As the new academic year pick up pace, we find ourselves tentitively adjusting to something of a return to a more conventional office life. Albeit one in which venturing out in public my still result in failure to recognise someone you’ve known for years on account of only being able to see half of their face! Nevertheless, it is encouraging that we are able to look forward to some work taking place in ‘real life’ settings rather than in the ether.
As it nears the end of its third year of operation, CCSE has continued to explore a variety of aspects of cultural, sporting and events activity taking place at local, national and international levels. And, as has been the case since the outset of our activity, the CCSE blog has provided a platform for colleagues and collaborators involved in some of our work to give additional insight into – and takes on – their experience.
An excellent engagement opportunity that emerged and developed at CCSE largely as a response to lockdown has been our #CCSEConversations series. These discussions have brought together a number of experts across the realms of culture, arts, sports and events at local, national and international levels for wide ranging discussions of their work and – quite often – the impact of COVID upon it. After much – often fairly clueless – rummaging around in the backstage area of our webpage, we successfully archived these illuminating chats.
Heather Paton provided a fascinating insight into the approach that Renfrewshire Leisure Arts Team took to developing a supportive environment for local artists and practitioners to continue creating work and to pave a creative road to recovery amid the onset of the pandemic. This has also provided an opportunity to hear from artists regarding their own experience of the pandemic and Renfrewshire’s Cultural Recovery and Renewal Fund’s Artist Development Grant. To date, Maureen Rocksmore’s COVID Island Diary and Lil Brookes’ Look(ing) to the Future have shown how practising artists have approached negotiation of this strange and tricky period; through documentation and engagement in the rapidly adapting local cultural sector.
Liz Gardiner identified with the Cockroaches of the Cultural Sector, giving insight into the fleet-footed adaptability necessary to survive as a small cultural social enterprise and the challenges of enduring the threats posed by COVID and Brexit for their continued activity.
Len McCaffer shone a torch on the ways in which the Gaiety Theatre, Ayr was able to respond amid the COVID induced crisis which demanded immediate closure in the first instance. V&A Dundee’s Joanna Mawdsley discussed some of the ways in which Scotland’s Design Museum had sought to provide resourceful answers to big questions while charting a course through the maelstrom. The blog has also given rise to the opportunity to gauge and reflect upon our gradual – perhaps somewhat halting – emergence from the most stringent periods of lockdown. Our tentative return to a new normal began with snooker and smaller scale sports events and progressed to the European Football Championships and 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games which took opposite positions on the vexing question of live audience attendance.
At CCSE, we successfully staged our annual conference – Recovery, Repair & Renewal – the Role of Arts and Culture in the Future of Urban Places. And, employing tech wizardry of which we know little, our colleagues created videos of the day’s events. Acknowledging the seismic impact of the pandemic, colleagues in Marketing, Events and Tourism have created a new CPD programme for practitioners to explore the future sustainability and viability of events.
In mid-August our colleague, FESTSPACE Post-Doc Dr Séverin Guillard, bid us au revoir as he headed for the ferry and a permanent lecturing position at Université de Picardie Jules Verne in France (alongside a return to a more satisfactory bread and cheese situation all round). Dr Henry Bell wrote about football and fans; reminding us – if indeed a reminder was needed – of the importance of fans/ an audience for the theatrical spectacle that is a football match. Rounding out a very sporting summer, Solomon Ilevbare reflected on his doctoral research into the Japanese and municipal Tokyo governments and their exploitation of sports diplomacy and the soft power opportunity provided by Tokyo Olympics Games.
It is by now thoroughly unsurprising that the ongoing impacts of the COVID19 pandemic continue – implicitly and explicitly – to inform much of the work that CCSE colleagues and collaborators have undertaken. And, although, “working from home” has been a constant for much of the time that has elapsed since we last reflected on the blog, it is clear that avenues of engagement have nevertheless been successfully sought and exploited.
We are very grateful to our authors for their continuing efforts to capture some of this experience in writing and, as ever, we’re delighted to be able to publish these insights here on our blog.