How arts & culture is spreading hope during COVID-19

The recent UK lockdown has been a massive blow for the cultural sector. With theatres, museums and arts centres being amongst the first to close their doors to the public after the government’s say-so, it’s still hard to know what the full impact of COVID-19 will be and what this means for the future of many organisations.

Despite the current struggle, we have seen a huge surge in innovative offerings from the creative sector – from museums setting up virtual tours while their doors are closed or National Theatre at Home showing performances online for free, to owners of 3D printers making PPE for NHS workers. We know our Arts Impact Fund and Cultural Impact Development Fund investees are no different, and we wanted to share a bit of what they’ve been up to during lockdown so far…

Arts at the Old Courts
In a rapid turnaround, the team have set up The Old Courts Live – housing a collection of performances and online content available on demand in your own home. They are also working with Wigan Council and Fur Clemt to deliver food parcels and medical supplies to those in need as well as offering a friendly chat and welfare phone call service.

Birmingham Royal Ballet
Their website now houses Home from Home, which brings together specially curated performances and some favourites from the archives online for the first time. This new initiative will give an exclusive insight into the company’s daily routine as they stay fit and creative whilst in isolation at their homes across the globe. In partnership with BBC Culture in Quarantine, they have also live streamed dance classes. In addition to putting all this on offer, their wardrobe team have also been making masks and uniforms for NHS staff.

Culture24
Museum Crush, one of the initiatives from Culture24, has links to online tours of closed museums for you to view at your pleasure, as well as showcasing different oddities from venues across the UK. Culture24’s Digital Pathways is a resource bank that provides people working in and with museums with the tools and knowledge they need to build their digital skills. The website contains over 100 handpicked resources developed by both Culture24 and other organisations to create a step change in museums’ understanding of digital by working with individual museum practitioners and leaders, supporting them to become agents of change inside their own organisations.

Effervescent
The team have been busy working on this year’s Lonely Not Alone campaign, in partnership with Co-Op Foundation (which feels more important now than ever). Despite this normally being devised in person with young people that have experienced loneliness, Effervescent have managed to do this remotely, sending devices and resource packs to their young creators.

Fuse Art Space
With the lockdown in place, Fuse Arts Space have converted a number of their courses to online. For anyone that’s found themselves with more time on their hands, this is a great opportunity to experience something new and develop a creative skill.

InHouse Records
In response to lockdown measures and an inability to visit prisons, InHouse Records produced nearly 2,200 copies of its first weekly learning pack and Hip Hop magazine. This weekly learning pack and magazine will be delivered to prisons across England and in parts of the US providing inspiration and hope through content on lyric-writing, rhythm, rapping, achieving plans and goals as well as a CD including audio clips and interviews with graduates talking about what they’ve been doing since their release and positive messages for people in prison. Through these uncertain times, InHouse would like to encourage us all to express our feelings through creativity and welcome us all to remain #DangerouslyPositive and share music via #StayInHouseMusic across all social media platforms.

Irie Dance Theatre
Instead of business as usual, IRIE! Dance Theatre has been busy re-organising so they can keep connected and dancing together with their students and community friends. They have also set up online classes for women of all ages and levels of fitness – get fit, combat isolation and have fun with African and Caribbean dance fusion for beginners.

If you would like to join these online classes, please email [email protected] for details of how to join. The classes are still free, although donations to their student hardship fund would be much appreciated!

Mercury Theatre
Colchester’s Mercury Theatre has launched an extensive online programme – from creative masterclasses available for free to children’s storytime every Tuesday at 3:30pm. Check out the full programme here. #MercurySingALong online, Mercury Theatre’s Wardrobe Manager Corinna has also been making use of her skills and volunteering her time to make scrubs for NHS front line workers at Colchester and Ipswich Hospitals.

National Holocaust Centre and Museum
Whilst pushing forward the online release of new content, as well as providing support to the Holocaust survivors they work with who are now isolated, National Holocaust Centre and Museum are also hosting live Q&A and webinar sessions with survivors. You can also view the short film Edek, featuring hip hop artist Kapoo and Holocaust survivor Janine, merging messages through music and testimony. Their new video Stand Up explores what it means to be a bystander through the lens of football.

Project INC
Like many education providers, Project INC have moved to online delivery to ensure their students can continue learning during lockdown – these lessons are also being shared online for the public. They are also partnering with North West artist and previous Portrait Artist of The Year, Sally Dyer to create three Masterclass Videos around the focus of facial features.

Saffron Hall
Together in Sound, delivered in partnership with Anglia Ruskin University, is a music therapy programme for people with dementia and their carers. In light of lockdown measures and to ensure programme continuity, Saffron Hall has quickly transitioned its impactful programme online using online video conferencing software. With tremendous success with the first virtual session, Saffron Hall Trust believe that Together in Sound will be a beacon of hope and something to look forward to in these isolation months, just as it is described by participants in its usual form.

South East Dance
The team have pulled together a resources page for the sector and are also hosting a number of online Q&A sessions to offer support to dance professionals and organisations with questions about applications to Arts Council England’s emergency funding package. Luan Taylor, Assistant Producer (Participation), has also been thinking creatively about how to help residents of a Brighton & Hove residential care home stay connected, including making personalised care packages for them.

'Be Kind' poster
Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash


This article was first published on the Nesta website on 14 May 2020.