After both the WHO’s announcement of COVID 19 as a global pandemic, and the President of the Republic of South Africa’s declaration of a state of disaster on 15th March, ASSITEJ SA will be following all relevant protocols and measures as set out by the relevant health authorities.
As a network organisation, our duty is to support our members, the artists, theatre companies, organisations and institutions that provide artistic experiences to children and young people nationally, in a range of different contexts. This is a critical time for the arts – with growing discontentment with the status quo. This includes a dysfunctional arts ecosystem, a lack of strategic funding and support, a dwindling audience base and a general devaluing of children and young people as potential audiences, participants and actors within the space. The widespread cancellation of performances, tours, festivals and other spaces of activity will impact very heavily on our members, affecting their capacity to support themselves and their families. Children and young people also face a challenging time, with schools closed for a longer holiday period and with most organisations cancelling all their holiday activities. As a result, there will be many children nationally, without stimulation or meaningful activity, without the resources to engage virtually, and in physical environments may be compromised and unsafe.
In the face of these challenges, ASSITEJ SA is determined to:
1. Ensure a safe working environment for our staff in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban, and work virtually.
2. Work with other partners, our funders and stakeholders, to see what can be done to mitigate the impact of this extended period of inactivity on both our audiences and our members.
3. Research and share meaningful and creative ways that artists can engage with children and young people in their communities, and support our artists to do so wherever possible.
4. Engage with our members to better understand the impact of shut-downs, closures and other measures on their income-generation capacity, and research and share ideas for income-generation and sustainability in the longer term.
5. Continue to advocate for the rights of all children and young people to the arts, and particularly in times of challenge, of widespread anxiety and isolation.
We have circulated the new statement from ASSITEJ President, Yvette Hardie, for the World Day of Theatre for Children and Young People (20 March 2020), which can be found here.
We will endeavour to be sensible, compassionate and creative in our response to this pandemic, and we ask all our members to join with us in this moment of crisis. Together we can ensure that the arts continue to be an inspiration and a comfort to all of us in these challenging times.
We encourage our members to engage with us on Email, Facebook and WhatsApp, rather than phone. However, we can be reached daily on +27 87 222 7983 should phone be required.
The Coronavirus hotline WHATSAPP number is 060 023 3456.