cfp: RGS-IBG Annual Conference – A ‘cultural catastrophe’?

Call for papers: RGS-IBG Annual Conference, 31 August – 3 September 2021

*** This session will be hosted online ***

Session title: A ‘cultural catastrophe’? The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the arts and cultural sectors and possible pathways to recovery

Session organisers:  Andrew Leyshon, Nottingham University and Allan Watson, Loughborough University

Dear colleagues, 

We have pleasure in inviting proposals for papers to be presented at the following online session at this year’s RGS-IBG Annual Conference.

Abstracts (max. 250 words), along with the title of the session and author contact details (name, affiliation, email address), should please be sent to Andrew Leyshon ( and Allan Watson ( by Monday 1st March. We aim to notify accepted presenters by Monday 8th March. 

If you have any questions, please do get in touch.

A ‘cultural catastrophe’? The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the arts and cultural sectors and identifying pathways to recovery

Such has been the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the arts and cultural sector that it has been widely referred to as a ‘cultural catastrophe’. In particular, the reliance of cultural venues on physical audiences has meant that the restrictions associated with the pandemic have had a devastating impact not only upon these venues and those that work within them, but more widely across the arts and culture ecosystem. The result is a sector that has seen significant job losses and reductions in working hours and furthermore, the impacts of the pandemic are being seen to exacerbate existing inequalities around race and gender in the arts and cultural sectors (Walmsley, Gilmore & O’Brien, 2021). Many governments have provided significant financial packages of support for arts and culture, yet these have seen much criticism for not going far enough, and for not providing a clear pathway to recovery and sustainability beyond COVID 19 (c.f. Banks and O’Connor, 2020). Yet, from within the sector itself are signs that ‘crisis-driven’ adaptations and innovations are underway that may provide the basis for a more equitable and sustainable arts and cultural sector in a post-COVID world. Set in this context, we invite papers that:

–       Evaluate and critically reflect upon the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the arts and cultural sector. Papers might focus for example on financial impacts on the sector, employment and precarity, and the exacerbation of inequalities. Papers may however also focus more broadly focus on ‘what is being lost’ due to the damage to the arts and cultural sector in a more intangible and non-economic sense, and the pandemic as a cause to reflect on the social value of arts and culture (Banks, 2020; Meyrick and Barnett, 2020).

–       Consider pathways for recovery and future sustainability and growth in a post-COVID world. Papers might focus for example on the ways in which cultural venues, institutions and organisations are seeking to implement positive change in response to ‘lessons learnt’ during the crisis; the ways in which crisis-driven technological innovations are changing the practices of venues, artists and cultural entrepreneurs and their engagement with audiences (e.g. Frenneaux and Bennett, 2021), in ways that may persist into a post-COVID world; or reflect on the effectiveness of arts and cultural policy both prior to and during the crisis and consider how more effective cultural policy might be developed going forward.

These suggestions are not exhaustive, and we welcome proposals which might speak to the overall theme of the session by examining other related issues.


Mark Banks (2020) ‘The work of culture and C-19’ European Journal of Cultural Studies. 23(4):648-654. DOI: 10.1177/1367549420924687

Mark Banks and Justin O’Connor (2020) ‘“A plague upon your howling”: art and culture in the viral emergency. Cultural Trends. DOI: 10.1080/09548963.2020.1827931

Richard Frenneaux and Andy Bennett (2021) ‘A New Paradigm of Engagement for the Socially Distanced Artist’ Rock Music Studies DOI: 10.1080/19401159.2020.1852770

Julian Meyrick & Tully Barnett (2020) ‘From public good to public value: arts and culture in a time of crisis’ Cultural Trends. DOI: 10.1080/09548963.2020.1844542

Ben Walmsley, Abigail Gilmore and Dave O’Brien (2021) ‘The recovery isn’t a black and white picture’