There is growing international interest in the potential of the cultural and creative industries to drive sustainable development and create inclusive job opportunities. The cultural sector–the visual arts, museums, theaters, etc.–is increasingly seen as a potential driver of growth by governments and organizations charged with promoting economic development around the world.
Aside being responsible for billions of dollars from cultural exports, arts and related ventures such as music, dance, painting and theatre are all seen as keys that unlock profound human understanding and accomplishment in the developed countries.
Given the very severe rate of youth unemployment in Nigeria, the entertainment industry may be particularly important for job creation. Theatre, for instance, has enormous potential to contribute to social cohesion and nation-building through the promotion of intercultural dialogue, understanding and collaboration. Of course, theatre can have far-reaching effect in addressing rising rate of suicide, crimes and varied anti-social behaviours in the society. This is in addition to serving as new economy or revenue generating venture for the government.
It is sad that by now, Nigeria is yet to see the entertainment industry as veritable sources of growing her Gross Domestic Product. South Africa, Egypt and Senegal remain some of the prominent places where artists, mostly Nigerians, go to unwind and be at home with artworks that have been kept in good order from time immemorial.
Here arts are often viewed as isolated instead of being seen as part of a larger economic ecosystem. Cheeringly it is not just a common knowledge that Lagos is the centre of culture and entertainment in Africa but boosting the State’s creative economy has been ingrained in the pillars of development of successive administration in the recent years. Lagos has recently supported a broadband of arts and culture events in the as well as use global platforms to draw attention to the state’s tourism potentials.
Of course, the last one year in particular has been eventful in terms of tourism infrastructure development, arts and cultural promotion, which has laid a long term foundation to make Lagos State a sustainable tourism- driven economy and a topmost haven for business and leisure in Africa.
It is a great joy to lovers of home groomed theatre performances as they now have opportunity to watch exciting stage plays in their neighborhood, with the recent unveiling of five new arts theatres (500 seater capacity each).
The theatres are located at Badagry, Epe, Ikorodu, Ikeja, Igando and Lagos Island. Rightly, government’s initiative to bring theatre experience closer to the people through the centres built across the state, has been generating positive excitement among creative minds especially across the project locations.
The Lagos art theatres are a three-floor edifice, having a 500 sitting capacity hall. On the ground floor, there is the reception and changing rooms for artistes. There is a gallery on the second floor with a restaurant and server area, three offices and a rehearsal room. The floor also has a green room for artistes at backstage. On the last floor are three offices, a toilet and bathroom. This adds to the three toilets on the ground floor for male and female respectively. The hall is fully soundproof and has an elevated stage. Interestingly, access for people with disability is guaranteed with ramps provided into the building and hall.
During the great depression in the U.S. in the mid-20th century, the government deliberately promoted arts as part of the new deal. Their regionalist intervention was strategic. It boosted creativity, imbued the spirit of patriotism and ultimately created jobs and wealth, which the new generation of Americans is enjoying till today.
In the words of Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.: “In the third year of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln ordered work to go ahead on the completion of the dome of the Capitol. When critics protested the diversion of labor and money from the prosecution of the war, Lincoln said, ‘If people see the capitol going on, it is a sign that we intend this Union shall go on.’
Franklin Roosevelt recalled this story in 1941 when, with the world in the blaze of war, he dedicated the National Gallery in Washington. And John Kennedy recalled both these stories when he asked for public support for the arts in 1962. Lincoln and Roosevelt, Kennedy said, ‘understood that the life of the arts, far from being an interruption, a distraction, in the life of the nation, is very close to the center of a nation’s purpose- and is a test of the quality of a nation’s civilization.”
It is unarguable that the scope has changed now and everybody is talking about the new economy and there is no other than the entertainment industry. All these are purposes the new theatres will serve. Arts theatres in Lagos State are planned to achieve for Lagos what it has achieved for United State of America and other developed world.
The development of the Theatres would bring immense benefits in so many ways. By serving as venues for hosting different creative programmes and film shows, they will help to elicit more interest and patronage of theatres among Lagosians. They are to harness the potential in the tourism and entertainment sector and also create employment for youths as well as serve as medium of trans-generational preservation of the State’s history and cultural heritage.
It is crucially important that government has intervened in art theatre as gap is still wide in the sector in-spite of great work being done by Terra Kulture and the Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON). The truth is that arts and entertainment are where the energy of Lagos is, and it is imperative we collectively join hands with the new administration in the state that has promised to develop all tourism assets in the state and create a tourism calendar around all important events such that it will attract local and international tourists.
One never know number of new generation artists and revenues the new arts theatre will generate for the state, but surely it will signal a new dawn in tourism and entertainment for the state.
Musbau is of the Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja