Time to plan a safe reopening of culture

March 22, 2021, 12:13 pm

The month of March is full of celebrations: from Zero Discrimination Day to International Women’s Day. This year is however different and the least festive one. It has been one year without culture, with the sector being the first to be confined in March 2020 and the last one to re-open. 

Cultural and creative sectors remain the most damaged by the pandemic. Many professionals and artists saw their jobs eradicated or endangered by the Covid-19, and many talents were forced to leave the sector. The impact will be long-lasting. The last Ernst & Young consumer Index showed alarming numbers: 46% of respondents said they would not feel comfortable going to a concert for several months, while 21% said they would not for several years. 

The European Institutions, Member States, and local public authorities still hesitate from presenting a genuine strategy and plan for the reopening of cultural activities. The European cultural community urges national governments to reactivate cultural life in Europe. As called by 110+ European cultural networks in the joint open letter published last week, culture is paramount in offering new meaning and purpose to all Europeans and the European project. The letter also urges the Member States to fully integrate culture in their National Recovery and Resilience Plans (NRRPs) and earmark at least 2% of the Recovery Funds to culture and creative sectors. The letter represents a follow-up on the similar joint effort from the end of 2020. Both actions were coordinated by Culture Action Europe. 

#Cultureissafe and must be put back on, proclaim the cultural agents across Europe. Earlier this month Pearle* also called on the EU and the Member States to give culture a future and to open the live performance sector to audiences. “As vaccination campaigns are slowly advancing across Europe, allowing tourism to resume, it should go hand in hand with re-opening of live performance activities – with requisite care and considering developed health safety concepts,”- reads the letter published by Pearle*.

Another joint open letter, addressed to the EU Commissioner for internal market Thierry Breton was published today. European associations from the performing and live music sector (see the list of signatories here) call on a clear vision in favour of the reopening of cultural venues in every European country, a long-term support to the sector to adapt audience restrictions, and a coordinated strategy for touring conditions in Europe.

Aligned with calls coming from the sector, the European Commission also sent a communication last week to the European Parliament, the European Council, and the Council of the EU, where it invites the Member States to adopt a coordinated approach to safe re-opening of the cultural activities and sets out steps and tools to achieve this common goal. The communication calls on devoting specific support to the most affected sectors – including culture – for the safe reopening. The more that can be done to help these sectors to re-open safely, for workers and for the public, and in a way which builds trust and confidence, the quicker these sectors can start to recover.

Culture can’t stay on hold and policy-makers are called upon to propose a safe and sustained strategy for reopening the cultural sector.


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