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Sasko Lazarov/ A pilot concert at the Iveagh Gardens in June
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Entertainment Industry group 'disappointed' after meeting with Minister

Musicians and entertainers want the government to set a timeline for when live events can return.

LAST UPDATE | Aug 18th 2021, 10:00 PM

A GROUP REPRESENTING the events industry has said they are “disappointed” following a meeting with the Minister for Culture and Arts Catherine Martin. 

The Event Industry Alliance (EIA) met with Minister Martin earlier today to discuss the restrictions on the entertainment sector. 

However following the meeting the group said in a statement that the industry is disappointed and that they need urgent action from Government. 

“The sector requires a whole cross Government approach to ensure that the severity of the situation that the Industry now finds itself in is fully appreciated.

In addition, we are very concerned that after 17 months of closure each group had just a two to three minute opportunity to make a contribution towards the proposed reopening roadmap.

“This does not amount to constructive engagement but we do hope that this is a start,” the statement said. 

Leading events promoter Justin Green, who attended today’s meeting, said the outcome of the meeting was “disheartening”.

He told the PA news agency: “She asked us to reach out to her fellow colleagues to lobby them for their support in the sector, that we were pushing an open door with her.”

He said Martin told the meeting that “despite her numerous requests to join the Covid Cabinet sub-committee, they have gone unanswered”.

“She still hasn’t had a response to that request to date, her previous request has gone unanswered,” Green said.

Earlier the festival director of Electric Picnic had criticised the government for its “lack of leadership” on the full reopening of the music industry.

Under the current public health measures, organised indoor events like concerts and shows are not permitted.

  • Our Noteworthy colleagues want to examine how to get Ireland’s artists back on their feet. See how you can support this project here

Managing Director of Festival Republic, which runs the Electric Picnic, Melvin Benn, told RTÉ’s News at One that he did not believe much would come from the meeting with Minister Martin. 

“There’s a complete lack of leadership it seems to me, and I am just angry, really, really angry because it is unnecessary, it’s wrong,” he said, adding that Ireland’s level of vaccination now is “incredible high”. 

Earlier this month Laois County Council made the decision to refuse a licence to hold the 2021 Electric Picnic festival.

Benn accused the the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) of creating “a culture of fear” and said there is “no political leadership that is challenging that or moving it on”.

“It’s not about Laois County Council, the whole culture of fear is wrong. We have been doing test events in the UK, all the results are available,” he said.

“What we were talking about at the Electric Picnic was fully vaccinated people. The test event where nothing was being recorded as significant spikes, we were just doing lateral flow tests. What we were offering at the Picnic was significantly more than that and yet still nobody responding at all. I mean it is an appalling situation.”

Benn said the virus in Ireland “isn’t a different virus” and that the evidence was there to show it is safe to put people together, particularly in outdoor spaces, if they are all tested and fully vaccinated. 

When asked whether he has given up on Electric Picnic this year he replied: “I never give up”.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland, Matt McGranaghan of the MEAI said that “we need to be responsible about a reopening plan and reopening strategy”.

“I think we have to be responsible as an industry for our workforce and also for the general public as well,” McGranaghan said.

The association is calling for a “firm commitment to a date” for reopening.

“We want government to decide that date and we want to work towards it to ensure that we can proceed with that date,” he said.

Since the onset of Covid-19 restrictions last year, thousands of performers and others in the entertainment industry have lost their employment or income streams.

This week, 4,945 people who worked in arts, entertainment and recreation are receiving the Pandemic Unemployment Payment.

At the peak of the PUP scheme in May 2020, there were 14,000 people from the industry in receipt of the payment.

The plan to phase out the payment means that people who are on the lowest bands will be moved over to the jobseekers allowance starting from mid-September.

“Up to 30% of workers in this industry who are on PUP will become unemployed and two months later, we’re anticipating a further 20%, so up to 50% of the workforce in this industry on PUP will be de facto unemployed in the next few months,” McGranaghan said.

“They will be called job seekers, they will not be able to engage in self-employed work, which means they will not be able to engage in employment opportunities they normally would have in this industry,” he said.

“That’s the certainty that we have from government, that is the commitment that we have from government right now, before any roadmap is developed.”

McGranaghan said that “the next six months could be more damaging than the previous if it a reopening strategy does not take everything into consideration”.

I know from dealing with lots of musicians and workers in the industry on a daily basis that a lot of them feel very much left alone, feel very neglected by this government feel very, very neglected and forgotten about by their own minister and department.”

“They feel very solitary at the moment and they’re not doing what they normally do in amongst people, helping them to celebrate and entertaining, and doing all those things that they love to do.” 

An opinion poll carried out for The Journal by Red C Research found that 69% of people believe outdoor music events should be allowed to go ahead in 2021.

29% of people disagreed because of concerns about Covid-19 and 2% didn’t know.

Several pilot concerts have been held to trial Covid-19 measures at live events, but no date has been indicated for a broader return of the industry.

Some larger concerts and festivals have been cancelled, including Electric Picnic, which was refused a licence by Laois County Council. 

With reporting from the Press Association and Niall O’Connor.

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