Fears for the future of the smaller arts groups

A member of a Littlehampton poetry group says she fears for the future of similar groups around the country.

Thursday, 7th January 2021, 12:00 pm
Pam Sheppard
Pam Sheppard

Pam Sheppard is acting chairman of the Silk Road Writer’s Group.

They have had to cancel a string of recitals planned for this year, and she fears that numbers of members are dwindling.

Her worry is that similar groups could well fold if the pandemic continues for too much longer.

The impact of Covid has been hugely destructive across all the arts, but as things begin to move again, there is a growing fear that the smaller groups could well be the ones that get left behind.

“Basically we are a writers’ group, but mainly they write poetry, and from the point of view of performing arts, we put on a few recitals a year. The biggest draw was when we do a certain event in Arundel and we got 20 people. The last time we had one in Littlehampton, we got 22 people. There is still a little group of people that enjoys poetry.”

They are called the Silk Road Writers’ Group because they used to meet in the Silk Road restaurant until it closed down, but now they have no fixed base.

“We had been meeting in each other’s houses and obviously we haven’t met for a while.

“In September when the rule of six came in, we thought about getting together with only six people, but most of our members are elderly. We met in October as a group of six but then almost immediately we had the new lockdown so obviously we couldn’t go into each other’s homes.”

Pam now fears a little for the future: “I am wondering how many groups like us are going to end up losing members. When things come to a stop, it is not that easy to start again. People re-evaluate things. We have already lost one person because of the fees.

“I think there has to be a little bit of concern because we are not a lot of people, having a core of only about four or five people that have been with us a long time.

“You spend a year not going out and then you wonder whether you do actually want to go out. Some groups might contract. Some groups might fold.

“We had four recitals planned for this year and all of them had to be cancelled. We had built up to four a year and they have gone. And it has affected us financially.”

Pam doesn’t consider Zoom an option.

There is an expense – and also there are plenty of people who aren’t willing or able to use it.

In some ways, Zoom presents as many obstacles as it actually overcomes.

More conventional means of communication might just be the way forward as smaller groups try to hold it all together.

Pam is intending to send out an exercise to members just to keep in touch.

“There have been occasional poems sent around by email, so yes, I am going to put together some exercises.”

But as things stand, it is difficult to feel terribly confident for the future – or for the futures of plenty of other small groups in exactly the same position as Littlehampton’s Silk Road Writers’ Group.