Academics from Northumbria and Brunel Universities are to work with resilience planners from UK cities to explore how art and performance could be used to establish successful social distancing strategies.
As compliance with social distancing regulations declines, new ideas are being sought to keep people engaged and ensure they adhere to guidelines. The research aims to understand how the arts have played a part in the public’s response to Covid-19, and how artistic practice and research could inform future hazard mitigation planning in UK cities.
Funding of more than £120,000 will be awarded by the Economic and Social Research Council as part of UK Research and Innovation’s rapid response to Covid-19 fund, which was set up to support projects that contribute to our understanding of, and response to, the Covid-19 pandemic and its impacts.
Dr Patrick Duggan, Associate Professor of Performance and Culture at Northumbria University, said: “In terms of social distancing, techniques such as using arrows and signs only have limited success – there’s a real need for imaginative ideas, creative practices and new thinking in the ways we’re responding to the pandemic.”
Dr Stuart Andrews, Lecturer in Theatre at Brunel University, added: “The arts are often used when it comes to the messaging element of public health campaigns such as social distancing, for example designing graphics or logos, but they are seldom used in actually developing the strategy behind such campaigns.
“This project will explore how the arts could provide new models for understanding and practising city life, helping people cope with social distancing in the long term.”
Both academics will work with strategic decision-makers in hazard mitigation, sustainability and resilience from Bristol, Glasgow and Newcastle City Councils, as well as with artists and arts organisations.
They will also explore performance practices which have helped people through lockdown and social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic, such as Spanish dancer Albert Garcia who, when unable to dance freely during Spain’s national lockdown, performed for his neighbours each night when taking out his rubbish.