At a time when the digital world was fast growing, lockdown has only accelerated its part in our lives. But lockdown has also highlighted the importance of real-life, face to face interaction and the need for live music, art groups and events and time spent outdoors in nature. When concert halls fall silent, art groups have to be suspended and we have little or no freedom to go outside, we come to see all that we stand to lose.
Where lockdown closed doors, virtual, online initiatives held them ajar. They have created new opportunities as well as allowing existing groups to observe restrictions on movement and contact. When so many music, nature and art initiatives for health and wellbeing are built around connection, moving that connection online proved the most likely alternative.
Some will see or remember lockdown as a dark time of loneliness, loss of support, blank fear. Some see or remember it as a time of freedom, breathing space to be themselves. For some there was darkness as well as light, light as well as darkness.
Time away from work or other commitments became, for many, an opportunity for art, for nature, for music. Was this just a way to spend time or has it signalled an instinctive awareness of nature, music and art’s power to help? And will it prove more lasting?
So is connecting online through virtual music, art or nature initiatives any less helpful than would be face to face, real-life initiatives? Or does it have its own strengths in opening up projects to reach more people or in allowing people to explore and experiment with less commitment? Maybe experiences differ across the three areas. Gathering to sing or play and hear live music is so integral to music-making that music may depend on face-to-face interaction more than art would. But then again, techniques may be more easily shared during an art session in a group rather than online. Virtual experiences of nature could open up new, deeper and less fleeting sightings, maybe through macro insect photography.
And online communities free us all from barriers of geography and distance, which I for one find so very helpful.
Looking ahead, will virtual initiatives run on in to the future, or will we return to a more local focus on face-to-face sessions? Local groups bind communities together, while online groups may build new communities, either local or drawn from a wider area. Maybe the two can co-exist and evolve together, side by side. Lockdown leaves a long shadow and more questions than answers. But it also leaves freedom and scope to re-imagine new ways to connect through music, art and nature alike.