Culture out of crisis: Reassessing the way we live and create in a new world order

The start of a new decade saw confident predictions of the future but Covid-19 put paid to all that. So what cultural trends have emerged from, or been accelerated by, the crisis? In a series of essays in the coming days and weeks, Campaign takes a look.

2020 began as many other years and decades do, with grand predictions for the future. The indomitable passage of time always prompts crystal ball-gazing, because people are hungry for clarity and answers. Each January, Campaign joins in this exercise with its "Year Ahead" issue, offering marketers and advertisers forecasts to help shape their views of the coming months.

But barely three months into the year, all of those predictions were thrown out the window with the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. What many people thought would be a disruption of a few weeks turned out to be a crisis of such scale that it brought the global economy to its knees and ripped holes through the fabric of people’s lives.

Covid-19 has already begun to shift economies, political systems and culture in ways we cannot yet imagine. Then, another dam broke with the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement following the killing of George Floyd in the US. Protests spread rapidly around the world, as people took a stand against deep-seated injustices that had been exposed – and in some cases exacerbated – by the pandemic.

The renewed fight against racism and wider inequalities has also prompted a reassessment of culture. Statues were torn down in public spaces due to the previously venerated figures’ connections to the slave trade. Entertainment, such as the film Gone With the Wind and TV series Little Britain, was removed from streaming platforms because of their stereotypical depictions of characters from ethnic minority backgrounds. Education activists renewed calls for the government to add black history to the national curriculum.

Both Covid-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement open the door for a great cultural reset. Some of these changes will be forced, as businesses, including those in the creative industries, struggle to rebuild after the pandemic. But it is also an opportunity to rethink what we create and how we live.

In Campaign’s new series of essays, the authors take a different lens on the future as they examine cultural trends that have emerged from, or been accelerated by, the crisis. They make such predictions as a rise in escapism, a revival of faith, a surge in activism and a reset of capitalism itself. What all of them agree on is that returning to "normal" – whatever that might have meant in the past – is no longer an option. 

As we dust off those crystal balls again, one of the most essential truths to have materialised during this upheaval is the need for inclusion – of all races, genders and socioeconomic backgrounds – in the rebuilding process. Creativity thrives and culture is strengthened when diversity and inclusion are embedded in the foundation of our businesses and society. In many cases, what collapsed under the force of Covid-19 was already broken, because it was shaped by too narrow a view. This is a chance to reimagine the future with equality, diversity and creativity at the heart – let’s never go back to the way it was.

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