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Questionable government schemes left freelancers and new businesses struggling to navigate their new environment. However, more than a year later and with the end of lockdown restrictions tentatively in sight, could the industry be coming out of it better than ever?
After speaking with those in the industry here in Liverpool, we have compiled a list of five reasons we think it will.
When the industry stopped, so did the rest of the country. The first lockdown felt like something from a film as we clamped eyes on our TV screens to watch Boris confirm that we would no longer be allowed to leave the house.
At that time, no one could have guessed how long we would be expected to stay indoors and now, in the midst of the third National lockdown, our appetite for the arts, culture and events is greater than ever.
Director of the Liverpool Arts Bar, Alex Medlicott, said he is feeling positive about customer demand when the venue on Hope Street opens back up this summer.
He said: “People are very aware that they’ve lost a year of their lives now and people I’ve known for years that have never been interested in going to live music gigs are saying they want to go. I’m excited to see what that looks like, people enjoying a bit of culture and hopefully the interest in theatre and gigs spikes.”
The first lockdown was difficult for all of us to adjust to, as work stopped and deadlines and dates suddenly seemed irrelevant. The uncertainty around future events made it especially hard for those whose lives revolve around working freelance on events throughout the year.
When the founders of March for the Arts formed their collective in June, as a response to the lack of financial support for freelancers from the government, it was the presence of time that seemed most important.
Co-founder of the collective, Liz Barker, spoke about using the time wisely to start a freelance working agreement and directory aimed at improving standards in the Liverpool Arts industry.
Liz said: “This pandemic is offering us a pause and we can come out of this pause and use it as a chance to change. Actually, if we sat around in this pandemic and didn’t really use that time to fix all the problems you can’t normally fix because you’re working on a show, or the deadline for the next project is coming up, then that is a real waste of that time.”
Despite being stuck indoors, the need for social, cultural and community interaction still needed to be met. All the things we were used to doing in person suddenly switched to online, with employees working from home and weekends suddenly filled with ‘zoom quizzes’ with friends.
It wasn’t long before the arts industry also began to take advantage of the technology most of us have in our pockets and on our desks. The concept of connecting with an audience through our screens, though initially quite jarring for some in the live events industry, quickly became a fantastic opportunity to reach new audiences and raise spirits in difficult times.
Alex Medlicott said: “It’s the one thing we’d take away from this – it makes it so accessible to all of the people that are interested in what you’re doing. If you are sitting at home on a Friday, you can be sitting watching our gig.”
As the city and country begins to look ahead, past the screen and towards perhaps more socially distanced events, the concept of outdoor entertainment is filling us with excitement.
Liz Barker said: “During the last lockdown we were moving away from Summer, but this time, we are moving towards summer, so I think there is real potential for a lot of outdoor work this summer.”
Mooncup theatre’s Rebecca Clarke and Martyna Puciato said they too are looking forward to continuing to perform outside.
They said: “We did a big promenade down the street with face visors and social distancing and just danced our way down the streets of Hope. Promenade is such a big part of it – to be able to actually put your characters on their feet and be together and bravely go down the streets, reaching new audiences.”
Liverpool Theatre Festival (pictured at top of article) launched in summer 2020 bringing live shows back to Liverpool staged perfectly at the Bombed out Church. Over 2,500 theatre fans enjoyed the shows and the event is set to return in September 2021, proving that Liverpool’s rich arts scene is, and will bounce back. Find out more here.
Despite everything that has happened over the past year, the arts and entertainment industry has never stopped. Whilst live performances were put on pause, the creatives behind them were reflecting, growing and developing their art forms.
One thing that the venues, performers and collectives can all agree on, is that the lockdowns have given them time to prepare for the future.
“This has given us time to step back from pouring pints, and think of new ideas, which has been really good for us.” – Alex Medlicott
“We as artists have found our value, that we didn’t necessarily see before. It woke us up to take matters into our own hands.” – Martyna Puciato
“Going through a pandemic together gives you a sort of desire for unity, more togetherness and a bigger push for a better environment, so I am hopeful.” – Liz Barker
From this summer and beyond, it’s not unreasonable to believe that the industry will return bigger and better than ever before.
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