Sophie Hope

Artist, Curator, Teacher. Recorded 24 April 2020

In the early days of Covid-19 I thought, overnight, the great equaliser has been created, in fact I even used that term in an early webinar.

How wrong I was.

As the weeks evolved it became increasingly apparent that it was quite the opposite. People were experiencing Covid-19 and lockdown in very different ways and there was nothing equal about it.

What I also remember saying in that same webinar was that creativity had been democratised and I think that still holds true. We have seen creativity popping up everywhere and it hasn’t just been about making people feel good.

It has been a means of communication, expression, connection and survival. People have created in their homes, gardens, communities and make shift offices showing the power of creativity to rest in all of us.

Increasingly we are seeing creativity forming part of the day-to-day. Almost an intrinsic part of the human condition, the need and ability to create.

For those working in socially engaged practice and research like Sophie Hope, this won’t come as a surprise. The concept of Cultural Democracy has existed for a long time but somehow it seems to have taken on new meaning, and indeed importance, during this time.

To some extent with cultural venues, organisations and events grinding to a halt, communities have had to do things for themselves.

They have used art and culture in such fantastic ways that respond directly to their need and location.

What has been equally fascinating to observe, is how cultural organisations have responded. Those that really get it have stopped trying to preserve themselves for the sake of doing so and have cast aside all pre-planned programmes and instead have simply asked what their communities need and how they can best deploy their resources to help.

In some respects arts organisations, and in particular, socially engaged practitioners, are working on the front line with communities. The trust that these organisations and individuals have built with communities means they are often the first response in a time of crisis and are offering practical help and guidance as well as the much needed creative outlet.

As I play this conversation over in my head I have to ask the question that seems so blindingly obvious, what would happen if we categorised culture as key work?

If we accepted the human need for everyday creativity for everyone and as a result properly resourced the individuals and organisations undertaking this work so that it became a basic human right for people to see, participate in, create and experience creativity through culture.

Now there’s a thought.

Hannah Harris
Plymouth Culture