An attack on happiness


image by Jean Jullien

League of Culture exists because of mine (and, thankfully, others) absolute refusal to believe that a world without cultural activities is a fine world to live in. There is no such thing as an acceptable target for attack. Office blocks, military headquarters, cartoonist’s offices, anywhere there is loss of life there is tragedy. But the callousness of Friday 13th November’s attacks, at a football stadium, at a concert hall, strike at the heart of cultural experiences. And this makes me angry.

Culture exists as a way for humans to form connections. The atrocities of a few hours ago hit into ideals of friendship and happiness. The ‘Blitz spirit’ kicked in, with moving footage of football fans singing the French national anthem as they were evacuated. A song, to bring them back together and show the attackers they could not be torn apart.

At the time of writing, the band on stage at the Bataclan when the shootings started, Eagles of Death Metal, are all safe and well, but certain crew members have yet to be accounted for. In crises such as these, it is the audience we think of first, a huge mass of people trapped in terror. But the workers at these venues are in just as much danger, and they cannot give in to fear.

As I’ve mentioned before, I used to work front of house at IWM London. I only had to help evacuate the building once, and it was a false alarm. But there is an extra layer of panic when you are evacuating somewhere in a capital city that has faced terrorism before. Especially when the rest of your working day is spent wandering round exhibits that detail exactly how awful an attack would be.

Happily, I can only imagine what the people of Paris are dealing with right now. The news reports are positive, not about what happened, but about what is happening now, #PorteOuverture trending on Twitter as Parisians throw open their homes to those stranded, photos of landmarks across the world lit up in red, white and blue to show solidarity.

I would much rather art was created out of peaceful times, but how beautiful to see that even in times of extreme darkness, when the very cultural fabric of a nation is attacked, it is a cultural activity, photography, singing, that helps make things better.

This was written by Vicky Prior, League of Culture’s Director and is not intended to wholly reflect the views of the organisation.

*The original article misidentified the artist of the Paris Peace sign as Banksy. Apologies to Jean Jullien, its true creator.