INTERVIEW: Mr Gee discusses the impact and legacy of the Coronavirus on the arts

By Kwame Boakye
July 15 2020, 20.20

As the performing arts play understudy to the Coronavirus, we talk to artist Mr Gee about how damaging this is to the creative industries.

Lockdown has brought all mediums which require gatherings to a halt.

While some sporting events have continued without the buzz and fervour of a live crowd, theatres, musical performances and open mic nights have gone into an unprecedented hibernation.

In these uncertain times…what will become of the arts in a post-lockdown world?

Mr Gee, real name Greg Sekweyama, is a veteran of the UK poetry scene and is perhaps best known for being the poet laureate on The Russell Brand Show.

He said: “It’s been real tough, anything to do with the arts has taken a big hit, a lot of our means of survival is through doing stuff in bars, clubs and theatres.”

Mr Gee added: “You need a live crowd, a live audience and a stage, all of that has died in that respect.”

Mr Gee looking stern about to talk into a microphone. There is a spotlight on him. He is bald with a moustache and a goatee.
LIGHTS, CAMERA… Mr Gee ready for action

The government has recently announced an arts culture and heritage rescue package of £1.57 billion to support cultural organisations through the pandemic.

However, the much-needed funds will not be able to protect every job within a sector that will be among the last to return to some sort of normality.

Mr Gee, who also starred in the West End musical Into The Hoods, believes uncertainty is simply an artist’s way of life.

He said: “If you choose to become a poet, you’re automatically choosing to be on the outskirts of society.

“You’re not doing the regular 9-5 job. You chose an unstable life, you chose an uncertain life and you chose a creative life.”

Ashley Walters, a British rapper, in a yellow coat, smiling next to Mr Gee in glasses and a smart tartan suit.
SMILE: Mr Gee, right, with British rapper Ashley Walters

Theatres have been free to open since July 4 however live performances are yet to be permitted and West End classics such as Hamilton and Les Miserables will not re-open until 2021.

Research from The Creative Industries Federation and Oxford Economics suggests that the UK is facing a projected £74 billion drop in revenue for creative industries and the loss of 400,000 jobs due to the pandemic.

A professional image of Mr Gee. He's looking sharp down the camera. He's sitting down in front of a black back drop.
SUAVE: Mr Gee poses for the camera

Despite the hardships facing the industry Mr Gee remains optimistic the arts will not only recover but thrive.

“If they can make art from the second world war, the first world war and Vietnam war, they can make art about COVID,” Mr Gee said.

“Artists will step up to the plate and create things that are going to be beautiful, fantastic, terrifying, depressing and inspirational, because that’s what we do.”

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