Around our region there have been some inspiring examples – Park Bench Theatre in York have put together a short programme of work currently being performed in the city’s Rowntree Park, the cycling Shakespeare troupe, the wonderfully named Handlebards, kicked off a mini-season of al fresco events at the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield earlier this month and tonight the Orchestra of Opera North will be performing at Leeds Town Hall for the first time in five months with a programme of Mendelssohn, Schubert and Mozart.
Further afield, Regent’s Park Theatre in London is staging Jesus Christ Superstar through to the end of next month, plus a season of stand-up comedy.
And the glorious Minack Theatre in Cornwall has put together a season of solo shows and two-handers, including a sold-out run of Educating Rita with Stephen Tompkinson and Jessica Johnson.
Of course, outdoor venues and spaces are ideal for socially distanced performance and that is not possible for many. With most theatres relying on a high percentage of box office revenue to survive, it is often not financially viable to open with smaller audiences.
My hope is that the glaring shortcomings of this model, exposed by the current crisis, will lead to it being reviewed and eventually to more state funding allocated to the arts.
At this time of year the city of Edinburgh would normally be buzzing with excited performers and punters, all anticipating the unique and special thrill of live performance.
Every August thousands of visitors from around the globe come to experience theatre, music, comedy, literature and visual arts in a world-beating (use of the phrase oft-coined by Conservative politicians of late, actually justified in this case) celebration of arts and culture. This year, for obvious reasons, it is not taking place, but is set to return next August.
It’s worth taking a moment to reflect on why and how the festival began – founded in 1947 as an attempt to heal, through the arts, some of the wounds caused by the Second World War. If ever the world needed a reminder of the healing, nurturing and enlightening qualities of arts and culture, it is now.
Let’s value them as they should be valued and lend our support as much as we can, otherwise we are in serious danger of losing a significant proportion of the UK’s arts ecology. It’s worth fighting for.
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