A Video Message from John Gilhooly

Published 26 June 2020

A short video message from our Director about the road ahead for Wigmore Hall

Read a transcript of this message

At the end of this historic four weeks of lockdown performances here in an empty Wigmore Hall, I must thank all of the artists for their amazing commitment and dedication, and for preparing programmes for us at such very short notice. It has been a huge morale booster and a glimmer of hope for artists and for audiences alike. It has also proven to be a positive platform to make the case to government for the value of all live performance going forward. The arts are not simply looking to the future with a begging bowl. Nobody is shroud waving here. With the right support, all of the arts will be central to the wellbeing of our entire national life in post-pandemic times. We cannot stand by and allow our cultural identity to be greatly diminished. This is an incredibly difficult time for the live performing arts, and it will take a huge effort for all of us to get back on our feet. Artists and institutions are suffering and there is hardship and anxiety. Wigmore Hall is coping as best we can for now, and my thanks to all of you who have donated around the series.

Naturally, many of you have asked me about the Hall’s financial outlook. We’re not going to launch a major appeal, just yet, but we will re-assess our position in the autumn. I will come back to you at the point when the Hall really needs your help most, and when we have a better idea of how long this crisis will continue for live performance, and for musicians. It’s highly likely that live arts experiences will be the last to recover or re-engage with large public audiences so in the meantime, your friendship is very important to us and in the absence of ticket income, your membership donations and renewals are proving to be an indispensable lifeline for us.

And alongside positive signs that the DCMS is beginning to look at the difficulties ahead for our sector, we must still continue to make a solid case to government, both local and national, that the arts can, and will, play a huge role in our national recovery. So much of the learning and outreach work that we do both in and away from the Hall is in disadvantaged and diverse communities of very many different ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds. The arts are central to the international standing, character and wellbeing of the nation and bring in billions of pounds annually to the economy.

Access to the arts and culture is access to our national life and is the universal right of every citizen. Emotional intelligence gained through exposure to the arts and music, acquired over time, helps people to form their own ideas and values, and gives them a broader view of the wider world. By giving people from diverse backgrounds ownership of the arts and culture, they feel more confident in their ability to create, to challenge, and to explore, and to be part of society and to make change happen. Tragically, those denied access to the arts, can feel locked out, and often left behind, more than ever in these times. I believe it’s vital to engage with people at all stages of life, regardless of background or circumstance, to take part in cultural activity.

We will come back to you later in August about the autumn and winter artistic programmes. I cannot thank you enough, the millions of you out there who have engaged with us over the past four weeks. It has been a huge joy to bring this series to you, and all we long for the day that we can reopen our doors to our live audience .I would like to thank all of the staff involved, in particular at BBC Radio 3, my thanks to Emma Bloxham, and here at Wigmore Hall for his exceptional digital production abilities, to Darius Weinberg. I look forward to seeing you all when we re-open. Until then, stay safe and well, until we meet again.

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