Arts and culture across South Kesteven have been kept alive and well during the coronavirus lockdown thanks to digital technology.
South Kesteven District Council’s arts venues in Stamford and Grantham closed on 23 March but the council’s arts team and creative practitioners have taken the sector online – potentially revolutionising the council’s future delivery.
Not only has the approach kept activity going but it’s developed new audiences, fostered confidence for artists to deliver differently, encouraged wider engagement and prompted enthusiastic feedback.
SKDC is assessing how to safely reopen its historic arts centres but, with no firm dates yet available, is forging ahead with its digital plans.
Arts at Home e-newsletters, online film screenings, sketching classes, poetry readings and exhibitions, and a lockdown photographic competition have successfully overcome COVID-19 restrictions, along with the staging of Stamford’s Poet Laureate competition from Stamford Arts Centre via a Zoom link.
Fortnightly Cinema Speaks events have been running for film enthusiasts and A Pint of Poetry connected local poets with writers from further afield.
SKDC has also joined a national 300-venue survey on customer attitudes to booking during the pandemic, with questions relating to digital engagement and attracting positive local responses.
Cllr Rosemary Trollope-Bellew, Cabinet Member for Culture and Visitor Economy, said: “Arts and culture are two of the things that make South Kesteven such a great place to live and the closure of our arts centres forced us to completely rethink how this vital and vibrant part of our economy could continue working.
“We wanted to make sure that the local creative community was not left high and dry. What we have achieved has been quite inspirational and flagged up new and wide-ranging opportunities.
“Our teams have really made things happen, and it’s opened our eyes as to what is possible thanks to technology. Many of us have learnt life-changing lessons about how to access and use technology and this could be a silver lining from this dreadful pandemic.
“It’s also been really important for people’s wellbeing as we faced Covid-19 isolation. It’s a very worrying time for people in the cultural sector and this approach means they can stay connected and express all the rich creativity that we used to harness in a conventional fashion.”
SKDC arts staff meet weekly, providing arts, cultural links and information, promoting their work and online services and planning future digital events.
Although the Government has given the green light for theatres to re-open after 4 July, SKDC will be adopting a cautious approach to opening arts centre doors, with safety and confidence for staff and audiences as priorities.
Under latest guidance, related activities such as indoor play areas and workshops, gyms and dance studios, exhibition areas and conferences remain firmly off limits.
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