Eve Orford tells us how the arts are united in tackling the virus and how we can still contribute and be a part of them
The pandemic may have succeeded in the closure of theatres, bookstores, galleries, and more, but the creation of art has thrived in the face adversity. Art is not just a means of escape during this crisis, it is a way of coping with gritted teeth the unfortunate situation everyone faces, from one family to the world. The thousands of rainbow paintings, drawings and collages in front windows across the United Kingdom is evidence enough of the rising importance of art during these testing times.
The voice of a nation has been captured in a poem written by Matthew Kelly. This powerful piece thanking the NHS was originally written for his wife, a district nurse on the frontline, but has since been recited by Christopher Eccleston for the BBC. This is not the only poetry to have emerged recently. These are the Hands, penned by well-known novelist Michael Rosen twelve years ago for the 60thanniversary of the NHS, has lent its title to a poetry anthology dedicated to telling the moving stories of NHS workers. The money raised by the poems, written by both professional poets and NHS staff, is supporting over 135 NHS-based charities, and with the anthology currently out of stock on Amazon, it is evident that the demand for literature and the will to support the NHS is high.
Poetry is not the only art form speaking to the hearts of the public. Actor and director Rob Myles decided it was time to stream Shakespeare plays to the world in his series The Show Must Go Online. Created in response to the pandemic, Rob Myles has managed to secure an array of talented actors to read through various Shakespeare plays every week via Zoom. If you do not fancy listening to Shakespeare for a full three hours however, you could instead tune into Sir Patrick Stewart’s A Sonnet a Day series on his Facebook page.
The RSC will also be sharing six of their popular productions that were performed over the past decade with the BBC, airing between now and September. While we wait for those to be released, many other productions including shows from the National Theatre, Shakespeare’s Globe and Royal Opera House have already been uploaded to the internet and can be found on their respective YouTube channels.
Before government lockdowns ensued, there was no shortage of street art that had been inspired by the pandemic. Rachel List painted some touching murals onto a pub in Yorkshire in support of the NHS. Further afield, other artists such as Franco Rivolli paid tribute to Italy’s medical staff with his mural of a nurse cradling the outline of Italy in her arms on the side of the Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital in Lombardy.
Hijack art in Los Angeles created a thought-provoking piece where two soldiers wearing surgical masks are armed with ‘weapons’ such as disinfectant and a vacuum that ‘hoovers up’ Covid-19. On the opposite end of the scale, in Berlin the graffiti artist Eme Freethinker took The Lord of the Rings character Gollum and recreated the ‘my precious’ scene. Yet, rather than holding the One Ring, Gollum is instead staring lovingly at a toilet roll, since the pandemic has caused many to panic buy toilet tissues.
Meanwhile, visual artists have been creating imaginative video animations to promote the benefits of social distancing. Juan Delcan and Valentina Izaguirre, for example, brought match-sticks to life. They used scenarios such as limiting the spread of the fire and not leaving the safety of the match-box to symbolise how the spread of the deadly virus decreases through social-distancing.
It is clear through the arts that the world is united in tackling the virus, and even more united in its support of medical staff everywhere. The beautiful poems, street art, and collective effort to keep the theatre industry alive certainly reflects how doctors and nurses have been called upon, in the words of Matthew Kelly: “to show us the way, to lead and inspire us”.
See Matthew Kelly’s poem here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-politics-52158721/coronavirus-christopher-eccleston-reads-a-poetic-tribute-to-the-nhs
Amazon will allow you to order These are the Handsi n advance for when it is back in stock here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/These-Are-Hands-Poems-Heart/dp/1911048406
Find the links to listen to the recent Shakespeare readings here: https://robmyles.co.uk/theshowmustgoonline/
For Sir Patrick Stewart’s A Sonnet A Dayseries, click here: https://www.facebook.com/patrickstewart/videos/
Links to the street art mentioned via Instagram:
Rachel List https://www.instagram.com/p/B-eXKVlAujF/
Franco Rivolli https://www.instagram.com/p/B9j1zLEqgoE/
Hijack art https://www.instagram.com/p/B92H7YxpSVh/
Some of Juan Delcan and Valentina Izaguirre’s match-stick animations can be found on Twitter here:
Find more how other platforms are adapting to the virus: