furlough and business support loans, arts centres such as theatres and cinemas received far less money than most other businesses.
In some cases, theatres got nothing and had to survive on donations alone while the National Theatre were able to broadcast some of their past plays on the web, sometimes free and sometimes for a small fee.
In short, entertainment venues were at the back of the queue for saving in those economic times.