The arts industry is one of the key components that contributes to the beating heart of our country’s economy and culture, so why is the Government still giving it the cold shoulder?
When I was a child, my Nan, like so many other grandparents back in the early 90s, would pop on a VHS tape in hopes of keeping me occupied for a couple of hours so that she could crack on with her daily tasks. So, as well as singing Castle on a Cloud at the local butchers in exchange for a lollypop, I used to watch so many videos; mainly of our family holiday’s to Cyprus and Snow White, but there’s one to this very day that sticks out as key moment in my life.
Said video included Jason Donovan’s Joseph Mega Remix, Torvill & Dean’s iconic and Olympic winning Bolero, and, Sarah Brightman and Steve Harley singing Phantom of the Opera. To this very day, I still believe that this video is the one that ignited my love for musical theatre.
It’s coming up to one year since I last took my seat in the beautiful Birmingham Hippodrome, a theatre that feels somewhat of a second home to myself and so many others, to see The Book of Mormon. If I’d have known that that was the last time I would get to experience a show in all it’s glory before the pandemic struck, I’m sure I would’ve increased my effort to savour each moment a little more than usual.
Sunday, February 7 saw a record-breaking 4.1million people across the UK. tune into BBC Two as they took their seats in the comfort of their homes for Musicals The Greatest Show, that brought together some of the world’s greatest performers from leading West End musicals to shine a spotlight on one of the core arteries that makes up the beating heart of our culture. Knowing that so many people tuned in to that show is a beautiful thing, but I, like so many others are still left a little baffled as to why the Government continues to put the arts industry on the back burner.
Life without theatre is so quiet and dull; it’s like a thirst that can never be quenched, no matter just how hard you try. So this peaks a question that many have been asking for almost a year: why is the arts industry being so heavily neglected? If 4.1million people tuned in to a programme that showcased just a small, but a sensational percentage of what our performers and musicians have to offer, that surely counts for something?
While select sports continue to move forward, it feels as if the arts industry continues to be shut away, gathering dust. Our world needs culture, it needs theatre to allow stories to be told, and to introduce and ignite love into the younger generation.
It’s impossible to ignore the effect that the closure of theatres is having not just on the economy, but on the lives of dedicated performers, stage crews, set designers, comms teams – the list is endless. Life at the moment is so tough, and having theatre taken away when it provides as an escape and safe space for so many people is utterly heartbreaking. I’ve seen first-hand just what it’s doing due to having a close friend working as a performer, and being very lucky to know a handful of dedicated people in the industry who are so desperate to get back to doing what they love so dearly.
Theatres alone pump more than £7billion into the UK’s economy, driving as a key force for the reason why millions of tourists travel here each year, but if the lack of support from the Government continues, it’s going to be a hefty struggle for the industry to recover.
Looking back, the arts got us through the first lockdown, with many companies broadcasting their shows on YouTube, and even major festivals such as Glastonbury and Reading and Leeds creating a virtual festival so that we could enjoy our much-needed dose of culture, even if it was in a way that’s different to the norm. In turn, we need to look after the arts industry, just as much as it’s looked after us, because I don’t know what life would be like without sitting in a theatre again.
*Featured image credit: Johan Persson