Friday 8th May marked the 75th anniversary of VE Day. It was certainly a different celebration to that of five years ago, with social distancing in place. But to me, it felt more personal with more focus being placed on our World War II heroes.
We heard personal stories and accounts told through communities sharing their experiences through song, music hall and theatre; all through digital media. It made me realise and understand just how much community spirit and entertainment played a key role in the nation’s post-war recovery.
Did you know, in 1948, the Committee for Encouragement of Music and Arts became the Arts Council of Great Britain? From this moment, local authorities were actively encouraged to invest in the arts and to create buildings and spaces dedicated to them.
The Arts Council still support amazing organisations, and we are fortunate to work with some; either because they’re a venue resident or regular visitor of our venues. They include Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Dance Umbrella, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and Talawa Theatre Company, to name just a few.
It’s fantastic to hear that many venues and organisations have continued to be supported by the devolved Arts Councils of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland during this pandemic. It’s scary to think how the arts would be affected without them.
I’ve no doubt that these wonderful organisations are also loved and supported by their local communities too. And whilst we’re a Social Enterprise operating loved venues, we’re not an Arts Council supported venue/organisation. But what we do have in common with these organisations (especially during these uncertain times) is we all benefit from the much-needed positive community spirit and support from our patrons.
Fast forward 75 years; we may not be starting life again post-war, but we are facing the COVID-19 pandemic – undoubtedly changing our lives. And in a peculiar way, for many it’s helped us rediscover the power of community spirit.
8pm on a Thursday is Clap for our Carers night. We take to our front doors and clap in support of key workers; and say hello to neighbours. Many who would remain a stranger if it was for COVID-19. We check in regularly with family, friends and colleagues on phone calls, WhatsApp groups or video hangouts. We’re all quiz masters now too!
Post-war, we saw overwhelming support for the arts and leisure from central and local government and individual philanthropists. Hearing of the sad news that NST Southampton went into administration last week demonstrates just how fragile our sector is. Like post-war, I believe now is the time to invest in this sector as we did 75 years ago.
In my blog a couple of weeks ago I said, “when the time is right, we need you to come back to our venues again so we can keep giving you wonderful experiences, along with keeping heritage and cultural appreciation alive in our communities.”
In order to keep our venues thriving, and remain the beating hearts of our towns and cities, we need your continued support. Now more than ever.
Written by Kevin Quilty