Dante 2.0 Tiers for Fears

To celebrate the 700 year anniversary of Dante’s death, the Uffizi is holding a virtual exhibition called To Rebehold the Stars. This is the latest digital innovation as a result of Covid. The arts have been an absolute lifeline during lockdown, and a curt reminder to the government there’s more to life than STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths).

According to the Carnegie Trust, around three in ten people in the UK engaged with public library services during lockdown. Research from Nielsen Books (May, 2020) revealed that people in the UK almost doubled the amount of time they spend reading books since lockdown began. Whereas live theatre from the National Theatre on a Thursday evening made culture accessible. Tickets at the NT sell out quickly and are often very expensive (before you’ve factored in travelling costs), so this was revolutionary. They have now set up a subscription model so audiences can continue to watch from home.

In a series of blogs for Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature, I explored what we can learn from literature to help us cope with our current situation. George Orwell nailed it for me. He wrote that moments of extreme crisis create ‘emotional unity’ and an opportunity to reboot social values. I hope that the extreme crisis created by lockdown will create a better appreciation for the arts and culture which have been systematically removed from the education system under our current gatekeepers.

The arts provide opportunities to use our imagination and imagination is the only thing that’s going to keep us company during the latest (but probably not the last) lockdown. It’s with these sentiments in mind I’ve wasted the last couple of hours cobbling together an adaptation of Dante’s Divine Comedy. What would Dante 2.0 make of these times? Would his circles of hell be replaced with tiers? As we all know when it comes to wearing a mask and being responsible in public, if only everybody else was as responsible as us…

Further reading