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The benefits of the arts

After what we’ve been through it’s OK to feel differently, and as we enter a new normal it is more important than ever to look after our physical and mental wellbeing.

Lockdown has undoubtedly seen a renewed appreciation for the arts as participants and audience members turned to technology to engage in old favourites and discover new films, theatre productions, authors and musicians.

Internationally, subscriber numbers have increased for streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and gaming platform Steam, with Disney + being launched during lockdown seeing 50 million subscribers worldwide in their first five months. National Theatre Live broadcast a series of productions from Frankenstein and Fleabag through to King Lear and Cyrano de Bergerac. From the art world, Channel 4 teamed up with Turner Prize winner Grayson Perry to screen Grayson Perry’s Art Club, an interactive programme allowing the public to create artworks at home.

Here on the Isle of Man, support was shown for keyworkers and specifically NHS staff through window murals, banners and posters depicting rainbows as communities came together in a burst of colour and unity. Businesses have adapted to deliver online services, with various art classes being set up and some receiving over 200 participants each session. Streamed concerts have taken place from musicians’ homes and theatre groups have held live readings of scripts via Zoom.

The welfare and wellbeing of the public and our creative community were paramount to the Isle of Man Arts Council, who rallied to create projects and special funding for the creative community in reaction to these unique times. In highly stressful times such as lockdown and isolation, the arts have proven to be a positive distraction to some and a lifeline to others, and the IOM Arts Council’s commitment to the National Strategy for Culture and the Arts allowed them to work with the 4th strategy ambition “Champion the arts and culture as fundamental to our wellbeing and sense of place”

The IOM Arts Council launched “Home Is Where The Art Is”, a project that invited the public to submit videos of their lockdown creativity. A new video was released every day during May with successful videos receiving £100 as a prize. In total, “Home Is Where The Art Is” received almost 100 submissions from dancers, musicians, artists, poets and actors, varying from amateur to professionals, young and old alike. The project was a huge success with both participants and public engagement vastly exceeding expectations. A total of 85,000 video views were logged on the Isle of Man Arts Council Facebook page for the 30 videos and over 100,000 across social media.

As lockdown went from weeks to months, our creative industries began to feel the effects of life grinding to a halt. The IOM Arts Council were quick to respond and opened a special funding round for creative businesses that needed support or were able to adapt their business to fit our foreseeable future. A fund of £50,000 was made available and released during an emergency Council meeting in July. This fund was in such demand that Council have agreed to accept more “Covid Resilience Applications” throughout 2020.

Marlene Maska MLC, Chair of the Isle of Man Arts Council, said:

“The incredible change in our lives have faced this year will have an effect on everyone in one way or another. It’s in these times that we are reminded of the deep importance and uplifting impact the arts can bring to our wellbeing as well as the physical and mental support of our Island community.”

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