Isolated in our homes we have reached out for culture to bring us
together – whether binge watching The Tiger King, joining in with the
brilliant Grayson’s Arts Club on C4, or painting along with thousands of
others to our own Portrait Artist of the Week on Facebook Live. From
the wonderful range of programming on the BBC’s Culture in Quarantine to
the National Theatre’s giveaway of their great ‘NT Live’ content, the
last few months have proved just how much the arts really matter to
everyone when times are tough.
And this is not just because the arts are good for our health and
mental wellbeing or because they help create a kinder, more empathetic,
diverse and thoughtful society; not just because our creative industries
contribute nearly £112bn to the economy – more than the automotive,
aerospace, and life-sciences combined. And, most importantly, it is not
just because they are a “nice to have” for a privileged few. Without
small music venues you don’t get The Beatles, without theatre nurturing
new writers your don’t get great ground-breaking TV drama; without panto
many theatres across the UK go under; and without a nightclub scene you
don’t get the DJs that light up festival stages in front of thousands.
As a TV channel, we can’t fix the situation for culture. But we can
be part of their story of recovery. The shows we’ve announced today –
from a nationwide search for new public art landmarks to broadcasts of
ENO’s drive-in return to live performance, and from Danny Dyer
on Harold Pinter to a new work from Theatre Royal Stratford East
exploring the stories of key workers during the pandemic – put artists
and creatives centre-stage on a channel that everyone can watch. But we
must also use this opportunity to ask artists and institutions across
the UK to tell us what else we can do to help.
Freeview reaches 18 million living rooms. How can TV be your canvas
in unprecedented times? What can we create together to keep you
connected to an audience that can’t reach you in person? How can we
ensure that the next generation of creators – be they dancers, singers,
painters, designers, or poets – can continue to be inspired by what you
The crisis for culture is anything but over. But I hope that we can
build on and amplify the brilliant work that leaders in the arts are
doing to keep the country’s greatest cultural assets alive. A massive
stack of televisions full of Big Brother hopefuls might not help, but if
we can help keep the nation dancing, singing, painting and making –
we’ll have made a start.
Sky Arts will launch on Freeview this September.