Culture and Pandemics

The Culture and Pandemics report – May 2020

Culture and Pandemics cover
Culture and Pandemics cover

Developing a cultural and creative industries response to the Covid-19 pandemic

Cover; The First Shock - The Foot And Mouth epidemic - 2001

Following the disastrous impact of the BSE/vCJD (Mad Cow) and the FMD (Foot and Mouth 2001) zoonose epidemics on British agriculture, the rural economy, and the major costs that these also accrued to the taxpayer (c. £11 billion), the Littoral Arts Trust, supported by Arts Council England, DCMS and DEFRA undertook a five year (2001- 06) R&D project for the development of a new type of arts and cultural strategy, that might be more effective in supporting future Government pandemics preparedness and related economic and social recovery programmes.

How we began – learning from the 2001 FMD epidemic

We explains some of the history and background to the current Culture and Pandemics project.  Which initially came about through our desire to develop a coherent arts and cultural sector strategy in response to what was then termed as the ‘crisis in agriculture’.  It describes how we responded to the 2001 FMD – Foot and Mouth outbreak, and later  developed the ‘Cultural Documents of FMD project (see section as a coordinated cultural sector response.   Also by 2006, we realised that the main challenge was the need to develop a longer term critical cultural strategy that could better support future government zoonose pandemics preparedness, and related culture-led social and economic recovery programmes.

This was the origin of what later became the ‘Pandemics and Culture’ projects, in effect the planning of a formal mobilisation and coordination of an arts and cultural, and creative industries, sector response to any future pandemic.  The ‘Culture and Pandemics’ report (began in early March) and released in May 2020, explains in basic terms how an arts and culture sector response to the current Covid-19 pandemic could now be implemented.

 (lft) Different values at work?  Covid-19 patient with the ICU team at Hairmyres Hospital in East Kilbride, BBC photographer  Christopher Bobyn. (rt.) World Economic Forum and WTO predicts £2 trillion+ loss to the world economy by the end of 2020;
(lft) Different values at work? Covid-19 patient with the ICU team at Hairmyres Hospital in East Kilbride, BBC photographer Christopher Bobyn. (rt.) World Economic Forum and WTO predicts £2 trillion+ loss to the world economy by the end of 2020;

Culture and Pandemics – learning from the legacy of FMD

Pandemics and Society poster

One of the critical turning points in the history of the development of the new creative rural economies initiative was the 2001 FMD (Foot and Mouth outbreak in Britain, which cost the country over £8 billion in farm compensation, the collapse of the rural economy, and lost revenue in the tourism and meat and livestock export sectors.

Out of the earlier experience of documenting the 2001 pandemic, and the follow-up ‘Cultural Documents of FMD’ conference in Manchester Town Hall five years later in March 2006, 

the Littoral Arts Trust began to develop the concept of Culture and Pandemics as a new arts practice and culture policy research genre.  This, as noted in the New Creative Rural Economies report (page 52 and 53), is also proposed as the basis for the development of a possible future ‘Saving From Waste’ new creative rural economy cultural strategy. More about this later. 

The discussion document under was produced about three years ago and as part of a preliminary EOI submission to the Wellcome Trust, basically for a proposal for a major conference and exhibitions programme for 2018/19. to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the 1918/19 Influenzas (Spanish Flu) pandemic.

The discussion document under was produced about three years ago and as part of a preliminary EOI submission to the Wellcome Trust, basically for a proposal for a major conference and exhibitions programme for 2018/19 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the 1918/19 Influenzas (Spanish Flu) pandemic.

National pandemics preparedness programmes; cultural sector response?  

The Trust is currently re-working the proposal as a possible future partnership with Professor Corrina Wagner University of Exeter, with a view to establishing a five research Culture and Pandemics research programme (2020 – 25). Which could involve a major future funded programme of exhibitions, symposia, film projects, commissions, research projects and residencies, etc., all located around the possibility of exploring new cultural interfaces, artistic interventions and inter-sector creative collaborations aimed at connecting up future veterinary, public health/pandemics, academic, agriculture, arts and cultural policy discourses.  

Please see WHO ‘World Pandemics Prepardness’ website

And all of which would be further aimed at achieving greater coordination and integration of the arts and cultural sector’s contributions in support of the Government’s Pandemics preparedness programmes. 

Meanwhile the Wellcome Trust have recently announced a major digital art and influenza commission project with artist Jordan Baseman.

More information about the Culture and Pandemics initiative will be available in due course and at the proposed Tate conference.