The creative arts are vital to life and we need them more than ever - YEP opinion

In April this year my grandad would have celebrated his 100th birthday if he was still alive.
Are the creative arts needed more than ever?Are the creative arts needed more than ever?
Are the creative arts needed more than ever?

As it happens, he got nowhere near that milestone. He died a few days before the start of the new millennium back in December 1999. He lived just down the road from me in the Cambridgeshire village where I grew up so I saw him – and my wonderful Nan - most days until I left home for university. A Yorkshireman by birth, he never lost his love for God’s own country. I still miss him and think of him often.

I don’t know about you, but in lockdown I have found myself reflecting quite a lot on my roots and giving thanks for those people who have died but whose love and care continues to shape and nurture me. I guess that kind of reflection is a natural response to being physically cut off from seeing friends and family. It is not easy.

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But those kind of responses – what we remember and what we reflect upon – can highlight what is important to us and what matters most in life. In a different rhythm and routine, memories of people and experiences find a way of poking through our consciousness to remind us that there are things there to treasure and memories that need mining - perhaps even reworking - so that we can understand more about who we are.

As the government works through the challenge of getting the economy moving again, it is interesting to reflect on what it says about who we are as a society and about what matters most to us. It’s far from easy as many folk contend with huge uncertainty through no fault of their own about their jobs and future prospects.

Some industries are facing that more starkly than others, with the artistic and creative industries apparently well down the priority list. Of course, it is easy to see film and TV, art, music, singing, craft, dance, literature and the spoken word as mere entertainment – an optional extra. But actually these are the very things that help us work out meaning and express something of what it means to be human – to be alive. They are then, in a very literal sense, vital to life.

Albeit in quite different ways, all of the major world religions rely on the arts to help us express our faith.

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If we look to God for revelation, then it is the arts that help us to respond to that revelation in praise and commitment as they aid the unlocking of deeper understanding and fuller expression of what it means to be alive in relationship with the divine. That is why in our worship we read texts, move our bodies, sing and make music. It is all part of making meaning and offering a response.

Regardless of our religious beliefs, the arts inspire and motivate us with a vision of what matters most and help us to get in touch with our deepest longings and desires. They help us find value and forge meaning, as they evoke, stimulate and express various experiences and feelings.

None of that should be seen as simply an optional extra. It is key to being human, to being fully alive. My grandad worked on the land before the war and then in factories afterwards. To relax from the factory work he took up woodwork and marquetry. Some of what he made is next to me as I type. We all need things that help us find space and peace.

The creative gifts of others offer us that – and so much more besides. We need them now more than ever.

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