The arts and humanities are frequently shat on: they’ve always been regarded as the “soft” subjects in academia. They’re interests, not professional pursuits, and if you do happen to choose them as a lifelong career, you’ll be looking at judgment for being on the less credible end of the pragmatism spectrum.
“What’s that degree going to get you?”
“Where’s the money in that?”
Being a creative condemns you to a life of constantly proving yourself. You will most likely build a self-employed, precarious career that doesn’t pay well. You will feel the need to constantly prove yourself to other creatives within your field, as well as the audiences beyond, who consume your products on a daily basis, but fail to see exactly how important your work is, in the grand scheme of things.
The pandemic has only further highlighted clearly how undervalued these crucial industries are within the UK. Creatives have felt the cruel blow of COVID-19, with barely any financial support during this drought of no live performances and events. Most of my friends are furloughed and, whilst some people are turning to virtual band practices and gigs, this is incomparable to the real deal experience of seeing your mates and making art as a collective. Venues are being swatted out like flies and there’s gloomy prospects as to them ever opening their doors to audiences again.
The bizarre irony is that most of us have spent our time during the pandemic turning to the arts as a means of survival. This is no exaggeration: TV, music, films, books and general entertainment shows have become our crutch at this difficult time. We share these experiences as part of a community, be it friends on Netflix Party or the people we live with, and sometimes we enjoy these platforms as an individual experience. The effect of the arts is profound on people’s mental health: the aforementioned crutches offer opportunities of escapism, connection and inspiration.
I, for one, don’t know how I’d have gotten this far in the COVID-19 era without the arts. This pandemic has given me the opportunity to catch up on serial film/TV series binging and voracious reading. It’s one of the few positives that 2020 has granted me, and I’m very grateful to have other worlds at my fingertips during a time that has forced so many of us to stay cooped up in the same four walls, day-in and day-out.
I’ve found comfort in the strangest, darkest places. You’d think that between the dismal rolling news coverage and mental health woes, escapism would best come in the form of romances or comedies. Maybe this works for some: however, it seems that I don’t have all that much of a tolerance for rainbows and butterflies, and instead, turn to Stephen King’s bosom and horror/apocalyptic stories to get through these dark days.
Lockdown 1 began with reading the epic King novel The Stand, and Lockdown 2, so far, has seen my days occupied by rewatching The Walking Dead. The consistent theme here is “viral pandemic” and, whilst The Stand was a girthy project that befitted lunch breaks on the lawn in the sun and the silence of a lockdown-ed Bradford, TWD is a more inspirational piece that fits nicely with the icy fingers of winter that have begun to creep in.
There’s something about watching a group of people navigate through an unprecedented global disaster that seems to emanate hope… Shows like this, as gory and niche as they may sound, examine what it is to be human. The determination to survive forces people to adapt and grow into stronger, albeit more jaded (in some instances), versions of themselves. But most importantly, even while the world around them is burning and blatantly unrecognisable (when posited against the memories of what the world was pre-virus), the characters find ways to persevere on. They find beauty in the ugliness around them and embrace their new identities, shrugging off remnants of their distant former identities.
This metamorphosis is currently being undergone by most of the world. Life as we knew it ended before 2020 even began. We just hadn’t accepted it, yet. But now, in a reality that sees us wearing protective face masks for every limited outing, people are turning to the magical fantasy worlds that have been painstakingly created by underappreciated authors, producers, actors etc. We consume the fruits of their labour with little to no consideration as to exactly how many people and how much precious time has been invested into our free form of therapy/entertainment.
One endeavour that’s taken off during the pandemic is the launch of The Independent Wave. Initially started as the brainchild of Graham Ryan, a man I met briefly when I worked alongside him in a retail store, this online group has pulled in a huge following. It started as an intimate hub of avid music-lovers and has now spiralled into something way bigger, appealing to a global audience of strangers who are now connected through their love of small-time bands that deserve recognition. It’s a forum that has united a community and brings great recommendations on a daily basis. I would definitely encourage readers to take a look, because this group is going places, to infinity and beyond!
If there’s one thing we should remember when COVID-19 finally fucks off, it’s that creatives hold the world together and without their brilliant minds, getting through times like this would be altogether unfathomable.