And Then There Were None – The Essential Non-Essential Artists
How have we got this so wrong?
The thing is (sharp intake of breath and a third morning coffee), I’m pointing at this image with an outstretched finger from a clenched fist attached to a highly stressed body upon which sits a head now so completely consumed by confusion that no words escape my open mouth.
Before we explore why, let us examine the evidence in front of us. In the Sunday Times (14th June 2020) this poll was published. 1,000 readers were asked what they thought were the essential jobs that kept Singapore alive and kicking.
We have all of us suffered an essential job awakening recently with some of our friends and loved ones being West End leads one night and working night shifts at a supermarket the next. For most it has been an incredibly humbling time artists the world over come to terms with the fact that during a pandemic, people do not need live entertainment to survive. Or do they?
Returning to my exasperated expression mid-point, we see that 71% of respondents think being an ‘Artist’ is the top non-essential job. Referring you to our above – albeit brief – discussion this makes sense. We need our medically trained jobs as well as our cleaners and hawkers?! as they provide their essential services to us.
Essential (/ɪˈsɛnʃ(ə)l/) adjective; absolutely necessary; extremely important
No one, left of Stalin, would disagree with the definition of essential nor argue that the top five jobs aren’t (hawker?!). People who made their livelihoods through the whimsical and b’glittered means of the creative arts have had to stare COVID in the face as it spits, way beyond a 2-metre distance: “You are not essential to the lives of these people, so go away and whimsy somewhere else.” I know whimsy is not a verb, but that’s just how powerful the COVID is, okay?
Back to me. Me and my gormless expression. Incidentally, I had been a Lert until the Government told me to stay a Lert, where upon I instinctively buckled and changed course to losing my Gorm instead. Hand up, class: how is this data being presented to us? In a word document? A voice recording? No? No one?
In order for the data to be understood by many people, they have employed an ARTIST to CREATE a GRAPHIC that will best COMMUNICATE the information to us and our open mouths.
It’s astounding, really. Artists and other creative individuals are completely essential in the global reaction to this dreadful disease. They might not be collecting your bins or hawking?! your wares but they are everywhere.
In places such as:
- The creators and stars of your Netflix, Amazon and NOW TV content
- The authors of your books
- Composers of the music you escape into
- The creatives that mould your social media
- Creating extra PPE for use by the NHS, companies and individuals (these things don’t grow on money trees, you know!)
The list is, as ever, inexhaustible.
No one is asking for singers to be Knights of the Realm for making us smile when the world around is on fire to extent that the paraffin being provided by far right and far left proponents of freedom is now an accepted social perfume, but they are essential.
Imagine for a moment retreating into your house (stay home, don’t stay at home) to find that every single place you went to for comfort, friendship, escape or otherwise had vanished before your eyes like Marty McFly’s family. What would you do? No, you can’t get creative yourself, it’s non-essential, remember?
There is enough room for all jobs and sectors to have their time in the essential spotlight but we should be coming together to raise each other up, not judge whether my mom is essential or not.
So, let’s not write off our creative industries by publishing GRAPHICS THEY CREATED (sorry, my flabber is still gasted) stoking fires of resent in a country already at partisan tipping point. We each have our role to play in the rebuilding of our economy and the creative arts will be at the heart of that response and recovery. They need financial support, a clear path to survival and the ending of newspaper articles that demonise the jobs people are actually doing.
No, we’re not physically saving lives, collecting waste or even working on the front line but we are teaching your children and providing the means to make you smile when you hear that joke, read that book, hear those notes and watch your stars.
710 people out of 1000 might think we’re not essential, but we do matter.
Chris Passey, FRSA