Culture and art might not be the first things one thinks of when they’re faced with a global pandemic that grinds life as we know it to a halt. But even in the darkest of times, there’s always room for the beautiful things to bring a smile to a struggling nation. And that in itself is as heroic an act as it gets.
Lovin Malta sat down with three everyday European heroes, representing incredible initiatives that have helped cheer up their communities in Malta, Greece and Cyprus.
In Malta, a popular comedy troupe ran a live streaming, fundraising marathon.
Any creative industry around the world did not fare too well with everything having to shut down for months on end, but the local art community on our tiny island got a particularly powerful blow with the spread of COVID-19.
Realising how disastrous this would be and wanting to do something about it, popular Maltese troupe Comedy Knights organised Artists You Knighted, an intense – and hilarious – livestream that sprawled for over four hours.
The “performers for performers” event raised money to help the art community in two ways, by not only providing financial support for artists, but also by setting up an NGO to continue the initiative for the long term.
“Let’s make sure that we are not the generation that allowed Maltese creativity to fall to the virus,” Comedy Knights Producer Welsey Ellul said.
Live streamed on a number of platforms, the show hosted an endless supply of local artists, and was a roaring success that helped put a smile on everyone’s face for a great cause.
In Greece’s capital, a cultural centre attracted over 300,000 digital visitors to a number of online initiatives.
Like everywhere else in the world, Athens was closed for pretty much everything during the pandemic, meaning educational programs, theatrical performances and museums became inaccessible. Thankfully, there was a way to bring them all back in a different medium perfect for this new turbulent decade.
An old gas factory that has through the years become one of the biggest cultural venues in Athens, The Technolopis City of Athens hosted something different this year. Bringing a number of initiatives to everyone’s homes, the Technopolis hosted a VR tour of the exhibition 160 Years Made In Greece… but that was just the tip of the cultural iceberg.
The centre live-streamed seminars and broadcasted recorded music sessions and theatrical performances. It held museum tours in English and sign language, not to mention hosting a number of educational programs that covered everything from video games and creative cards to DIY artistic workshops for kids and families.
By the end, the cultural centre had attracted some 300,000 digital visitors, giving them an enriching cultural experience which was strictly online, safe and almost as awesome as the real thing.
In Cyprus, an NGO kept children entertained and entranced with live stream storytelling.
This one’s just as adorable as it sounds.
The aptly-named Museum Of Fairytales saw everything from myths and fairytales and folklore and traditions being passed on to the nation’s youngest audience through live stream readings.
A number of familiar faces and popular names participated in the initiative, including the president of Cyprus, bringing joy to children’s faces in these troublesome times with over 80 videos being uploaded onto YouTube.
While all of this was happening, the European Union made sure to do its part to support the continent’s artists.
To help the performing arts sector recover, €2.5 million was made available, with calls for tenders published for works of theatre, dance, circus and street art.
MEPs have continued fighting for more cultural aid in the EU’s recovery budget, with a number of initiatives being rolled out to either support artists from wherever they’re based or to specifically help out financially.
Through Music Moves Europe, a just-launched call for proposals aims for a support scheme that redistributes grants to recipients in the music sector.
The platform Creatives Unite created an online space to help the sector share information on COVID-19 initiatives within the cultural and creative world.
Meanwhile, for those who couldn’t visit museums and opera houses all around the continent, Cultural Heritage @Home promised just that, bringing a number of European bucket list destinations for any culture vulture straight to their screens.
And because this is 2020 and the dawn of the online event, back in March the commission launched #CreativeEuropeAtHome promoting these safer, virtual events on social media, making sure that the continent’s creative sector weathers through this storm and shares its awesomeness remotely.
After all, as European Commissioner for Culture Mariya Gabriel herself said, “we might be stuck at home, but the joy of a cultural experience makes it easier to live through”.
Devastating as it might have been, COVID-19’s global spread has shown us that art and culture can persist, entertain and embolden us through thick and thin.
Countless artists and organisations have provided some much-needed entertainment through all of this, not faltering in the face of a virus.
Boosting morale across the continent, these European heroes have ensured that we can all enjoy our beautiful culture online even when the pandemic is behind us, and because of that, these artists – and our European institutions helping them carry out their dreams and honourable objectives – deserve some love and recognition.