The Way To Happily Ever After: Ways to Stay Optimistic in 2022

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It’s one of those many joyful staples of Christmas panto. The adventure is done, the battle against evil is won and the stage has emptied only for the crew to return in a triumphant parade of glorious glittery glamour and optimism

The dame dons a mind-blowing dress that could well command its own postcode. Meanwhile hero and heroine are luminously lost in love and the audience is roaring their appreciation. Even the resident nasty has managed to doll themselves up surprisingly well after their resounding defeat. It’s an amazing moment for everyone involved.

Happily ever after?

Do happy endings come so easy and absolutely in real life, though?
 
I think I hear a no to that, which is perhaps all the more resounding after the damage covid has wreaked on careers and lives. Then, as the tribulations seemed over and we donned our glad rags for the encore, a new covid postponed our happily-ever-afters further. Maybe this relief has only been an intermission and we have more trials to face in the second half.
 
Of course, the truth about real happily ever afters is that they’re all the sweeter because they’re harder won. They come with lessons that are more enduring than an applauded promenade across the boards. The curtain never really comes down and the adventure endures, along with all its challenges. Hopefully, we do better in the next act.
 
As upcoming Norwegian performance poet Liv-Christine Home says,
 
“That is why we are here today. Because we have had the strength within us to survive, a flame inside of us that has not gone out. We are still human, not dust, and we will continue to be, no matter what adversity we face.”
 
Or, to quote Paulo Coelho, “The secret of life is to fall down seven times, and get up eight times”
 
But determination alone doesn’t get us through and there’s lots of fuel to keep the flame of optimism burning this Christmas and in the new year.

Reasons for optimism

The Revolution Will Be Digitised – The Streaming Boom

To say lockdowns and social distancing have been hard for the performing arts is a monumental understatement. Box office takings plummeted by nearly 90% in the year after the first lockdown, according to the Arts Council.
 
Streaming manThe demand for performing arts, for drama, dance and music, has not changed though. With a nation confined to their homes, viewing of video streaming services more than doubled (+109%). Now, more money than ever before is being spent on commissioning new on-screen drama in the UK.
 
The booming streaming industry has begun to draw talent from the stage and concert hall, and it doesn’t look set to stop any time soon. The National Theatre has reported staffing shortfalls of up to 50% as the digital big spenders continue to look to us to meet their needs. Bad news for them, but a reason for optimism for the industry in general. If you’re looking for opportunities, this might be worth an inquiry.

Starved of performing arts

As locked down audiences were released back into the world, people were hungry for the irreplaceable zing of live performance.
 
“The nation has been starved of the arts for a year.” Andrea Lowe of the Performance Preparation Academy told the Centre for Broadcasting and Journalism, “I think there’ll be a boom. If we can urge as many people to get out and see [what’s there] and support it, it will get back on its feet”.”
 
That boom has clearly started and there’s optimism in the air. Although recent news makes it look a little fragile, it’s clear now that people will never really turn away from the theatre.

Lessons learned, never to be unlearned

Money and roles come and go, but lessons remain with us and our communities forever. We survived one of the worst years in performing arts history, and part of the reason for that was innovation
 
Performances made their way outside where they could, with drive in dances and theatres in parks. What began as an act of resourceful desperation quickly became a new platform for innovation, or perhaps it was a return to the old ways of theatre:
 
“If you’re in an outdoor space with the elements … it’s really important to keep your audience engaged. It can lend itself to more bombastic storytelling and texts. It’s one of the reasons that Shakespeare was written to be performed outside.” Paul-Ryan Carberry, Artistic Director of London’s Iris Theatre told Blogcritics.org
 
And we found that streaming wasn’t just for the likes of Netflix too. Many theatres, concert halls and arts groups used online video to take on lockdown with vigour when people couldn’t access their output directly. This kept a hungry theatregoing throng sated until they could get back to the stalls. But it also seems to have reached out and touched new audiences looking for human drama in lockdown.
 
New fans are a good reason for optimism, but it’s the new ideas, from drive-in theatres to local music streams, that could really bode well for the future. As Darwin said, it’s not the strongest or fastest that survive, but the ones who are most able to adapt.
 
Check out this blog on niching for more adaptive ideas to get your post-covid creative juices flowing.
 

Cash for cultural recovery

Entrance to the Theatre Royal Bath

They’ve got the hunger and we’ve got the goods, but the industry needs support getting back on its feet and meeting demand. Fortunately, help is available in the form of government grants and schemes to aid the arts.
 
As always, the Arts Council England (ACE) is one of the main stops for performing artists in need during the recovery.
 
The big headline here at the moment is that the fairly hefty Culture Recovery Fund has given out £107 million in a new round of grant giving. 248 performance organisations and more than 750 other groups have just received a new lease of life in the latest round. Grants are approaching £1 billion in total since the start of the pandemic.
 
It’s a panacea, rather than a cure for the industry’s ills, but it is well received at this hectic and uncertain time. Indeed, now might be a good time to get in touch with your local theatres to find out what they’ve got scheduled in the new year. Significant cash injections like this tend to lead pretty quickly to new projects. For your information, the full list of recipient organisations can be found here.

More funding available

If your organisation wasn’t one of the lucky ones on this list, fear not. More is available and Jozara is here to help you benefit. 
 
Pile of money with performing arts badgeThe Arts Council’s Capital Investment Programme supports Covid recovery and adaptation across the performing arts. It helps a wide range of organisations adjust buildings, equipment and practices to be safe and feasible in the post-covid world. Support is available to cover things like adapting venues for social distancing, enabling remote working, and anything else done to keep practitioners and audiences safe
 
In general, most organisations that are or have been able to access the ACE’s ongoing project grants can get hold of this money to help them adapt.
 
On which note, ACE National Lottery Project Grants are still available as ever. These grants can be used to fund a particular arts project. This includes funding a not-for-profit project, launching a one-off concept or supporting a budding venture that will become independent
 
Grants are made based on project proposals, which are judged on a variety of factors. There are two levels – under and over £30,000, with the latter requiring a more in-depth proposal and a longer period of consideration.
 
If you have an exciting new idea you want to get off the ground or one you’ve been keeping under wraps during lockdown, these grants can help. Go to the Arts Council’s Project Grants page to learn more about applying for a grant. Jozara also has seminars to help you lodge a brilliant application and manage the resulting funds effectively.
 
Of course, ACE’s Emergency Response Fund still exists as a lifeline for performing arts organisations and businesses too. It can be used to support any organisation that was financially sustainable before covid but is now in financial danger. Grants range from £25,000 to £3 million.

Summary

Whatever happens in the new year, we know we’ve survived the worst. We’ve learned lessons, we’ve held on tight to our optimism and we’ve found that we can survive.
 
It likely won’t be as difficult in the coming year as it has been in previous ones though. Audiences are hungry to get back to performances again and we performers and practitioners can meet that demand in a whole host of ways new and old
 
If lockdown does return, we’ll find inventive new ways to keep performing and with the help of a little support, we’ll survive and come back stronger. We have a feeling that, with the help of a little optimism, next year is going to be a strong one for the industry, no matter what!

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