The Arts under Quarantine

Evie Lake discusses how the art world is coping with the transition to online during the coronavirus lockdown.

Evie Lake
30th March 2020
“No man is an island” and yet here we sit, in our respective homes, our individual rooms, slowly losing those ties to society and culture that prevent us from coming as such. Fear not, however, as the ever-expanding digitalisation and interconnectivity of our lives has allowed the arts and cultural sectors to provide us with entertainment and escapism from the comfort of our quarantined homes. Here are some of the highlights: 


The Royal Shakespeare Company have made an incredible 17 productions available to watch online via Marquee TV (where you can sign up for a 30-day free trial). Amazingly, you will now be able to pause Shakespeare and not spend half of the performance concerned about your bladder. Included in the 17 productions is David Tennant’s critically acclaimed performance of Richard II- not one to miss!

#NationalTheatreatHome, launched by the National Theatre, will see 4 different productions streamed for free on their YouTube channel. It all kicks off on 2nd April with One Man Two Guvnors starring James Cordon. In the following weeks, Jane Eyre, Bryony Lavery’s Treasure Island and Twelfth Night will be shown respectively. 

YouTube: National Theatre at Home: One Man, Two Guvnors


Keeping things local, Baltic Gateshead has digitised its current exhibitions to be viewed from home: Abel Rodriguez’s botanical illustrations and ABEL (the film) by Fernando Arias. In addition, but the Baltic’s website features a massive back catalogue of archived exhibitions you can sink your teeth into. 

If you’re looking for some creative, interactive activities for all the family, then look no further than Baltic Gateshead’s YouTube channel, where they will be uploading ‘Meet and Make Online’ videos. Their first teaching us how to make Chimera Collages. 

YouTube: Meet and Make Online: Resourceful Rainforests with artist Sophie Lisa Smith 


There has been no shortage of musicians getting involved and attempting to make quarantine sound that bit sweeter. Neil Young will be coming to us live from his living room for ‘fireside sessions’.

Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard has been releasing hour-long YouTube videos daily and has even recorded the song ‘Life in Quarantine’ in an attempt to process and rationalise these unworldly events to the backdrop of melodic and melancholic guitar strumming. 

YouTube: Death Cab for Cutie: Life in Quarantine

BBC’s ‘Culture in Quarantine’ 

BBC Arts has aptly rebranded itself as Culture in Quarantine during this time, focusing on making arts and culture accessible for everyone practising social distancing. You can take virtual tours of numerous museums and galleries- such as the TateBritain- or engage in the various creative activities featured on the website. For example, there is a tutorial on how to make mosaic-style door plaque and tutorials on origami, amongst other things. 

Culture in Quarantine and VLF have announced a virtual literary festival, ‘The Big Book Weekend’, which will try and incorporate “the best of the cancelled British Literary Festivals”. You can sign up now, for free, and will be updated with information and schedules as they are announced. It will be a literary event that finally doesn’t depend upon geography or costs, just a love of literature. 

The Arts and Cultural industries are working incredibly hard for such an abundance of content to be readily available to us all, despite serious financial instability

The Arts and Cultural industries are working incredibly hard for such an abundance of content to be readily available to us all, despite serious financial instability. The industry as a whole, and those that work within it, are not amongst the priorities of the UK Government, resulting in mass uncertainty for its future. 

Notably, the Tyneside Cinema has announced that their future is seriously at risk, asking for its customers to make donations, and/or to purchase gift vouchers to be used at a later date. It would be heartbreaking to see such a Geordie institution to fall victim to this pandemic, and it won’t be the only business failing. Donations can be made here.

Many organisations, however, are banding together to alleviate some of the financial burdens facing the industry. Arts Council England has announced a £160 million emergency fund to assist freelancers, venues and artists within the cultural sector, and Netflix has donated £1 million to the BFI and The Film and Television Charity’s emergency fund. This fund will aim to assist all those affected by the closure of UK productions, but only for the short-term. 

Make donations to the local businesses you would hate to see go, they could use and will be relying on, every penny

The growing awareness of the hardships such businesses and industries face has resulted in more being done to help. Make donations to the local businesses you would hate to see go, they could use and will be relying on, every penny. 

With the arts conversion to cyberspace, it is easy to fall into a routine of viewing plays and paintings this way. However, I can’t help but feel this dilutes the intended experience of arts and culture- something that rarely can be expressed digitally. So, when this is all over, attend local gigs, support the galleries and museums you love, take the time to contribute to the arts. Without such businesses and artists, the world would be an incredibly boring place

Image Credit: Instagram @robineisenberg

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