NiTRO Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

Edition 34, 2021 – The broader global impact of the COVID pandemic

Music has a fundamental quality to help us connect with others, to satisfy and nourish our need for companionship. Its unique and universal capacity to engage and connect us, socially and emotionally in enjoyable ways, lies at the heart of why music is implicated a huge number of health-related interventions.

In Australia, we have not only closed national borders but intermittent interstate closures have made our physical worlds contract even further and concentrated our attention on our local communities and colleagues. As a glimmer of a post-COVID life emerges, we peek outside our Antipodean curtain to explore how others have fared.

It’s been a year of momentous change. I started my job at London South Bank University (LSBU) during lockdown, meeting my team for the first time online in 2020, in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic. My day was quickly filled with back-to-back online meetings.

In the summer of 2019 an Erasmus+ bid for research into STEAM in Higher Education, coordinated by Birmingham City University, was approved. At the time, the UK was also in protracted negotiations with the European Union, the impending exit having implications for educational exchange. This would prove to be a deeper issue to resolve.

Monday 2 March 2020 turned out to be Guildhall School of Music & Drama’s last day of normal service. Hitherto there had only been five cases of COVID-19 in the UK. That morning we discovered that one of our staff had tested positive and became the sixth case.

Recent online interviews with Professor Carol Becker, Dean of the Columbia University School of the Arts, and Professor Rob Cutietta, Dean of the Thornton School of Music, University of Southern California (USC), offered insights into the impact of 2020 on the tertiary arts sector on the eastern and western seaboards of the United States.

March 2020 to March 2021 has for all of us been the most unusual year, a time when we have been immersed in a universal but highly individualised fug of dread, anxiety and increasingly bad hair.

I ran the Stage Management pathway at a traditional drama conservatoire in the UK for a number of years. Digital Education was in its early days and the general mantra was, “It does not work for us or our students – we are a practical discipline that must be taught face to face.”

As I write this article the UK is moving out of a national lockdown – again. This time, however, the Government roadmap that was announced is the attempt to return the country to some form of normality.

In Ireland and the UK, those of us who teach film theory and practice at academic institutions had to adapt quickly to assist students attempting to complete creative practice projects during 2020 and 2021. Suddenly the usual array of filmmaking opportunities was vastly reduced.