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The Mary Wallopers
creative solutions

'We built a pub in our sitting room': Ireland's creators put their work online as shows are cancelled

Some are seeing fans donate money in an effort to help them recoup lost earnings.

WITH THE SPREAD of the coronavirus, gigs and shows have had to be cancelled across the country.

For some artists, this has meant a serious loss of earnings during an already uncertain time. But although they are losing out on pay and work, some of these artists are reaching out to entertain people for free online.

As a result, some of their fans are paying them back through donations.

Comedian and writer Alison Spittle had her upcoming Irish tour dates cancelled in the past few days. It’s a significant chunk of the London-based artist’s earnings now gone, and led to fears about being unable to pay her rent.

But she decided that, in such tough times, she wanted to reach out and connect with others. 

She started ‘covideoparty’, where she leads a group watch of a film on Netflix, and tweets along with the viewers. The online event has given such a boost to people that for Sunday night’s Matilda screening people dressed up at home as their favourite characters. 

“It’s a thing that I’m doing because I have the time. I was really depressed on Thursday, and I just put all my energy into this,” says Spittle. “It snowballed – I didn’t think it would get this big, I thought it would be something that my friends would do, but it’s been so lovely as it’s [other people too].”

Some fans have even donated money to her online.

“It’s amazing. I was in tears the first night because I was just [thinking] ‘aw, my life is ruined ‘. It is so lovely, I was so worried about rent and stuff. I’m not doing it for donations. No one has to give any money.”

“I’ve already covered all the money I’ve lost on flights which is just brilliant,” says Spittle, adding that raising money was not her intention when she started the Covideoparty event.

The films so far have been feelgood movies. “I’m not gonna put in any films like Contagion or anything like that,” says Spittle. “I want to forget about [the coronavirus]. I think we’re doing the right thing by staying in. I might as well have a bit of craic. It’s great being creative.”

“It’s time to do stuff that’s different in the privacy of your own home. I feel like a Butlin’s redcoat!”

She also held a ‘Sunday mass’ event online, which she plans to hold again next Sunday. 

Spittle says that many of the Irish comedy scene have organised online events. “They are all offering to help each other. It’s doing stuff to keep us occupied and keep us creative and doing stuff for people.”

Spittle says that the current crisis “is like a Reeling in the Years moment for all of us as a country”.

“I think we are excelling as a country – I am really proud of Ireland, it’s going to be the making of us,” she says.

‘We built a pub in our sitting room’

Over in Dundalk, an Irish band has decided to bring the pub to the people now that pub closures have kicked in.

The Mary Wallopers were due to play a gig with Lankum in Cork Opera House tomorrow. But when that – and two gigs in Germany and London – were cancelled, Charles and Andrew Hendy and Seán McKenna came up with their own idea.

“As soon as we cancelled the gigs we had the idea to livestream it because people can still have this music,” Charles Hendy told “So we built a pub in our sitting room.”

They are after turning a room in the 200-year-old house they’re renting into a ‘pub’ through building a bar with pallets and decorating the walls with posters. The band regularly hold gigs in the house, with artists like Junior Brother and Myles Manley playing, so this is just another example of their approach to DIY gigs. 

“We’ll hopefully raise people’s spirits,” says Hendy. “I think people are enjoying hearing about it.”

There will just be five people in total in the room during the livestreamed event. “The three people coming into the house will be keeping their distance and we’ll be washing hands like there’s no tomorrow.”

He says that the band’s main worry “isn’t monetary, it’s more that the country will get through it and that people will look after each other”.

“I suppose the only comfort of losing money is that everyone is losing money, everyone is in this together. Being in a creative sector you know money is always hard to come by anyway.”

The band started three years ago and Hendy says that making money has always been a difficulty for independent musicians like them. “The creative industry is going to suffer badly,” says Hendy of the coronavirus’s impact. “I feel like we’re used to it, it’s unfortunate but we’re used to it.”

“It’s gonna be hard but we’re putting up a donation link if people want to donate. We haven’t even suggested it – fans suggested it to support artists which is unbelievable. I think at the moment it’s such a great time in Irish music. It’s very much artist run.”

Online events

With the financial pressure on creators growing due to the coronavirus situation, the Civic Theatre has set up a fund to provide emergency financial relief to artists experiencing lost income. More information can be found here, and people are able to donate here.

Artists can receive a grant of up to €500.

When it comes to live-streaming, Colm Mac Con Iomaire kicked things off beautifully with a live set from his front room, which he livestreamed last night. It can still be viewed today here.

Gavin James is to hold a livestream tomorrow, and encourages people to donate to Alone if they feel like sending him money.

In other cultural news, the Little Museum of Dublin is hosting free videos of its sold-out Dublin lecture series. 

Children’s theatre Branar will make one of its shows available on Vimeo for free each week.

The hugely popular Singalong Social is one of those affected by cancelled gigs – but is putting on a free singalong event tomorrow from 3pm – 4pm on Instagram live.

On Wednesday night, a group of Irish musicians will host a Facebook live gig which they’re calling the Irish Music Party:

Cork DJ Stevie G did a three-hour DJ set that could be live-streamed for free on Twitch.

Cork’s Witness the Quizzness is hosting live quizzes via Facebook.

Over at Axis:Ballymun, they’re developing a series of initiatives under the #axisonline banner, with the aim of creating an online arts centre. They’re also going to be amplifying other artists’ work.

If artists are looking for online support, such as help or mentorship Axis’s Mark O’Brien is among the people offering help. See here for more details

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