Let’s Keep a Light on for the Arts

By Tina Wolf

It is my firm belief that the arts are a crucial part of human existence. Tom Pauls, German actor and cabaret artist, has claimed that theatre isn’t merely “system-relevant”, rather it is so much more than just that. It is “life-relevant.”  I agree. Humans need visual art and storytelling and music and dance. We are not on this planet to just eat, sleep and work. From sitting around a campfire in prehistoric times, telling stories, to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, to the ballads of later centuries and modern-day poetry slams and YouTube “Storytime” videos, humans have always told each other stories and it is only through stories that we experience what it means to be truly human. A functioning democracy needs the arts to ask the hard, unpopular questions and hold a mirror up to society

The arts have always been chronically underfunded, even before the pandemic struck at the beginning of 2020. This has become even more painfully apparent in the current situation, where many venues are struggling to keep afloat financially. Tours have had to be postponed and performances cancelled. Around 1.7 million people work in the creative industry in Germany. 34 million people attended the theatre and concert performances in 2019; 114 million people went to see an exhibition at a museum 1„Corona-Pandemie: “Eine Welt ohne Theater? Unmöglich!” Deutsche Welle. https://www.dw.com/de/corona-pandemie-eine-welt-ohne-theater-unm%C3%B6glich/a-53515568 last accessed 29 December 2021. The arts, apart from their cultural importance, are worth a lot of money and keep many people employed. The pandemic has put an abrupt stop to this, and a lot of smaller venues are struggling massively. Venues have had to put up with restrictions such as reduced audience capacities due to social distancing rules. Extra security had to be employed to check test certificates, disinfectant needed to be bought and signs made. All of this means extra expense for theatres already operating with a very tight margin even before corona.

I’m a trained stage manager and stage electrician, so the entertainment industry is very close to my heart. I’ve been following the situation here in Germany and in the UK very closely, and let’s just say it’s truly dire. So many of my former colleagues and so many venues are struggling. As an avid photographer, I love taking photographs at concerts. All the pictures of live gigs I have taken over the course of the last two years were taken at Schlachtgarten Krefeld, where the dedicated, brilliant teams of the Kulturrampe Krefeld and the Schlachthof have teamed up with a wide variety of bands to allow us to enjoy at least some live music in these difficult times. Those concerts have been a highlight for me during the first corona summer, when nobody knew what was going to happen and we had just come out of the first lockdown. They were a lifeline a year later, when it felt at times as if this pandemic would never end.

And yes, I know, why should we bother helping the entertainment sector at a time when the health sector is creaking under the strain and the education system is collapsing? Because stories and music are medicine, too, not for the body but for the soul. The motto of the concert series was “Kein Rock ’n’ Roll ist auch keine Lösung “and I think that just about sums it up. So please consider supporting the arts in the coming months if you can. Buy a ticket, buy a pint at the bar, and don’t shout at the stressed-out person telling you that the show has had to be postponed again or even cancelled completely. Let’s keep a light on for all those working in the arts and entertainment industry right now. One day, this pandemic will be over, and we will have to adjust to a new, post-pandemic normal, assess the damages, repair, and re-group. We will need the arts then, more than ever, to make sense of these times and what corona has done to us as individuals and as a society.

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