Art might not cure disease, but it helps make life worth living

‘governments hope we will all increasingly keep our noses stuck in small screens for our work, our leisure and, increasingly, our sex life

Editorial: My government, and perhaps yours, has been panicked by Covid into incompetence and confusion. It began by making health a single and exclusive priority.  Later on, when it saw the social wreckage it had caused, it brought the country’s economy into the equation – only causing more problems and confusion. Then it realised that the word ‘health’ includes mental health but seemed powerless by now to do much about it.  They have generated so much fear and panic that, while mental and social health are deteriorating, the destructive machine they have set in motion cannot be stopped.

After the financial crash of 2008, the UK government kept local authority schools so short of funds that the teaching of music, art, drama and dance had to be curtailed or ended. These subjects were deemed to be a luxury. Also, art did not conform to the plan that schools should focus on subjects more useful to the country’s future – by which we know they meant computing.

The slow death of music, dance, drama and drawing has been accelerated now by further lockdowns around the world that have thoughtlessly closed concert halls, galleries, opera, ballet and essential smaller venues for music, poetry, drawing and painting. If there is a plan behind this, it might be that governments hope we will all increasingly keep our noses stuck in small screens for our work, our leisure and, increasingly, our sex life.

The artists who we rely on to feed our soul and make life worth living aren’t sitting on a shelf waiting to be taken down when the wind changes. They are having to turn to other career plans to keep bread on the table or they are going hungry. Venues are closing and many will not re-open. Musicians, dancers, poets, illustrators and puppeteers whose work gives their life meaning might be contemplating suicide. Will their bodies be noticed in the social wreckage?

While we keep safe in our homes (as though we could hide from bacteria and viruses) what sort of world are we creating for our children and grandchildren? Is it a world you would want to live in? We should all obey our country’s laws as we feel we must but we must find ways to resist this vicious strangulation of art, this murder of creativity, imagination and dreams. We must find ways to keep the rich fabric of society alive as we try to stay safe. Otherwise, what are we living for?

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