LEISURE AND CULTURE, CULTURE AND LEISURE…
this tandem that tends to go so hand in hand in our Western, first-world post-wellbeing societies, to such an extent that it is sometimes difficult to clearly delineate their margins. When we are not working or resting from our own work, we want to feed our souls with cultural “products” (a debatable term, though already assimilated) that distract us and, with a bit of luck, even lift us out of our more routine than glittering existence.
The pandemic brought about such an abrupt stop that the culture sector was not even given the chance to bleed.
In fact, such was the general shock that we all put on our (pre-)apocalyptic survivalist suits and had to pull together as best we knew how and as best we could. But even in those days of pure first-world survivalism, in which only one thing was asked of us: to stay at home (which we recognise is no small thing) for the sole purpose of keeping ourselves and others safe,
the sometimes tedious routine of everyday life was made more bearable by resorting to the whole range of artistic expressions. Jokes, memes, gag videos, parodies, sketches… that we viralised at a much faster speed than the virus did, and that was nothing more for us than our first vaccine. The fact that they brought out a smile in us was the best antidote to a monotonous succession of predictable days in which going out to the supermarket or taking out the rubbish became the epic adventure of the moment.
Windows and balconies began to reclaim themselves as bidirectional boxes where you could choose the role; actor or spectator, or even not have to renounce either role. The show had to go on. Behind closed doors, television and, to a much greater extent, the internet, in any of its expressions, formats and devices, “forced” us to enter intensively into the refuges of cinephilia and seriephilia that many of us already counted on before the pandemic. Subscriptions to streaming services skyrocketed and now account for a quarter of the television market.
Music was another of our indispensable shields, dressing up the sometimes long silences that were contained within our four walls.
We remember here a saying that went: “It would be impossible to live without music”. And since what is impossible can’t be, we used melodies and songs, which is something that human beings have always resorted to when they have needed it precisely in order to make the most random and critical events more bearable and tolerable: wars, epidemics, food shortages, subjugation, etc.
Choosing the most appropriate mood for the occasion, we could jump from genre to genre to try to transport us to specific mental places and provoke the expected feeling. Either while cooking, cleaning or exercising, or when you listened to to music fully and exclusively for more playful purposes.
We all remember our lunches or snacks, which for pure psychological convenience almost always became special, and which were nothing more than escapes from the psyche in front of a panorama as uncertain as it was unprecedented. What was your pandemic song? (perhaps there were several) and, which one could not be missed to disconnect? Or to connect but with oneself. I suppose there is a general consensus on which one you came to detest – or, at least, came to provoke mixed feelings – at least in the case of Spain.
One memory that, we music lovers at least have engraved in our minds, is the attendance at our last concert.
My last ones were Iván Ferreiro, The Wedding Present and León Benavente in November (2019!).We are talking about fully pre-pandemic concerts… without chairs, facemasks and that warm and sweaty closeness between people. Since then I have to confess something of which I will not be a prophet… that nothing has ever been the same again. I remember dropping in for a free open-air concert one morning, but my big return wasn’t until this spring, with Derby’s Motoreta’s Burrito Kachimba who gave their show all despite the situation. Enclosed venue with high ceilings and obligatory facemasks, but perhaps more capacity than I would have liked, or rather, than would have made me feel safer.
We understand that the live music sector has to recover from the hit caused by the great standstill, as well as other spaces such as cinemas, museums and galleries, cinemas, or clubs.
The quarantine and the fluctuating measures have given the already precarious – and too often unjustly reviled – cultural sector an almost critical blow, with staff reductions and the definitive closure of businesses. We know that balancing health and economy is not easy, and this is something that we are seeing in the different countries or regions that apply different recipes in response to problems and conditions that are certainly similar. But this is a false dilemma, where it is health (life!) that undoubtedly comes first. Which in my humble opinion should take precedence and should no longer be debatable. Not only as a matter of ethics or as an idealistic Hippocratic conspiracy between nations, but selfishly.
Without health there is not and will not be an economy, actually, economy without health is not working in the places where it has taken precedence.
Perhaps there are imaginative solutions in which the institutions can provide more public, open and safe spaces for citizens, and
it will be private initiative brought together in a cooperative way that will take on the rest of the organisational work (which is no small task) so that we can overcome this predicament together. We will get out of this, but it will be hand in hand.