Lockdown and the Arts - a parent view
Friday 22 January 2021 was a happy day in our house! A seemingly innocent date in the diary now had three reasons to be cheerful - Mary Ward Day at school, half-way through the homeschooling half-term, and the scholarship audition was over. Never has an off-timetable day been so welcomed!
I confess that things are relatively easy for our family during lockdown. We are lucky enough to have a (small) space for each person in the house to work separately. None of us enjoy large groups of people so we really enjoy the non-existent social events and the lack of people in the shops. We are also very grateful to live in Ely, which is pretty quiet at the best of times but now, apart from the dog-walkers on the footpath outside our house, it is like a ghost town. It means that my daily walks are completely relaxed, without that constant dread of "do I need to move aside AGAIN?". I am also yet to experience a weekly shop with more than five other customers in the supermarket.
Although our family is definitely well-suited to the lockdown experience, one thing we are desperately missing is the arts. We were, in our pre-covid lives, frequent theatre and concert goers and cannot wait to be able to do this again, whether under covid-safe restrictions or not. We have thoroughly enjoyed being able to watch several shows and concerts through the various streaming channels available but it's not the same as the real thing.
I'm also very conscious that a large number of my friends and family are financially affected by the lack of arts - I have friends who work backstage in local theatre and other friends who are session musicians, including London's West End; I have ex-pupils who run a repertory theatre company, and an ex-housemate who is a composer and musical director; and I have a cousin who is a professional clown and another cousin in the film industry. Every single one of them has been out of work since last March. (Looking back through that list I can't quite work out, as a maths teacher, how on earth I have ended up with all these creative types in my life!)
Although our family is definitely well-suited to the lockdown experience, one thing we are desperately missing is the arts.
Unsurprisingly, my friends are as stubborn and determined to find a positive in most things, as I am. Despite the shock of last March, they weren't going to let a global pandemic stop them doing what they love and quickly found ways to get around the lockdown situation. Some industries were easier to adapt than others and, whilst my musician friends are still limited to online teaching and my backstage friends haven't switched on a lighting rig or lowered a backdrop since last March, others have been able, with some creativity, to find different ways of working:
- My ex-pupils (who started their own theatre company while still at school!) adapted all their summer shows so they could be performed outdoors, to provide Covid-safe, socially-distanced viewing for audiences. Watching Treasure Island at sunset in the Dean's Garden in the shadows of Ely Cathedral was surreal, but magical! Sadly, their run of reduced-length Christmas shows (back inside theatres but with very reduced seating and none of their usual children's company) came to an abrupt halt with the tier changes in December. Disappointed not to get our annual fix of theatre at The Maltings, Ely, we were delighted when we discovered that they had filmed two performances just before they had to close and had been able to create a show for streaming.
- At the start of the last lockdown my ex-housemate (the composer) rallied all his musician and sound engineer contacts and, using one of his own compositions, produced one of the first virtual orchestra recordings of lockdown 2020, resulting in Lockdown Orchestra - Flight Fantastic. In addition to this, despite the uncertainty of the pandemic, he and his writing partner continued to prepare for their new theatre production, due to be premiered at Southwark Playhouse in January. And, despite the latest lockdown cancelling the live premier they have now filmed the production in the theatre and it is currently scheduled to premiere online in February, as The Sorceror's Apprentice, Frost and Hough.
The Wizard of Oz is definitely worth watching, especially if you're finding the long dark days of January seemingly never-ending. And Flight Fantastic is just the most beautiful piece of music which, although inspired by the first lockdown, is still totally apt for our current circumstances. Enjoy!
As a final nod to the arts, I must mention my Brownie unit. The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) have chosen "Peace" as this year's theme for World Thinking Day. The girls have to complete several challenges to earn a special WTD21 badge. This week's challenge is to create a Window Wonder for Peace using tissue paper provided by the Brownie leaders, and any other resources the girls may have at home. We have shown the Brownies a couple of Ely windows as inspiration and I am already looking forward to seeing their efforts!