Covid-19 hasn't given us many things to feel positive about. However, the ability to access arts and culture online has increased significantly, giving disabled and disadvantaged people access to events they otherwise wouldn't experience. From lockdown concerts to online art exhibitions, the creative sector has continued to flourish, albeit not without difficulty. From an access perspective, these new online events have often been free, allowing people who wouldn't usually have the budget for such activities to get new experiences.
As we return to a form of normality (rightly or wrongly), I strongly believe that online events should be here to stay. They help to enrich our cultural landscape and inspire a new generation of artists. Whilst many people saw these events as a stopgap during the pandemic, others saw them as an opportunity to take part in something wonderful and interactive. For example, it can be excruciatingly difficult for disabled people to access live music events or art galleries due to specific accessibility requirements and conditions. Therefore these kinds of online events were able to open up a whole new world they could explore without planning or stress – benefiting their mental health and well-being in general.
Voice spoke to Sohail Anjum, a photographer from London who informed us about why online events are so crucial for his access to arts and culture. “Although I would love to attend arts and cultural events in person, I am unable to, due to long covid symptoms. In the last two years, that has restricted me in many ways. Thanks to free streamed live events they still keep me connected to the arts and cultural world.”
We also spoke to Niahm Dumphy, a writer and podcast host who said “It [online events] enabled me to have access to concerts that I wouldn't have been able to attend due to lack of care support as someone with Cerebral Palsy.”
Likewise, many people who would be unable to afford such events in person were able to find many concerts and art exhibitions that were streaming on YouTube for free, meaning they were able to be both entertained and educated at no extra cost to themselves – a huge weight of of many people’s shoulders, particularly those with young children or teenagers. Wouldn't it be a disservice to the younger generation to take these accessible options away? Even though many museums and art galleries have free entry, many simply can't afford the travel costs to attend in the first place, meaning they are severely lacking in opportunities that many take for granted.
So what's the solution? Surely we can't live stream every event for free? No we can't. However, what we can do is start to look at ways more artists can upload pre recorded performances to sites such as YouTube, or perhaps some events like theatre shows could be live streamed for a smaller fee than usual in order for more people to have access in general. It's not a viable option to make every online event free, if we've learnt anything from the last 3 years or so it's that the arts and culture sector has been hit enormously. So why not widen the reach, benefitting both businesses and audiences alike whilst ensuring everybody gets a chance to experience the wonders of creativity?