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Saving the Arts by Dugnad

In Norway we have this great word – dugnad – which means a joint voluntary effort to make it work based on what you can contribute with. This is what is happening right now in Norway – everyone is doing their fair share to avoid that the Corona-virus situation will be the downfall of our industries, including the arts. The Norwegian government, funding institutions – public and private – have all decided to join in on the Dugnad. Here is how….

Lockdown and Cancellations

The Corona-virus crisis has hit us all hard; also in Norway. Our government imposed a full lockdown on March 12 in Norway in order to prevent the virus from spreading uncontrollably. This is of course a wise thing to do, but it also has a tremendous impact on businesses – and the cultural industry is no exception. In Norway we have, so far, been lucky to have some rescue packages coming our way from the government. However, we are afraid this will only be a small plaster on something that will develop into a gushing wound. Most performers are facing cancellations and losing money by the minute.

The Norwegian rescue pack for culture industries

The Norwegian government has provided a generous rescue pack for the Norwegian culture industries. Most artists are freelancers and self-employed; normally this status would not give you social benefits such as unemployment money, but this has now been changed. Freelancers who have to stay at home with children are now entitled to childcare benefits, and the period has been increased from 10 to 20 days. That said, our national service of unemployment is still figuring out how to deal with the flow of applicants operating outside the set rules. This has led to a number of artists having to apply for social benefits; luckily the government has removed the complications of this process so that more people can have benefits sooner. 

Performers in TYA still funded

Most performers within TYA are hired through the Norwegian Cultural Rugsack and all shows are cancelled, as all schools are closed. ASSITEJ Norway has had to cancel performances too. However, all the Norwegian counties have decided to pay fees for cancelled shows in March and April in the Cultural Rugsack; we are doing the same. Most funding institutions have announced that they will not ask for funding in return for cancelled performances and projects. These efforts are made in order to make sure the culture workers for TYA won’t disappear. 

ASSITEJ Norway – Digitalized performances

ASSITEJ Norway and many others are now working hard to make sure that performances are being digitalized and we hope to continue to offer our audiences digital platforms for them to enjoy high quality performing arts. On social media, there are a number of platforms for live streaming of concerts, performances, impro theater for kids, with the encouragement to contribute economically to support artists. We, in ASSITEJ Norway, have opened a platform om Facebook called the Digital Stage for Kids where we will open up for performing arts companies to show their performances. We are of course also looking into how we can operate as part of a global network in this situation, and are hoping to find ways of conducting business almost as usual. 

Businesses have been given good terms for laying people off for shorter periods, as the government covers most of the costs. This means that the economic loss for both workers and employers has been reduced. Most theaters, however, are worried that the audience will disappear when they can re-open. We are very thankful for the private funding institutions who are opening up for new funds for digital solutions. 

Hope for the digital future

This situation will end; but how soon, and what it will leave us with is still uncertain. Most likely this experience will lead to a change in how we relate to each other, how we travel, tour and perform. The future will most likely be more digital. The Corona-situation forced us to dive into a digital solution-based ways of communicating and operating, and it is not all negative. Of course, a dance or theater performance is way better live! But we have now experienced that choosing a digital option is also possible, maybe a digital ticket will be available in the future too? Having meetings via Zoom, Teams, Messenger – you name it, is not as nice as meeting you guys in real life, but it works. The climate benefits from it! Blue skies, clear water and air you can breathe are not at all bad consequences of our digital future. Maybe we will see more of each other this way, both in person and in performances? 

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