Clair Figes ponders celebrations after the lock down….
In France, around the midsummer Solstice, every town throws itself open to La Fete de la Musique. Throughout the country, bars and restaurants and village squares fill the pavements with tables, chairs, hay bales, trailers; and they book local musicians or bring amps & speakers out into the street and a night of music, dancing and general merriment ensues.
Most of us will eventually emerge from the current viral crisis. We’ll come stumbling back to normality, grateful to be released into the wild – but very aware that life has to go on and very, very many businesses will need to be restored in order to make that possible. That will probably include our own businesses – or those which employ us – or employ or care for our loved-ones.
There will also be an army of heroes who we want to thank: all NHS and care-home workers and all the people who’ve kept shops open, kept postal deliveries and bin collections going, kept our kids sane on-line, kept the surgeries & pharmacies going – the list goes on and on.
Can we combine all these needs?
When the lockdown ends, could we just crack open all the local hostelries and get musicians into all of them and onto the pavements outside and rope in all the street-food vendors still operating and just Play & Eat & Drink & Dance, putting money into the tills of all our pubs and cafes and the pockets of every food-stall and the hats of every busker and street entertainer?
In an ideal world it would just happen spontaneously, like it did on VE-day after WW2. But we may have a staggered release: some areas before others, the least vulnerable before the most vulnerable, etc… Also, the kitchens need to be stocked, the staff need to be recalled, the pumps need to be primed and the musicians need to be on hand, so a little advance planning would help.
And, crucially, if it happens on just one night, the wonderful key workers can’t all join in – because our hospitals and care-homes will still need to be staffed even through the celebrations. So we’ll need at least 2 days of celebration. I suggest that we ask the pubs, cafés, musicians, street performers, local Councils, etc. to be ready to take part in some way on the evening of the Summer Solstice: Saturday 20 June and again on Friday 26 June. And to organise some simple sort of voucher system so that wonderful people like NHS staff can get freebies all night.
If we’re still in lockdown a week before this celebration – just roll it all forward a week, then another …. And if we’re all released early, fine, we can have an earlier party as well. The more we celebrate, the faster we can get the small businesses back up and running. So tune your instruments and get your bunting out and aim for national street parties on 20 and 26 June.