Tuesday, 28 April 2020

no quick fix

In this part of the world we know only too well that there is no such thing as a quick fix. The outworking of the social disarray that this society has had to live with over the generations , before, during and indeed after the Troubles, still has a way to go before being in any way really fixed. Now, in the face of Covid-19 and the constant anxiety and daily uncertainty, we know that this global upheaval will take time, years and years, before we either return to something we recognise as normal, or we normalise the unrecognisable life we currently lead.

Within this, there has been a headlong stampede to embrace the digital world - with rock stars, old (Ancient even) and new, blasting away from lockdown at their iPhones in their living rooms, sounding pretty ropey ( not all of course, Springsteen still manages to sound amazing singing into a quality microphone).  Organisations, my own included, have had to develop presentations on line to finish off programmes or announce awards etc the Seamus Heaney Awards. Everyone still hoping that this is only a very temporary situation.

But, as hard as we try, this disembodied digital experience can also be quite isolating, because it can often starkly remind us that things have utterly changed and that the contact we might enjoy via a screen can never replace the human contact we all took for granted for so long.

But little networks, smaller eddies of conversations and generosity have been springing up all over the places. NI SCRUBS for example, where individuals with connections through arts programmes like CAPs Trash Fashion or Tides Dare to Change project, are now sharing resources- overlockers, sewing machines, materials and creating a productive community that is directly assisting in the challenge to resist coronavirus. Some of these participants are taking refuge here from the Syrian war and now are helping medical teams battle Covid-19. New deeper connections are made. Not built on profit, or narcissism, but on mutuality, generosity and togetherness. It’s no surprise that many have enjoyed that connection through highly expressive community art practices and programmes.

So, in looking to the future, we can rebuild our community connections, we can renew solidarity and we can together find ways not be overcome by these days. In other words, as a community, we have often shown the resilience to continue.

But of course there has always been a terrible cost. Today, as death rates mount astronomically in the case of the U.K. and US, and we see the terrifying numbers escalate in our elderly population, especially those poor souls in care, we must reach out to that population, thoughtfully and creatively and offer them some respite.
CAP has an Artful Older People that is offering kits of materials and ideas to a set of care homes to bring some welcome distraction and support moments of calm creativity. Many organisations are doing likewise.

We cannot be complacent. While the arts community is seeking emergency support thanks to the programme that the Arts Council has just opened up, it is only a short term exercise as well. 100 x £5,000 and that fund is used up. And we know there are many more artists and creative practitioners who really need support now because we will be counting on them to assist all our community to come together again: to make sense of this trauma and to celebrate the humanity in our lives and shine a light in the darkness, paying tribute to the loss and exploring the failures. The means for all this to be experienced is  will fall to our creative community. Take time to take care of these workers. They may not be frontline but their work will be crucial. To express; to resist; to grieve and to renew.

Stay safe

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