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'Creative lifeblood of Ireland': Events industry pens open letter on impact of Covid-19 on the sector

The open letter is part of the national awareness week for the live entertainment and event industry in Ireland.

EPIC launching its pre-budget submission to the government on Wednesday
EPIC launching its pre-budget submission to the government on Wednesday
Image: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

THE LIVE EVENTS and entertainment sector has published an open letter with more than 600 signatures regarding the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the industry. 

The letter comes following months of criticism from the industry as it says it has been “totally ignored” and has received “virtually no government aid”.

The open letter is part of the national awareness week for the live entertainment and event industry in Ireland.

Published by EPIC (Event Production Industry Covid-19 Working Group), the letter states that pandemic “has been as great a disaster for Ireland’s entertainment and hospitality sectors as the 2007/2008 banking crisis was to its construction and financial services industries”. 

The domestic live events and entertainment industry employs over 35,000 full and part-time workers, the majority of whom haven’t had employment since March, the letter said. 

“We are unique in that we are the only sector completely closed under government mandate; as a result, through absolutely no fault of their own, live entertainment workers currently have little or no employment opportunities,” it said. 

The letter continued: 

Up until now, we have been totally ignored and received virtually no government aid. As an impossibly bleak winter approaches, we and our dependents desperately require serious government support to survive.
The workers at all levels of this vital sector have no prospects of earning a living in the foreseeable future, so the supports need to be appropriate and unprecedented in order to address the dire financial situation facing almost every single person and business.
If government support doesn’t come then the curtains will close, joy will be lost, the music will fade, the parades will stop, the children’s giddy laughter at the panto will be no more, and the cherished memories created in muddy festival fields will be a thing of the distant past. 

The letter has called for the “immediate reinstatement of the EWSS and PUP payment at €350 per week for the highly skilled staff and businesses of the sector until the sector (which is fully closed by government under public health advice) is allowed to return to work”. 

It has also called for “grant funding proportionate to what has been allocated to the Arts Council in 2020″.

“The live events sector accounts for 90% of all tickets sold in Ireland, and as such is a far greater employer and contributor to the national economy. We have received little or no grant funding before, but in these exceptional circumstances it is imperative that a scaffolding fund be made available to support the viable businesses of the sector until we can return to work,” it said.

On 9 September, a number of new music and performance support schemes worth €6 million to aid employment in creative industries following the impact of Covid-19 was announced by the government. 

The following day, Minister for Arts and Culture Catherine Martin announced the establishment of a new taskforce for the recovery of the arts and culture sector. 

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The taskforce, under the chair of Clare Duignan, will prepare a report for the Minister including a set of recommendations on how best the arts and culture sector can adapt and recover from the unprecedented damage arising from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The letter took note of this: “While this taskforce was announced by Minister Catherine Martin on the 10th of September, it is essential that the formation of the members gives due consideration to the commercial live events sector.

“This is the sector that manages the largest events in the country, has managed the Papal visit, the Visit of Barack Obama and the Queen of the United Kingdom. The commercial live events sector are the experts, the best in class and should receive parity of voice with the state funded sector on the task force.”

The letter concluded: 

We are highly skilled professionals, we are essential businesses and services, we are musicians and artists, carpenters and creators, we are stagehands, technicians and experts, we are sounds, lights and visuals, we are tears, laughter and gasps of excitement. We are the Christmas panto, we are concerts, we are festivals, we are food fairs, we are parades, we are conferences, we are exhibitions, we are theatres, we are dance, we are national celebrations & state visits. We are the best nights of your lives. 
We are the creative lifeblood of this country – and a vital part of its economy. We are the dynamic problem solvers who bring the magic to the most difficult of circumstances. Most importantly, we are contributors; we have always given back. In this unprecedented crisis, reluctantly for the first time we must ask: We need government support for our industry and we need it immediately. 

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