A Year NOT To Forget

OK, so I’m no writer and certainly don’t have anything to say about 2020 that hasn’t already been said much more eloquently by others, but in my annual blog of my year, my reader (hi Mrs Holly) would be justifiably surprised if I didn’t at least attempt to reference the bigger picture in some way… so here goes:


2020 will almost certainly be remembered as one of the most extraordinary years in recent history and one which the vast majority of us will be happy to forget. World events of course focused around the global pandemic and its massive ramifications, not least the value (or lack of it) that societies put on their health workers and health systems, but this was also the year that, thanks to the hard work of so many people and organisations, climate change took some big steps up the international agenda and the Black Lives Matter movement became a truly global story and began to reach into corners of communities that had previously been closed to its significance or even to understanding it at all.


For those of us working in the creative sector, the upheaval, stress and, for some, the pain and misery the pandemic has caused will have been deeply affecting and truly upsetting. Despite some brilliant leadership and sector support by Arts Council England, the pandemic inevitably led to some tough decisions being made and, close to home for me, the much-loved Lincoln Drill Hall, where I had the privilege of being the Director for many years, very sadly closed its doors for good in October with the loss of 19 jobs.


But there are some hopeful signs too that all of this turmoil will have led many people to begin to reconsider and re-evaluate parts of their lives, including fundamental aspects about what actually really matters. Some of the most enduring stories and images from 2020 are about communities working together, about strangers helping each other out, about neighbours who didn’t know each other before becoming friends … and of course about people not realising they are on mute.


Thanks to Trump, Johnson, Farage and many other notable global village idiots, small-minded compassion-free nationalism is rife and not likely to disappear any time soon. But precisely because of this, the arts will – and must – continue to play a vital role in connecting people and communities, in celebrating our similarities, in rejoicing in our differences and above all recognising that together we are all so much stronger.


From my own perspective the year has made me more aware than ever of the extraordinary range of privileges my life affords me. Despite having had to deal with some tough family issues in the last 12 months, I find myself feeling extraordinarily blessed and, in many ways, more motivated than ever. After the success of the second Spilsby Light Night held on Saturday 7th March, I was gutted that the fifth Gravity Fields Festival had to be cancelled, but then lucky enough to be able to shift much of my other producing work towards more online community engagement activity, including The Butterfly Project and Hope & Light with the Different Light Collective and this in turn has opened up a number of ideas and possibilities for the future.


During 2021 I am hoping to continue to work with my Different Light colleagues Andy Johnson Smith and Bruce Knight on a range of exciting projects and ideas with associate artists Will Lindley and Nadya Monfrinoli & Louise Jones from Lumo Workshop as well as Nicki Jarvis & Lucy Lumb from Vessel Projects. We’ll be hoping to deliver a Light Night or two alongside community projection projects with Junction Arts and East Lindsey District Council. I will be continuing to work with The Mighty Creatives linking schools and creativity across Lincolnshire through the Artsmark scheme and I will also be working with South Kesteven District Council on a range of pop-up village events with producer & photographer Emilie Nunn and hoping to deliver the delayed Wulfram2020 project in Grantham with international Islamic street artist Mohammed Ali from Soul City Arts.


Ongoing Covid restrictions may mean that only a percentage of these things are actually able to go ahead of course, but I do know that whatever projects I end up working on in 2021 they will be underpinned by a fundamental desire to use the arts to share joy, spectacle and wonder and to encourage people to embrace curiosity, tolerance and respect. Or put another way, to learn from and not to forget the worst aspects of 2020. At the end of what was an extraordinary year (the hardest aspects of which, at the time of writing, are far from over) and at the start of what we all hope will ultimately be a much better one, it is hard to argue with the fact that now, more than ever, we all need a bit of that.