Sunshine, Rosé, zoom quizzes; the fundamental things that got many through the lockdown of seven months ago. Our panic-induced motivation to survive brought with it a reawakening of activity. People suddenly had to fill their time with things over than going out to work, exercise, or socialising. On the phenomenon that was TikTok, we need not dwell – as while supplying the Gen-Z quota for mind-numbing – it is not the positive cultural productivity that should be highlighted. Instead the provision of online theatre, early album releases, and ‘at home’ series kept us engaged in the cultural arts.

Yet, we are now faced with the reality of a second lockdown, a second stasis which we are expected to fill. The difference is that after seven months motivation has rather waned with the shortening of the days and lowering of temperatures. A glass of red wine with a casserole does not hold quite the same amount of energy as an Aperol Spritz and nibbles. With life moving rather slower, and our working lives still underway, is it unfeasible to disengage? To spend an eye-watering average of five hours on your phone? To curl up and immerse yourself in the visual indulgence of The Crown? No. By all means, do whatever you have to do to get through the foreseeable. There is no reason why watching a popular series, or trawling social media is any less of an engagement with today’s culture. The conversations you have around the presentation of a character or a critique of a script keep you as vitally involved with the arts as making a comparison between David Tennant’s Hamlet and Kenneth Branagh’s might. Just because it appears low-brow or lesser, does not devalue its ability to allow you to retain a footing within the popular consciousness which will only be retained once lockdown ends.

However, if you are in need of something more there remains a fierce movement from those attempting to inspire engagement in creation beyond the mainstream. Whether it be through journalism, releasing music, or creating art or film there are many who are preventing our cultural hibernation. The student community is the perfect place to witness this commitment to creation. Notoriously active in all things, students have continued to make the best of the situation we find ourselves in. Whether it be as an escape, a product of boredom, or the desire to do something genuine for themselves and others, people have kept going – ‘And the walls spoke’, ‘Simulacrum’ and ‘V-Card’: all student plays, all products of our current situation. The secondary result of continuing with theatre – beyond the actual performance – is through people promoting their work online they draw everyone around them into their artistic sphere.

Papers, Journals, and Magazines play a key role in inspiring others to get involved on their own terms. Yes, at Oxford the University-wide papers are great – they reach out to the masses and are widely accessible. Yet, for many they are comparable to the likes of a big-budget TV show; they are something to be consumed but not often contributed to. So, as we have the Student Play, we similarly have the localised Student Magazine. Over the course of Lockdown 2.0 arts magazines have cropped up among groups and colleges across the University. One in particular at St Hilda’s College attempts to engage students by asking them to create their own art. This not only maintains motivation but also invites looking beyond the self to process the world you experience, without which you stilt creation. Conceived by Maggie Moriarty – who throughout the last seven months has been incessantly engaged in the arts – the magazine attempts to draw people further from the monotony of the day-to-day without thrusting culture down their throats. Localised publication excels is in its micro form; anyone and everyone can contribute without pressure as the operation is one of community not competition.

The winter months and lockdown resurgence are not ideas to excite the spirit. But, they may be the foundations on which to build something more permanent than the melting memories of a Frosé. Under pressure and discomfort people create their best work and the production of or engagement with art and culture as a corona legacy does not seem quite so bad. Whether it be devising a recipe for a charity cook book, writing a poem for a magazine or paper, or simply checking your phone there is so much value in engagement. To use every means of inspiration, participation and involvement does not seem to be the worst way you could spent the next few months. Who knows you might even find something to hold onto on the other side.

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Katharine Spurrier

Beyond her degree, Katharine enjoys reading both social commentary and culture reviews. This provision of both high and low insights helps to inform the articles she has written for The Oxford Blue which range from pop-culture, to literature, to food, and even dipping into sports on occasion.