A couple of things claimed my attention in recent days as prospects for the year ahead began to take some hopeful, if at times faltering, shape.
In an interview, actor Cathy Belton quoted Tom Murphy’s lines from The Gigli Concert – ‘to be alive in the same time’ to describe her excitement about performing live once again in Mark O’Rowe’s play The Approach. The warm response to Landmark’s livestream of the play attests to a deep desire amongst the public to be in some sort of ‘live’ space with great art and great artists. Recent times also saw people the world over clinging to the performed words of Amanda Gorman as a great reservoir of hope – her exceptional contribution demonstrated clearly that art does in fact help change the travel of things. As lockdown sees us tilt from one indistinguishable week to the next, it was a pleasure to reflect on just what set recent weeks apart for many of us.
The past 10 months have demanded much of the arts profession and it has responded with imagination, nobility and generosity. The solidarity and empathy of those who work within it continues to amaze. It is evidenced in concerts outside care homes, in singing lessons for older people across zoom, and in poets and actors phoning people to sweeten and shorten their days with fine words. The ether is charged with many other examples.
The Arts Council continues in its efforts to meet your needs as you step confidently towards a sometimes illusory horizon. A few days ago we announced opening and closing windows for a wide range of funding schemes. Some of these are new and are designed to meet the particular challenges presented by the pandemic. We want to help people as much as possible through this next difficult period. We have been listening to your feedback and in response are introducing a new award – the Agility award - which takes a flexible approach in response to the current situation. It is designed to enable artists to develop a new piece of work for public dissemination if they choose, or alternatively, for artists or arts workers to spend some time working on and developing an aspect of their work.
With increased investment from government, we will support the widest range and number of individuals and organisations that this country has ever had the opportunity to encourage. Truly, this is an energising prospect for us all. We will continue to work with you to ensure that we create the most exciting arts landscape possible for our times and for our people.
We hope you all stay safe and well.