On March 20, the government ordered all theaters, concert halls and galleries to close, creating brutal uncertainty in the arts. The industry has suffered financially, but not all of the effects are likely to be negative – provided the arts can survive.
“It’s having a devastating impact on our incomes,” said Lisa Burger, executive director of the National Theater. “What really worries us is that we will survive this time, but also have the resources to start performing again.”
The National Theater has started a fundraising campaign attached to its National Theater at Home program that broadcasts entire performances on YouTube every Thursday. With over two million viewers, One Man, Two Guvnors drew the equivalent of 224 live shows sold out.
One man, two governors in the National Theater – in pictures
National Theater At Home demonstrates the mixed effects of the coronavirus on the arts. The economic strain has given rise to digital innovations, a larger and more global audience, and the attraction of a younger crowd.
“It’s fantastic to see teachers referring students to our resources right now. We hope that this time shows from a curriculum perspective that access to culture is really important for young people, “said Burger.
The Southbank Center is also immersed in the digital world. One event Londoners lack is the 100th Anniversary of Ravi Shankar: a festival of concerts, lectures and exhibitions to celebrate the legacy of the sitar legend that brought Indian classical music to the west.
The Southbank Center has created a variety of online resources for people to enjoy their “Sitar Festival” at home. Elsewhere, beautiful musical honors – led by Shankar’s two daughters, Norah Jones and Anoushka Shankar – have entered the cyber stage.
While the supply chain for creative entertainment is under pressure, the demand side has been little stronger as people look to escape during the lockdown.
Shankar’s music conveys a philosophy of inner reflection and self-improvement. “Perhaps this is how nature tells us to stop, pause, listen. The world is so fast these days, ”said his wife Sukanya. “He always had the feeling that music is the best medicine for everyone.”
The lockdown economy has done less harm to literature. Book sales soared as people prepared for the lockdown, but supply chains have since derailed.
The writer Oliver Craske has just finished a 556-page biography of Ravi Shankar (“like squeezing a skyscraper into a suitcase,” said Craske). In keeping with the lockdown culture, Indian Sun is also available in Audiobook online.
Craske may be among the group of artists who can still make an income, but he urges people to support those who depend on live events for a living by buying music rather than streaming it.
“I hope the people who read my book will return to music. Every time you come back you find new things. Shankar influenced jazz musicians like John Coltrane, pop stars like George Harrison of the Beatles, and classical masters like Yehudi Menuhin. In these uncertain and troubling times, his music can offer people not only comfort but also inspiration. “
( National treasure: Ravi Shankar )
The events planned for Shankar’s centenary may still survive the coronavirus – it has been postponed for one year to April 8, 2021. Unfortunately this solution cannot save all shows.
“It’s not easy to move things like lock, bearing and barrel,” said Gillian Moore, music director at the Southbank Center. “Much of our program for next year has already been confirmed and artists will likely go on tour.”
“It’s hard to predict how it will feel when we finally get out of it. The arts are an incredibly precious and fragile part of our lives, ”she added, encouraging people to book future events to get back on their feet.