Doing What We Do Best, Better

Photo by Austin Chan, via Unsplash

Originally published on http://www.takeyourseats.ie

In the latest Government Covid-19 announcement, we heard the news that we have all been waiting for; theatres are soon able to reopen. Whether you met the news with a muted sigh of relief, or an exuberant whoop of joy, it is an exciting moment. More exciting, in fact, than just a return to normal. As we reopen our doors and get back to doing what we do best, we have a chance to do better. Now is our moment to examine what we do and how we do it, and consider how we might need to change as we move into the future.

One heartening example of this is the recent announcement of the Basic Income pilot scheme for people working in the arts in Ireland. As the National Campaign for the Arts stated, the scheme “has the potential to be an historic milestone for the arts in Ireland, a reflection of a nation that truly and authentically understands and supports the artistic process.” By providing artists and arts workers with a guaranteed basic income, you take away some of the precariousness of depending on a freelance income, and in doing so allow people to do their best work and advocate for fair and sustainable conditions for that work.

In another version of sustainability, as we return to buildings it is the perfect moment to consider our environmental impact. Many venues and organisations are already making great strides in this respect, with Dunamaise Arts Centre recently publishing an impressive ‘Greening Dunamaise’ update, Síamsa Tíre receiving a Julie’s Bicycle sustainability certification, and several venues working with Theatre Forum on their current Greening Venues Pilot Project. Outside of venues, we can all make a difference; whether you’re a theatre-maker deciding how many flyers to have printed, or an audience member deciding how to travel to a venue. Each little decision we make will have an effect. Choosing to cycle to a show or take the bus instead of driving might seem like a trivial thing, but if a hundred audience members all make that choice, it adds up to a lot. As we go back to normality, let’s not go back to all of our old habits. Take a moment, make a choice, and do your bit to make a difference.

Beyond the background, and onto the stage, there are new approaches to be explored, boundaries and limitations to be broken. Break down the barriers of concepts like “high-brow” and “low-brow,” banish the perceived division between “arts” and “entertainment,” and ignore the boundaries between artforms, themes and audiences. After a year of communicating at a distance, now is the time to reach out and find community. With works like Brú Theatre’s Ar Ais Arís, which connects small groups of audiences in Gaeltacht communities all along the Atlantic coast, Pan Pan’s Mespil in The Dark, which explores thoughts of loneliness and community through a series of short episodic performances, and nationwide events like Cruinniú na NÓg advocating for creativity on a national scale, it feels like this is already happening. So let’s push it further, make the arts the web that supports communities. Whether it’s through a local pantomime, a touring opera, a school play or a céílí (when we can dance together again!), let the people around us be at the heart of all that we do. Make and consume art with generosity, openness and no preconceptions, and open wide the arms of the arts and invite everyone in.

I recently read a quote from the writer Don Miguel Ruiz, which struck me and stuck in my mind. “Life is like dancing. If we have a big floor, many people will dance. Some will get angry when the rhythm changes. But life is changing all the time.” Shake up the tempo, syncopate, make the arts the biggest dancefloor imaginable, and as we find ourselves back in theatres, studios, parks, galleries and other shared spaces, let’s dance our way to a better rhythm together.

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