Well (and I’m guessing you could probably anticipate my answer, here) – the arts, of course.
In times of crisis it is the arts, food for our soul, that always rises to the challenge; and how the creative sector and industries have stepped forward to provide that hope, solace and sustenance has been extremely moving, uplifting – and humbling.
However, as you might expect, the arts sector is doing what it does best – responding with creativity and positivity, providing alternative access to artistic activity and entertainment. Much of this has been online – there are now numerous ways in which we can ‘attend’ theatre productions, classical concerts, ballets and operas, ‘visit’ galleries through virtual tours and ‘view’ exhibitions.
But these unprecedented times have also seen a resurgence in that most simple, old-fashioned, offline pastime – reading a good book. Books sales have soared. In the week that Waterstones closed its stores, the company reported that its online sales were up by 400 per cent week on week and overall paperback sales rose by 35 per cent.
There was also a significant rise in purchases of weighty classics. Well, indeed, if not now, when? It seems many people are deciding this could be the perfect opportunity to tackle tomes such as Tolstoy’s epic War and Peace, James Joyce’s stream of consciousness novel Ulysses (quite a challenge, not for the faint-hearted) or even the several volumes of Marcel Proust’s A la Recherche du Temps Perdu.
If you are thinking of stocking up on books, may I suggest that you support some of the outstanding independent publishers we are lucky to have in our region. This is a tough time for everyone but many small presses are facing an existential crisis.
So why not have a look at the excellent reading lists available at Bluemoose Books in Hebden Bridge, And Other Stories in Sheffield, Scarborough’s Valley Press or Leeds-based Peepal Tree Press? They all play a vital role in introducing exciting new talent to readers.
This strange Big Pause is a chance for us all to think about what we value, what is actually important and what we really do not want to lose.