Do they know it’s Christmas? Support freelance artists with your festive shopping

21st December 2020

As we stagger towards the end of a difficult year, lots of people’s hopes have been placed on Christmas, as a time for Covid restrictions to change and families to spend time together; however risky and unsettling that feels after months of staying apart.

Along with other traditions, buying Christmas gifts also feels like a very different prospect from a year ago. Many shops have been closed during lockdown, others are on the verge of insolvency and any magic that once existed in braving the Christmas Eve crowds seems to have lost its appeal.

For many freelance artists, performers and musicians, this Christmas follows months of being out of work and financially unsupported. Research with artists in the Sheffield region has shown that some have been out of work since the start of the pandemic, and are facing a bleak 2021 with no planned work, and their savings getting dangerously low.

Tackling all these problems in one fell swoop, folk singer and University of Sheffield lecturer, Fay Hield, is leading a social media campaign that she has called #FolkForChristmas.

Her aim is to encourage people to shop from home and spend their limited gift budgets on supporting freelance folk musicians, their record labels, technicians and promoters.

Dr Hield said: “Folk musicians need your support this Christmas. We are sharing gift ideas to buy directly from creators, helping to keep our folk scene afloat into the new year. Follow the hashtag #FolkForChristmas for your Christmas shopping to support artists, share the music, and spread the joy.”

This is certainly going to be an unusual Christmas around the UK, as the regular traditions of getting the family together at the local theatre to see a pantomime, or The Nutcracker; or enjoy a carol concert are unlikely to be part of the festivities for many people this year.

Following Dr Hield’s lead, her colleagues at the University of Sheffield encouraged people to consider their local arts scene when giving gifts this Christmas, and in turn, help out the artists themselves.

Professor Stephanie Pitts from the University of Sheffield’s Performer and Audience Research Centre, said: “Although government support schemes have helped some of our local artists and musicians, many on stage and behind the scenes have been excluded from all forms of state support.

“There are still ways you can support the local arts and those behind our diverse cultural scenes. Venues like theatres, galleries and music venues have been promoting gift vouchers and memberships as a way to spread the joy even more widely.

“I can’t think of a better way to bring a sense of optimism to Christmas, now that we are getting ever closer to being able to share live arts and culture with friends again. It’s the perfect time to give someone a new #CultureForChristmas experience in time for when we are able to gather socially again.”

Research by the Sheffield Performer and Audience Research Centre has found supporting arts organisations was a source of pride for many of its participants, glad to be putting money into their local arts scene, and feeling a sense of responsibility to keep it going. Just as independent shops are said to ‘do a little jig’ when they make a sale, every ticket counts for cash-strapped artists and struggling organisations.

If you make #CultureForChristmas your gift buying resolution share it on social media and encourage others to do the same, you will be helping to bring hope to your local arts venue and to the thousands of freelancers who have struggled to keep working during 2020.

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