Covid-19 recovery: How performance can improve well-being in rural areas

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As this week marks two years since the first Covid-19 lockdown in the UK, PhD student Liane Hadley explores how communities can use the arts to start to recover from the pandemic.

Liane Hadley_web.jpgMy research explores how the arts, and specifically performance, can influence social interaction, cohesion and well-being, particularly within rural areas.

In a time of transformation, the function of the arts will inevitably change as we navigate our way through the Covid-19 pandemic.

I believe the arts has a central role to play in both community re-engagement and in re-connecting with oneself and the environment. 

My research also looks at the development and impact of community arts, how applied theatre now sits in the context of the current pandemic, and how Covid-19 safety measures under present government guidelines affect creativity. 

Through working closely with the community, I hope to demonstrate how process and performance can influence community re-engagement and re-build local connections, highlighting the impact of a performance experience and authenticating the role of the arts in reinstating communal identity, well-being, and confidence.

I am currently working on a community art project that has had to adapt and change and align to Covid-19 measures throughout the past few months. This creative process started in November 2021 and is nearing its performance date. 

As a small cast, we have all, at some point during the creative process, been affected by Covid-19 and have found the rehearsal schedule has been very much dictated by Covid-19 and the recommended safety measures. It has forced changes that were never a consideration before the pandemic. However, with those changes, new creative possibilities have come. Equally, the cast has all grown in confidence, together and individually, united in their vulnerabilities; they have developed new friendships and overcome challenges.

The aftermath of lockdown has changed us all and, for many, has made us rethink and re-evaluate our lives and what is important. Some have been encouraged to try new things and do something different. This is true of a few cast members, which is fantastic, but it has meant more than just doing something new.

Through this creative project, I have seen how these ladies have bonded, reconnected, and rediscovered a sense of self-belief. And so, I continue to advocate the potential of the arts in contributing towards the efforts in supporting mental well-being as we all try to move forward and rebuild our lives and communities through these current times.

I’m coming to the end of the first year of my PhD, and when I reflect on my work over the last twelve months, I have developed a real sense of ownership in what I am doing and a belief that it will make a difference, so it’s a privilege to be undertaking such work. 


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