Well, I can’t pretend that I won’t be glad to see the back of 2016 – without going into all the dispiriting details, I think we can all agree it’s not been a great year on many different levels.
What is abundantly clear is that in amongst all the divisive politcal discourse, the arts are needed now more than ever as an essential antidote, offering a clear-sighted commentary on events as well as providing a forum for balanced debate that can lead to positive change.
Earlier this year Bruce Springsteen remarked in an interview to promote his long-awaited autobiography: “You can change someone’s life with the right song... You can bend the course of their development... You can contextualise very, very difficult experiences. Songs are pretty good at that.” The arts in general are pretty good at that. For which we must be grateful.
Here in Yorkshire we have so many opportunities to access the arts – there is a huge choice of excellent theatre on offer, both created here in Yorkshire and visiting on tour, music of all kinds in a variety of venues large and small and you can see world-class visual art almost any day of the week in our galleries and museums, mostly for free.
There have been some great highlights across the arts in the region this year – for example, we saw the UK’s first ever prize for sculpture take place in Yorkshire courtesy of the wonderful Hepworth Wakefield, the Yorkshire Festival gave us a fanatastic smorgasbord of international art events all across the county for three weeks in the summer and we saw the launch of the Brontë 200 bicentenary celebrations of the famous literary family, with several exciting cross-artform events.
It was also good also to see how popular the various literature festivals in our region were again this year. Not only do they offer audiences the opportunity to listen to their favourite big-name authors, they are also a place for informed dialogue. Festival programmes included panel disccusions on a variety of topics and judging by attendance figures, in our modern world where so much public discussion takes place ‘virtually’ there is clearly an appetite for real-life debate, in a room with other people. That can only be a good thing.
There will be no Culture for the next two weeks, but look out for a round-up of the region’s must-see shows over the festive season in next Friday’s main paper.
We will be back on January 6 to continue to champion the arts in Yorkshire – and we have a lot to shout about. In the meantime have a wonderful Christmas and here’s to an arts-filled 2017.