Posted: Mon 12th Oct 2020

Royal composer sets challenge for public in light of coronavirus-affected creative industries

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Monday, Oct 12th, 2020

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A royal composer has set a challenge for the public to go 24 hours without enjoying any creative arts, such as music, games and entertainment.

‘The challenge would be virtually impossible’ states Professor Paul Mealor, a royal composer raised in Connah’s Quay, believing it shows how important the creative industries are especially in light of COVID-19 severely affecting them.

Speaking as patron of the North Wales Music Cooperative, whose future is under threat due to lack of support, Prof Mealor says extra financial aid was urgently needed for the arts in general and organisations like the Cooperative particularly.

As of today, the UK Government announced £257m funding for the arts industries, which will see venues such as Chester’s Storyhouse receive a share, and is part of a £1.6b ‘Culture Recovery Fund’.

However, in Wales, 10,000 creative jobs are projected to be lost, resulting in a further loss of £100m to the Welsh economy.

Prof Mealor said: “All we hear is sport, sport, sport. I am a great fan of sport and am fully behind that sector getting the assistance it needs, but this must not be at the expense of creative industries which also contribute massively to the lifeblood of our economy.

“Music, the arts, theatre, events, broadcasting, and amateur entertainments organisations employ a huge percentage of the UK workforce. But these are among some of the hardest hit by the current pandemic restrictions.

“Many of them are self-employed, freelancers, transient in the nature of their work. They have two or three different roles, maybe earning a living by both teaching and performing. Opportunities in both these field have dwindled to virtual non-existence, but they are among the sectors receiving the least financial help. Because of the transiency of their roles they invariably slip through the support network and are left to fend for themselves.”

Prof Mealor has called on communities to go one day without engaging with any of the arts to demonstrate how integral they are to their everyday lives.

He said: “I urge everyone to just try it and see how much we will lose if we let these industries slip through our fingers.

“It’s not just performing musicians and the acting professions at risk, it’s the whole creative body – writers, composers, sound technicians, lighting professionals, marketing experts, ushers – the entire workforce and that includes television, tablets, mobile phones, the likes of Netflix and the internet.

“I challenge people to forego them all. Go without TV, music, Netflix, theatre, movies, radio, iPads, iPhones, the internet, gaming, soaps, fashion, painting, photography for one day. I promise you the silence will be deafening, the lack of visual stimulus overwhelming.”

It was a view also held by Heather Powell, founder of North Wales Music Cooperative, who warned of time running out to save the future of the arts.

She said: “I know of tutors who have lost all of their work, others who have seen a huge proportion of their livelihoods simply ebb away and yet others who are desperately struggling to pay rents and mortgages.

“Schools in North Wales are having to let music teachers go, particularly small rural schools which are simply too small to implement the social distancing rules which face to face music lessons require.

“Even those with facilities to transfer online are struggling with tighter budgets which means they cannot afford to pay for ‘virtual’ lessons.

“I have colleagues in Welsh music services being made redundant and it sickens me that no one is financially helping us.

“The clock is ticking faster than ever to save the future of the music and theatre industry and the latest figures really demonstrate the scale of the crisis we are facing.”

She added: “In our own North Wales Music Cooperative we have around 70 tutors affected by this situation to date. Music in Wales is fast disappearing, and this is a tragic situation for future generations.

“It is no exaggeration to say that unless the government steps in with a financial aid package many tutors and performers may have to give up the careers they have spent their whole lives training for.

“That impacts directly on pupils, bright young talents and potential music and arts stars of the future who will no longer be able to access lessons.”

Prof Mealor’s idea for people to go a day without the arts was, she said, a brilliant one which she hoped would demonstrate how integral these services are to people’s everyday lives.

“It is not just their educational value; they are essential for our mental wellbeing. Just reflect on the way people turned to music in their droves during the darkest days of lockdown,” she said.

Prof Mealor added: “What a cacophony of disapproval we can blast out if we work together to force the government to help music, theatre and the arts.

“A number of organisations are beginning to rally groups for a collective push on the government. When that call comes, please all join it. It seems that only numbers of people – and loss of possible votes – are able to shame this UK government into any form of action.”

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