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Performing in a Pandemic: To Be or Not to Be?

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Volunteer writer, Annabel Smith, investigates Corona’s effects on live performance.

Looking at recent news will show the devastating effect the pandemic has had on the entertainment industry. With Rishi Sunak suggesting musicians, actors and artists should look to changing careers, there is little support or advice being given to struggling creatives.

Even Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre which has massive cultural impact and benefits for both the entertainment and tourism sector has been forced to apply for urgent funding to stay afloat. Additionally, the pandemic has wiped out ‘at least £900 million of the £1.1 billion’ which live music specifically would have contributed to the UK economy this year.

As restrictions were slowly lifted over the summer months, performers and musicians have jumped at the chance to get back to performing live. The Loughborough Student Union’s socially distanced Cabaret Night proved a great success, and many performers will be taking a similar route by performing to distanced tables of six. Greater access was given to live theatre over the lockdown period, as the Original Broadway production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s ‘Hamilton’ was added to streaming services for us to watch in the comfort of our own homes. In terms of UK theatre, The National Theatre’s lockdown scheme ‘NT at Home’ saw live streamed performances of its most critically acclaimed plays, including Jane Eyre, Twelfth Night and A Streetcar Named Desire. The performances managed to reach people from 173 countries who would otherwise not have this opportunity. This scheme gave those living far from London or who had never watched live theatre a chance to experience this from home, and the live performances are even due to be played in cinemas for even more of the public to enjoy.

Live music has also been getting back on its feet following the devastation left by the lockdown. Gorillaz, often named a ‘virtual band’ long before any sign of the pandemic, are debuting their newest project ‘Song Machine’ virtually in December, with three different performances in three different time zones. The midst of the lockdown saw the rise of ‘car park’ concerts as musicians desperately tried to find a way to get around the limit on social interaction. The Chainsmokers jumped on this trend, holding a large concert on Long Island which was criticised for the lack of social distancing due to over 3000 people attending. Similar concerts organised in the UK have often been quickly shut down by police before the events could begin. However, things are looking more hopeful for music venues across the country, as The Jazz Café in Camden reopens. They are playing a wide range of shows such as A Night of Whitney, a celebration of Cuban Independence Day as well as up-and-coming talent such as rapper Osquello and singer Lola Young over the course of the next two months. This renowned venue is operating table service to groups of up to six, and its usual capacity of 440 has been drastically cut to 150 spaced over two floors, likely having a massive effect on the business. However, the amount of sold out shows at this venue highlights just how much the public have missed live music.

Due to the nature of how we stream music today, many artists usually to rely on annual tours and festival appearances for their income, and artists who often appear at UK festivals have likely had to face a massive financial loss this summer. Similarly, social distancing makes it almost impossible to get theatres sold out to full capacity, causing jobs for freelance actors to rapidly decline. As the entertainment industry struggles to find new alternatives to work in a post-covid world it is important to remember the great cultural impact of the entertainment sector on our communities. The loss of jobs from this sector unfortunately reduces the chance of educating children through theatre, as well as leaving professionals unemployed and students discouraged from entering this sector. The community aspect of live performance is also ruined due to the pandemic, strangers can no longer join together with shared interests in a safe manner. Many live performances have been delayed until next year, with the hope that by this time Covid will be overcome. It is important that we support whatever new alternative to live performance the entertainment sector throws at us if we really want to preserve this art form for the future in a pandemic-free world.


Header Design by Frankie Stevens – Head of Design

Edited by Sophie Alexander – Entertainment Editor

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Label Entertainment Editor 2020-21

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