During the first adrenaline driven weeks of lockdown (remember them?) I sought out podcasts as a distraction from the news cycle and the immediate pressures of re-organising the way we worked and lived.

I was only a year late but I was utterly gripped by ‘13 Minutes to the Moon’ about the Apollo 11 mission, but the second series on the 50th anniversary of the stricken Apollo 13 was as riveting as a tale of collective human ingenuity. It was made more poignant as the series is unfinished because the writer and presenter, Dr Kevin Fong, is still deployed on the front line treating patients. I am excited to hear the final episode, as it will be a sign the health crisis is passing, of course I know it works out for James Lovell, his crew and for NASA. Maybe this is part of the attraction and comfort of the story but it wasn’t predetermined and involved constant decision making in the most extreme of circumstances.

Their problem was complicated but the goal was clear, get three astronauts home alive the drama energised a nation for whom moon missions were commonplace, and in which they had lost interest to more pressing domestic and social issues.

During the last few months we have all been faced with an unprecedented convergence of problems to manage personal, family, social, behavioural, economic and health. It is difficult to describe the end goal – is it ‘back to normal’ or ‘new normal’? And there is no clarity on the right decisions and there is no precedent.
We are seeing young people at the sharp end of the impact of the crisis ( Education Policy Institute; Education Endowment Foundation, Beatfreeks) and it is magnifying and revealing underlying inequalities. We’ve seen key anchors for children and young people disappear (such as going to school), the cancellation of rites of passage, learning loss, the loss of jobs and uncertain futures. When these issues seem beyond our means to influence where do we start? Maybe like the Apollo 13 team it is with problems that are urgent but also specific and worth doing – what can make a difference to the things we care about? I am inspired by everyday practical acts of kindness and altruism I see from our community and our partners – see Let’s Create packs, MAIA Creatives fundraiser for artists for instance and the emergence of working as a collective force to find a way through this crisis, such as the West Midlands Culture Response Unit.

We cannot leave the voices and the needs of young people out of the narrative of what a COVID world should look like and how creativity and the arts can make its contribution to community recovery. It’s a very noisy lobbying environment at the moment, so it’s good to see leaders in cultural education are organising – such as in the Local Cultural Education Partnerships, our teacher networks and nationally through the Cultural Learning Alliance.

So it is time to make your voice heard, on behalf of those who are not listened to, and do let us know how we can amplify it and support you.

Rob Elkington – Director Arts Connect