As COVID disrupts our lives our world is now more restrictive, limited and confined.

There was a time when we could meet people, have holidays, go to gigs and get dressed up.  

We were: dropping in… just swinging by… not stopping… heading on to something…having somewhere else to go, and to be.

We didn’t realise –  we had no idea –  that we were so free to do so much.

2020 is the year our lives went on hold

With COVID still rampant, all dates, and events, excursions, celebrations and holidays remain up in the air: postponed, cancelled – or ‘pencilled-in.’ 

All the social occasions that mark our lives, and that we look forward to, are left hanging. 

Seven months in, and we still don’t know when the theatres will be up and running, or if our favourite hotel/restaurant will open – or still be in business.

When this is over, will the airlines still fly us for holidays, work, travel? Will people still have jobs?

Without access to Hospitality and the Arts this is a kind of half-life, war-time existence. It means that virtually the only place we are can be – is at home. Which for some, is a lonely and isolating place.

This year, Christmas will arrive without the office parties and the big family get togethers.  With the bleakest of mid-winter still ahead of us, it seems that all the fun has gone.

We would like this to be over….....but on it goes. 

Somewhere… somehow, we have to find, or create some modicum of ‘joy’ and ‘happiness’ in our lives.

In the midst of this maelstrom we must find ways and means of being relaxed and calm. Through this, we need to open up to new experiences, creativity, learning and forms of social interaction. 

There is a lot of anxiety out there. And despair. And fear.

In one drastic swoop, the Arts, Hospitality and Creative Industries have been decimated. If we close dance venues, art galleries, concert halls and theatres as outlets to live experiences we lose something very precious. It limits the option of participating in a real and live exhilarating experience with other people. 

Where do we go from here?

Strategically, this is a time where people could adjust to a new ways of doing things –  and learning to think differently. But to do this, we have to leave our safe work/life/social media bubbles for something that opens us up to other ways of seeing. 

The fact is: if we only hold on to the same old ways of doing things, we are losing the prospect of being able to add, develop and create new hybrid solutions to the problems that affect all of us.

At a time when we need all the positivity we can muster, there should be a greater crossover of ideas, thinking and problem-solving. 

Covid is shaking things up the world. This is the perfect opportunity to re-think existing structures, hierarchical systems and siloed disciplines. 

We are relying on ‘Science’ to get us through this.  But Science does not have all the answers. The vast ripple effect of Covid lies way outside of the Science domain in ways that have yet to become clear. 

Above all, we have to talk about, and think about –  not just the big stuff –  but the small stuff. Now, more than ever, we should be making greater use of creative thinkers – and do-ers – to explore these wider issues.

With more imaginative and innovative responses (and implementation) we can plug the gaps and anticipate the fall-out of decisions already made. Therefore, it is vital that Government advisors come from different backgrounds and disciplines. The risks are far too great to confine ideas forward to just one way of thinking. Right now, we are still unclear about the kind of questions we need to ask – and to whom.

With Covid, we need to know the way things are, and the way people see it. And experience it. And fear it, and live with it.

We know it’s not going away any time soon so the more joined-up thinking we bring to this – the better. We need Arts, Design, Tech, Business and Science to share different methods of collecting and understanding data. By adding rich and rounded insights to a collective knowledge, we will be in a better position to benefit all.

COVID restrictions are there for a good reason. Evidence-based. Science-based. But, we already know this is creating very real problems further down the line.  At stake here, is the long-term well-being of the population as a whole – physically, economically and mentally.  

None of us are going to come out of this unscathed. It affects all of us.

Right now, we live a life where we don’t even know what day, or month it is. Covid deadens our existence, our purpose and sense of who we are. It makes it difficult to know where we fit in the world.

The only way to get through this is to ensure our enthusiasm is not sapped, or our passion diminished. It is vital that we still have some joie de vivre – and ‘va va voom’.

Creativity and creative thinking are proven methods of generating new, and more positive ways of being. Creativity grounds us and connects us; it is what stimulates our passion, enthusiasm and learning. 

The answer to this problem may be just a simple tweak –  or a eureka moment. Or, it could be that it needs a more experimental solution as a structured way forward.

We should not overlook the fact that being creative in solving problems – is what designers do. 

If we are stuck at home with  nothing new to talk about – good, bad and everything in between – it is a lonely and depressing place to be. 

What we need is a strong initiative  that reaches out to people, to prevent them from a terrifying descent into depression and listlessness.  

If creativity was truly valued – and its role in our lives better understood – it could balance and support the science.

Creativity will always emerge – even in the very worst of situations – because we need innovation and new ideas.

It is a natural process for creative people to think widely and deeply. Designers have a highly developed and sophisticated capacity to connect and express ideas. Given the need for innovative thinking at this difficult time, we need a more highly developed creative approach to research and the implementation of solutions.

In the UK, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) is comprised (mainly) of university academic Professors. It is a very standard, prestigious list, of recognised authorities and specialists in the field of science.

Whatever way we look at it, there are many other sources of talented people out there who could also advise on this issue. That is: people from wider fields – from real-world practice, not limited to academia.  The people whose job it is to find ways through difficult problems.

Ahead, of us lies a hugely difficult situation. We need to feel the pulse, access all areas and open up to new ideas.

We can’t just fight the fire. Through creativity and creative thinking we must innovate and create new solutions to change how we live.

Creativity offers a way forward. If only they ask.

Nuala Rooney

I am designer, educator and researcher developing creative and holistic human-centred insights within the social/spatial sphere.

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