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Welcoming back the North East’s Arts and Culture Sector

Amber Burney's latest column for the Journal

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Next week marks the next stage of the covid roadmap where we can begin to socialise indoors, meaning a return to our favourite venues who are in much need of our support as they embark on their own reopening journey. Plus, we can hug people again – getting that recently deprived cuddle chemical oxytocin back into our system and making us all a little happier and less stressed in the process.

But hugs are not the only thing returning next week that improves happiness and reduces stress levels. Art and culture, especially when available through accessible community spaces, can have a hugely positive impact on public health.

As we have supported our amazing North East venues and organisations this last year in their great time of need, they will be there to support us in return as we move forward into the recovery period.

There is more than financial recovery ahead, there is our health, communities, town and city centres and a whole new way of living and doing business in the North East and The Chamber are actively working in all of these areas to collaborate with businesses to achieve the best outcomes for the region.

Our town centre steering group are working hard to understand the practical side of reviving community spaces, and we have recently held a roundtable discussion with Sage Gateshead asking businesses how we can start to work together to really drive forward the benefits of arts and culture in the next 12 months.

There is an overwhelming majority vote from the culture sector when it comes to a single ask of what we can do: visit, engage and share what is going on whether it be your favourite museum, cinema or music venue.

With town and city centres seeing more available space due to our changing work patterns, we are left with space that could be positively utilised to benefit public health and well-being at this time, such as accessible, vibrant green space and community cultural activities. Accessible is key – the North East struggles with inequality and the more support we give to those left behind, the more productive and happier a region we will have.

Right now it feels like Christmas Eve but without the looming anxiety of the impending awkward family arguments and if everything was actually open. Merry May 17th and beyond!

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