Around the world, performing arts, employing millions of people, have taken a big hit because of the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdowns that followed its emergence. They are staging a comeback in these uncertain times.
The coronavirus pandemic, in addition to killing and infecting millions of people, has hit the world’s economy very hard, causing the halt of worldwide travel, dining out, and attending public performances. All around the globe performing arts, including modern and classic dance, opera, live music and theatre have come to a standstill, with organisations losing money and unable to pay the bills.
According to a study by SDA Bocconi, a famed business school in Italy, “Owing to its nature as a cultural practice that requires the physical presence of an audience – no longer permissible under the pandemic – performance activities were among the first to cease. Regretfully, some of these institutions have not recovered from the crisis.”
The performing arts industry, the study points out, “plays an important role, including its contributions to the economy and society, employment, sustainable development, tourism, education and a range of well being benefits.” Performing arts institutions act as educational institutions when schools don’t provide music and theatre in their curricula, helping students learn about their cultural heritage. Until performing arts activities had to be shelved, many people did not realise the importance of live performance experience, the study notes, and “how much they missed it during the closure.”
The study quotes research by UNESCO, in 2013 cultural and creative industries (CCI) worldwide generated revenues of $2250 billion and employed 29 million people, within which the performing arts sector alone contributed $127 billion and employed 3.5 million people.
According to 2015 research by Ernst and Young quoted in the study, Europe and USA represent the second and third biggest markets in CCI, “accounting for 60% of global CCI revenues and employing 12.4 million people in total.”
The authors of the study, Master’s students Thais Fagundes, Dina Ivanova and Matteo Azzolini, supervised by Professor Andrea Rurale, write that the creative and cultural industries in Europe alone generate revenues of 536 billion euros, contributing 4.2 percent to Europe’s GDP. The sector “is its third-largest employer, after construction and food and beverage sectors.” They quote 2014 research by Ernst and Young noting more than seven million Europeans are directly or indirectly employed in creative and cultural activities, “representing 3.3 percent of the EU’s active population.”
According to Ernst and Young’s 2014 findings, the performing arts sector was the largest employer within Europe’s cultural and creative industries in 2012, employing 1.2 million people and generating 32 billion euros (approx $38 billion), thus providing more than 1 job in 6.
Analysis released in April 2021 by international arts management consultants TRG Arts and UK arts data specialists Purple Seven shows disastrous findings: “Despite periods of live public performances during the year in some regions and a rapid growth in ticketed digital performances, in the US year-over-year ticket sales were down 86.1percent and box office revenue was down 88.8 percent, and in the UK, ticket sales fell 88.5 percent and box office revenue was down 89 percent. Across the international study group, year-over-year ticket sales fell 88.5 percent and box office revenue was down 89 percent.”
In Turkey, the situation was no better. Theatres, movie theatres and concert halls were closed for months as actors, musicians and filmmakers suffered the consequences of the lockdown on their art. Music and stage artists’ union Muzik-sen offered applicants a grant of 1000 TL (approx $117), with a total of 3000 TL (approx $350) for later submissions, and while the effort was commendable, the amount would not be enough to weather the storm.
With openings in the US, UK, Europe and Turkey thanks to vaccination drives, the performing arts sector can breathe again. Theatre actors, film crews, musicians and dancers can once again meet up with their public. They are cautious, of course, because the fight with the coronavirus is not over, and another wave of infections is a distinct possibility.
The World Economic Forum suggests ways to support performing arts workers by heading back to watch them while taking precautions. Katharine Rooney, writing in the Agenda section. She suggests becoming a patron of coronavirus-compliant performances, such as those in Berlin, where patrons take a Covid-19 test on the day of the performance and attend only if they test negative, while wearing a mask.
Another example Rooney mentions is Israel’s Green Pass, issued to “those who have been vaccinated or who have recovered from the virus.” Holders can access theatres, cinemas and cultural events, “with up to 1,500 people allowed into concert arenas.”
The third suggestion is common sense: Rooney says sanitiser and social distancing, as experienced in movie theatres in California and New York, may help ease the troubled minds of people eager to go out and see a film again.
Thumbnail photo: DJ/Producer Diplo performs at Ruschmeyer's on Sunday, July 18, 2021, in Montauk, NY. (Scott Roth/Invision/AP)
Headline photo: Artists perform 'A Midsummer Nights Dream' at HOME, a centre for international contemporary art, theatre and film, outdoor theatre amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Manchester, Britain June 3, 2021. (Molly Darlington/Reuters)