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Head of Sixth Form, Ruth Taylor, looks at the value and importance of the arts

Head of Sixth Form, Ruth Taylor, looks at the value and importance of the arts

Our theme of the week has been Great Conversation: The Value of the Arts, a theme which supports our Mary Ward Characteristic of Celebrating Diversity.

Over the years, the value of arts in our society has come under much debate for reasons such as limited government funds and theatres who find themselves with higher costs and falling numbers. COVID has brought a new challenge for the arts industry as theatres, concert halls, art galleries and museums have been forced to close their doors. The highly controversial government campaign Reskill.Rethink brought the arts debate once again to the front pages. When we consider the value of the arts, we often think in terms of the pleasure art forms provide and the intrinsic values associated with them. The arts provide emotional nourishment, a chance to escape to a new world and develop our inner lives, amongst other things. There is, however, a wider picture to the value of the arts industry. During lockdown we have seen the value of art forms in supporting our mental health and wellbeing. It is also clear that the arts contribute to our economic wellbeing as an industry worth around £10bn/year. The Arts Council has an excellent infographic showing the various values of the arts. The infographic can be found here.

In her assembly this Monday, our Headmistress, Ms Avery introduced us to two very powerful pieces of art. Firstly, the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. This is a three-part symphony composed by Henry Gorecki in the 1970s. Each part follows a different story. The first is a 15th century Polish lament of Mary, mother of Jesus. The second, a message written on the wall of a Gestapo wall in WW2. The third a Silesian folk song about a mother searching for a son killed in the Silesian uprisings. The themes of the symphony are motherhood and separation through war. The second piece of art Ms Avery introduced us to was Bodies by Brandon Lawrence and Davy Lazare. Principal dancer at the Birmingham Royal Ballet, Brandon Lawrence, and spoken word poet, Davy Lazere, devised this piece as a reflection of the issues of racism and hate in today’s world. The inspiration of the piece was the death of George Floyd and the outpouring of emotion that followed, but the piece intends to go beyond that to continue the conversation about inclusivity versus discrimination.

If you haven’t had the chance to listen and watch these pieces, here they are for your viewing pleasure.