Arts and culture have experienced significant economic setbacks during the COVID-19 pandemic. Across the spectrum of artistic and creative endeavours, restrictions on gatherings, changes in consumer behaviour (voluntary or otherwise), and severe unemployment have taken a devastating toll on the sector. The full scope and scale of the impact can be hard to discern, in part because of the size and diversity of the industries and occupations that constitute arts and culture.
In 2020, British Council Wales commissioned a research team of consultants from Sub-Saharan Africa (West Africa, East Africa and Southern Africa) and Wales to articulate if and how digital delivery could help artists, practitioners and arts and culture organisations collaborate and present work across Wales and Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), to build the resilience and agility needed to adapt to a post-COVID landscape. The research was undertaken through desk research, literature review, one-on-one interviews, group discussions and surveys.
The researchers found that technology has transformed the way we think about work, becoming connected ecosystems where people function in unison with technology. The researchers observed the rise of video streaming as the most popular and effective tool for maintaining access to arts and culture. For example, many companies have transitioned into using tech-based platforms to deliver live stream concerts, online film festivals, virtual tours, workshops and other types of digital programming which have enabled physical-sited arts and culture showcasing and collaboration to ‘carry on’.
1. Digital channels for creative work will continue beyond the pandemic. Creative practitioners were interested in working and communicating digitally before COVID-19 because of the impact on the environment.
2. Organisations are exploring hybrid ways of collaborating which embrace both in-person and digital work to engage new, and larger, audiences.
3. The challenge to artists for digital collaborations is how to make the digital experience stimulating for both the artist and the audience, rather than simply filming work that would have taken place in-person.
4. Good quality digital collaboration relies to some extent on effective networking to build contacts. Relationships are based on trust and mutual understanding about what brings the different parties together.
5. Funding and costs are at the heart of many of the barriers to increased digital collaboration and showcasing. There are specific costs to producing digital work, and it is not necessarily cheaper than producing work for live audiences.