A Question of Balance: The Arts and Travel in a Post-Pandemic World

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In 1970 the beach required no social distancing.

50 YEAR GLITCH

Fifty years ago, The Moody Blues released A Question of Balance, a work hinting at humanity and evolution: How is it (We are Here), Don’t You Feel Small, according to the 2006 reissue sleeve notes ‘a plea to re-evaluate the position of the human race in the greater evolutionary plan.’

In the War of the Worlds, a brave new world is mooted. While we haven’t been ravaged by aliens, we have had a significant mauling by our own hands! Virology. The Covid-19 Pandemic has changed everything in a shorter space of time than even the internet.

But what is the brave new world for travel and the arts? The forecast from the Creative Industries Federation is as you might expect, grim reading. Job redundancies and billions in revenue lost. In their words, a ‘cultural catastrophe.’

  • 406,000 (1 in 5) creative jobs expected to be lost – more than nine times the entire workforce of British Airways or almost triple the workforce of Asda in the UK.
  • Impact to be felt in all parts of the UK, with creative industries projected to be hit twice as hard as the wider economy overall and up to three times as hard regionally.
  • The impact on employment is set to be felt twice as hard by creative freelancers with 287,000 freelance roles expected to be terminated by the end of 2020.

The last one makes for interesting reading – does this mean I have to fire myself? And then what, I go and work in Amazon’s warehouse? By these figures even a Christmas temp job will be hard fought over. All of this in the greater scheme of things is a temporary blip.

Creatives being what we are will over time, regroup and form new partnerships, enterprises and businesses and just like the pre-Covid world some will be more successful than others.

Embracing the future at Bristol’s Temple Meads station.

THE REMOTE FUTURE

Moreover, with many more companies now realising that remote work is possible and a much better option, what does the future hold for vacant skyscrapers and our cities? According to food writer Henry Dimbleby speaking on the BBC’s Rethink vertical greenhouses? I could see that happening.

What do airlines do with vacant business class seats? If anything good has come of this it is to make us question ourselves, it has put a halt to pointless projects like further expansion or a third runway at Heathrow which were questionable and flawed to begin with. A constant churning out of new cars and planes – how many do we really need?

LHR T2 on arrival back in the UK (2019) and also last year’s World Travel Market had a prophetic message.

FUTURE FLIGHTS OF FANCY

Future travel worries me in that firstly long haul flights which are a trying experience at the best of times, with the discomfort of a face mask to be worn at all times, this will definitely exacerbate the experience. I can barely wear one for an hour let alone 10.

Personally I don’t see virtual travel ever replacing the real thing no matter how good the technology. It simply cannot replace reality, it’s like playing Monopoly and saying you’ve been to London. 

At destinations my concern is there will be many more desperate people and this will lead to more theft, petty crime and scams – the worst elements of travel in normal times. But these are far from normal times.

If anything the virus has really put us in our place, a species hellbent on excess at any cost. Fortunately I had already set aside this year and 2021 for domestic travel. Don’t get me wrong seeing more countries is great but there is so much I haven’t seen in northern England and the north of Wales.

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NORTH OF A MIRACLE

I can’t wait to discover Manchester, Liverpool and if time and funds allow other cities in the north: Leeds, York, Durham, Newcastle. These travels often work in conjunction to my other life as a creative (the blog you are reading and my e-books) so seeing museums is often part of the process of seeing and understanding a city for the first time. Again the figures are bleak!

Publishing could lose £7 billion in revenue (-40%) and 26% of jobs (51,000), affected by the closure of bookshops and decline of print sales. *personally I moved into e-books a long time ago to cut costs.

Museums and galleries could lose £743 million in revenue (-9%) and 5% of jobs (4,000), with the impact being mitigated by being able to reopen in July under social distancing constraints.

At both Tate Britain and Modern crowds could be a thing of the past.

ART AND MUSIC: THE FUTURE OLYMPICS?

But what of the future gallery experience. The Tate’s Francis Morris speaking on the BBC’s Front Row hints at a ‘slow art’ or more ‘immersive experience’ but even so, social distancing at a high end gallery such as the Tate, the V&A, or Design Museum will be difficult and having to book online for entry takes all the spontaneity out of a just dropping in as I did at the National in January.

As for funding my viewpoint is always BALANCE but how do we maintain supporting majors like those mentioned while ensuring others have an equal slice of the pie? I’d say fund arts centres and community groups. In Wales, Chapter (Cardiff) or the Riverfront (Newport) but equally so for the other regions; The Baltic in the Northeast for example.

Wanting to give more funds to community groups is good but if we fund individual artists it will most likely increase opportunists, the ilk of people whom will say they are an artist merely for financial gain and there are plenty who are good at blagging it. 

‘Musical Olympics’ is an interesting idea but do we really want to relegate this essential art and human activity to mere medals or who is the best? What is the best? I’m quite happy with ‘Later with Jools Holland.’ The one thing musicians could do since the downward spiral of physical sales was tour. Now they can’t even do that, here’s some more gloomy stats… 

  • Music, performing and visual arts projected to lose £11 billion in revenue (-54%) and 57% of jobs (178,000) with theatres, recording studios and concert venues remaining closed.
  • The music industry is projected to lose at least £3 billion in GVA (50%) and 60% of jobs (114,000), with the sector being hit hard by the collapse in live music and touring.

There are two doctrines I try to instil in my students; one is balance and the other is think, think and rethink and we really need to get our thinking caps on to come up with effective solutions in the short and long term of both travel and the arts.

PLAYLIST AND CREDITS

Thanks for reading here, check out the MEDIA or UNIVERSITY pages to hire me and THE ATLAS for more cultural articles!

Further still, if you like what I’m doing please consider hitting the social channels: Kulture Kiosk on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Playlist and credits to follow…

PLAYLIST
Question – The Moody Blues
Get the Balance Right – Depeche Mode
World of Bright Futures – Tim Bowness/Samual Smiles
Low Life – Roland Orzabal
Spirits in the Material World – The Police
Here’s to Future Days – Thompson Twins
Things Can Only Get Better – Howard Jones
It’s Gonna Get Better – Genesis
New Life – Depeche Mode
One Better World – ABC

BOOK
A Brief History of the Future – Jacques Attali

Photo Credits: Moody Blues from Discogs, the rest KH