To better understand the day-to-day impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on Manchester’s creatives, we’ve launched a new series inviting spokespeople to share their thoughts on what the future of their sector might look like when things return to a new normal. This week, we hear from the HOME’s Creative Director of Film and Culture, Jason Wood…

The COVID-19 crisis has ravaged the cultural sector. Cultural organisations remain closed and are likely to remain closed for the immediate future. There is no beating about the bush, many will not return from the brink of financial ruin. Theatre is particularly hit hard and many theatres are talking about not being able to stage productions until February 2021. This will undoubtedly bring closures and unemployment. Cinemas are tentatively talking about re-opening in July but this feels slightly optimistic given the social distancing measures required and the implementation of new procedures to ensure public and staff safety. Cinemas will be forced to operate at around 25% of screen capacity to ensure a minimum of 2 meter social distancing and this will have grave financial repercussions as it will be difficult to generate enough revenue at 25% capacity to negate the costs of opening up venues.

Beyond the financial and practical challenges mentioned above, it is very important to note that culture is at the heart of society – it bonds people and brings them together. Ensuring that people remain connected to culture has been a huge challenge but like many venues HOME has attempted to do this through social media and our digital channels. We are reminding people that we are still here, albeit in a virtual sense, and that culture is still there too. Homemakers is series of new commissions inviting artists to create new works at home, for an audience who are also at home. These fully funded commissions are an offer to groundbreaking artists to challenge the definition of “live performance” – whether through live streaming, recordings, games, interactive stories, personal encounters or something completely different. This project has been made possible thanks to HOME’s Response Fund, set up in the wake of the announcement that arts venues across the country would close due to the coronavirus and designed to protect HOME’s financial stability and allow them to support artists and colleagues from across the industry.

HOME has also continued to stay connected through working with online platforms such as Curzon, MUBI and BFI Player to present films for our cinema audiences. Like the film programme at HOME, these are titles old and new and celebrate the breadth and diversity of the moving image. We have continued our monthly podcast – albeit remotely – and have also hosted and co-hosted Q&A events with the likes of Andrew Kötting and Ben Rivers, as well as contributed to discussions in collaboration with Birds Eye View around Women Make Film and Eliza Hittman’s brilliant Never Rarely Sometimes Always.

Throughout this crisis we have learned that we occupy a cherished place in the hearts of the community. The response from audiences to our situation has been truly heartening. We celebrated our fifth birthday whilst in lockdown and there was a tremendous outpouring of love and affection. That has given us sustenance to work towards re-opening, as it really hit home how valued we are. However, the idea of a return to ’normal’ is a pipe dream. We will be in a different landscape when we do eventually re-open and the financial repercussions will be felt for many years. We will need to continue to be prudent, but to do this without compromising the art and the artists we wish to present, nurtured and support. We are in a whole new world.

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Guest Post
Published on:
Wed 10 Jun 2020