Nick Ahad: Among all the bad news this week there is good cheer for the arts

AS society appears to be going to the dogs, the economy is on its backside and we’re all going to hell in a handcart, here’s my little piece of public spirited cheeriness.

I am happy to say there is some good news to report. In fact, there’s lots.

First is Sheffield Crucible’s Autumn production of Othello, starring Dominic West and Clarke Peters, selling out quickly and (the theatre tells me this week) attracting bookers from as far away as Chicago.

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This news came to me hot on the heels of another announcement, from cultural marketing company &Co, that a group of 13 leading Yorkshire theatres sold almost two million tickets at their venues in the last year.

Harrogate is one of these theatres, and it attracted the highest audience numbers in its history in the last year.

Wait, it gets better.

The visitor numbers were released this week for the Damien Hirst exhibition at Leeds Art Gallery – where, in the first week since it opened on July 15, 11,000 people have gone through the doors. Apparently the Headrow gallery’s system was struggling to keep count in the first few days.

This great news echoes the story from York Art Gallery, the first Yorkshire venue to exhibit Hockney’s Bigger Trees Near Warter painting earlier this year. Unveiled to the public on February 12, the first weekend saw 5,389 people visit. Between February and June, over 143,000 people visited York Art Gallery to see the painting.

One last bit of positive news for context.

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The Hepworth Wakefield, the new sculpture gallery which opened on May 21, was expecting 150,000 people in its first year. They tell me this week the visitor figures have reached 175,000 – in less than three months.

‘What is going on?’ is a question that has been asked by several people, in several arenas, this week. I want to ask it here with a much more positive bent.

I’ll tell you what’s going on. We’ve spent the week looking at images of looters (not protestors – those are people with a cause) and seeing the truly appalling side of our nature.

The facts and figures above are a celebration of our better nature. That part of us which was revealed when thousands were mobilised this week through Twitter to come together and clean up the streets of London, Manchester and Liverpool.

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It is the side of our nature that celebrates art, that values beauty, that joins with thousands of others to visit a gallery, or millions of others to buy a theatre ticket and join in a communal, positive, uplifting experience

It’s been a pretty dark week for our country. Receiving the above news was a timely reminder that our communities come together to celebrate art and culture far more often than for any negative reasons.

[email protected] Twitter: @NickAhad