We mustn’t let the Covid ‘fear factor’ doom Britain’s arts

And as for me, I – in a spectacularly Pyrrhic victory – have so far been spared the masks, distanced seating and rain-pummelled car parks for the simple reason that my particular discipline, dance, has for now essentially gone the way of the Blue Parrot, and is still showing only very tentative signs of getting back on its perch. The most physically intimate and therefore least Covid-proof art form for its practitioners, dance was always going to have a particularly hard road back to post-Covid recovery, and so it has proved.  

So Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden’s revelation over the weekend, discussed on Tuesday by Dominic – that Whitehall is working on the so-called “Operation Sleeping Beauty” to try to get theatres up-and-running in time for a full winter season – may be overly optimistic given the widespread despondency around tightened restrictions and the “six-person” rule, but it sounds, at least, very welcome indeed. And especially so in a week in which Andrew Lloyd Webber pleaded with MPs to give a firm date for theatres to reopen fully, stating that Britain’s arts sector is “at the point of no return”.

Because what worries me so much about all this – besides, of course, the houses (such as the Nuffield Southampton) that have already closed for good, the 222 employees about to be laid off at Sadler’s Wells, the 400-odd about to go at the Southbank Centre, and so on – is that the general public’s appetite for the performing arts, having originally been whetted by absence, might ultimately be diminished.