Perhaps we will emerge from this as a country that values its community art even more - Ian McMillan

One aspect of the lockdown has been the flowering of creativity in adversity;

Arts and culture have been badly shaken by the lockdown. (JPIMedia)

while cinemas and theatres closed their doors, writers and actors and directors made films and plays that you could watch from home and it felt, at times, like there was almost too much to take in.

Goodness knows what the artistic scene is going to look like when this is all over, but the resourcefulness of the creative community has made me think exciting things will still keep happening, even though the spaces they happen in might have changed.

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Perhaps we will emerge from this as a county and a country that values its community art even more; people will want to write and sing and paint and dance about the world around them to a much greater extent, it seems to me, because that world has been shaken to the core and will continue to be shaken to the core.

All these grand thoughts sprang to mind because, in my continuing rediscovery of the books on my shelves, I came across an unassuming little volume that immediately and gloriously transported me through space and time. The book is called Rossington Writers 1989-2014 and it’s a souvenir of a writing workshop that I started in 1989 in Rossington Library, near Doncaster, with my mate the late Martyn Wiley and which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2014.

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As I wrote in my introduction to the book: “The format at Rossington is always wonderfully the same. There’s a cup of tea. There might be a biscuit. There’s the reading out of the homework and there’s a lot of talking and a lot of laughter.”

And for 25 years members met and wrote poems and stories and felt that, in that village, they were contributing to the culture of the place in the same way that the books in the library and the programmes on the TVs in their houses were. The group was also dedicated to literature produced by so-called ordinary people living in a part of the world that often went unrecognised as an artistic powerhouse.

So when this is all over and when we can gather again, I hope to see an explosion of creative writing groups (and art groups and dance groups and theatre groups) restarting and starting from scratch, and meeting in wherever we’re allowed to meet and making a vast body of work that we can read for years and years.

My other fervent hope is that the people who hold the purse strings shower this kind of activity with funding because the funding of creativity brings dignity and aids wellbeing and community cohesion and helps people to think about who they are and who they might become.

And it helps the biscuit industry and the tea trade, of course. Kettle on!

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