European culture, victim of the pandemic
The pandemic has put to the test the economic sector and professional occupation in many countries of the world, especially the European ones.
Some fields, like the cultural one, have experienced a significant breakdown and they have faced an important recession in several respects.
If one considers the European context, every country adopted different measures to limit the damages caused by the virus’ diffusion and to support the cultural field, which yields important returns every year in both the public and private sector.
According to the weekly Internazionale, which reviews and studies articles from the most important European and international magazines, the perspectives of workers of the cultural sector are increasingly worsening in Europe, and the autumnal lockdown due to the second wave of the pandemic has only worsened the present and future scenarios.
In Spain, for example, many activities called tablaos, where you can see flamenco dances and where you can simultaneously find entertainment, art, tourism, and restaurants, had to close and many employees have been furloughed. Some had to stop their activity altogether, some others have tried to organise open-air shows – this happened in Seville, Madrid or Barcelona. However, according to a survey of Union Flamenco of 18th November, the 42% of cultural workers chose to leave their work. Flamenco represents a cultural and touristic attraction in Spain and it is very important from an economic point of view. The whole country risks losing its culture, history, and traditions if it loses its singers, musicians, and dancers.
In Germany, instead, the activities that experienced the worst economic losses are discos and clubs, destinations of a high number of tourists every year who choose especially Berlin to take part in a festival or in particularly renowned musical events. Some clubs have tried to transform themselves in exhibition rooms and cultural centres in the first lockdown, but during this second wave they were not able to remain open because of the exponential increase in infections.
Thanks to a bill from the Green Party, discos have also become cultural structures since the 19th November 2020, thus changing their status also at a juridical level: electronic music is now considered as important as cinema or theatre. Indeed, the German government has subsidized the cultural sector in its entirety, from actors to directors, from singers to electronic music DJs.
Notwithstanding economic aids, however, German artists are also facing a time of deep crisis.
Sweden did not experience harsh lockdown measures like the other European nations, but the cultural and entertainment sector is one of the most hardly hit even here. People’s Houses, popular cultural centres active since 1893 and aimed to educate a heterogeneous public of all ages, had to stop or postpone their programmes, tours and concerts.
Actors, musicians, directors, and singers are not the only workers whose efforts and long-term projects, planned for 2020, were cancelled or postponed. Technicians working in the show business have been affected by the pandemic as well: music and lighting technicians, scenographers, photographers, and other specific figures that are rarely considered when discussing the sphere of culture.
These professionals cannot do their job if concerts, tours, and shows are cancelled. Moreover, the materials they use for their activities are often very expensive and can be afforded only if one works during the whole year, otherwise workers need to resell the equipment or suspend its rental.
The opening of the theatrical season at La Scala in Milan in Italy was emblematic of the critical situation that the world of culture is experiencing: the theatrical season begins every year on the 7th December on St. Ambrose day, patron of Milan, since 1951. For the event, tickets sell quickly and boost takings. But this year, the choir sang from dais and the orchestra was in the parterre, while the audience watched the whole performance in streaming.
Such an important moment, not only for Milan, but for the whole of Italy, will not be forgotten easily: the event of the 7th December is usually prepared with commitment and it interests an Italian and foreign audience. But it faced a huge setback this year.
La Scala Theatre receives funding together with the takings from the shows’ tickets, since it is one of the most important theatres in Italy. However, other Italian theatres, smaller and less famous, do not receive much funding. How will they survive if they have to remain closed for so long?
Austria, and Vienna in particular, are also facing a crisis in the music industry since musicians from all over the world usually arrive in Vienna. They received unemployment benefit, but they had to suspend their activity, for which the public and the closeness to the audience are two pivotal elements.
In Poland, instead, artists protested in Warsaw on the 2nd November 2020 because in their opinion the government has not done enough for the artistic and cultural sector, especially during the second lockdown. Indeed, many professionals were forced to change their work so that they could survive.
Every European country has decided autonomously the supply method and the amount of funding allocated to culture. Right now, it cannot be defined with certainty who was more longsighted, but it is unequivocal that workers of the creative arts sector are experiencing great uncertainty in every country. Most of them were not ready to face such prolonged periods of stop or stall in their activities.
The next months will be the testing grounds for both Europe and each European country to define the programmes for a recovery of the cultural sector in the course of 2021.