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An open letter from the live events and entertainment sector

Wednesday, 23rd September, 2020 2:57pm

The unprecedented and ongoing Covid-19 global 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.

Across literally hundreds of theatres, venues, clubs, festivals and small/large-scale events, the domestic live events and entertainment industry employs in excess of 35,000 full and part-time workers.

The vast majority of these highly skilled people haven’t had any employment since 12 March 2020. Never in the long history of staging live performances and events on this island has there been such a sudden and total cessation of all work and activity.

We were the first industry to shut, and we will most likely be the last one to fully reopen. The non-funded events sector accounts for 90 per cent of the five million tickets sold in Ireland each year, and directly contributes over €3.5 billion to the national economy. It is estimated that for every euro spent on a ticket, an additional €6 is spent in the wider tourist economy (including more than three million hotel bed nights per annum).

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.

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 non-funded live events sector faces decimation and at least a decade of recovery if not supported immediately with the following asks:

1. Immediate reinstatement of the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) and Pandemic Unemployment Payment (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.

2. Grant funding proportionate to what has been allocated to the Arts Council in 2020. The live events sector accounts for 90 per cent 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.

3. While this task force was announced by Minister Catherine Martin on 10 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.

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 and 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.

Supported by:

A. Smyth, Aidan Greene, Ailbhe Reddy, Aimée, Áine Cahill, Alison Spittle, Andrea Corr, Andy Irvine, Aoife Dooley, Aoife Scott, Aslan, Barry Murphy, Bell X1, Billy Scurry, Bleeding Heart Pigeons, Booka Brass Band, Bronagh Gallagher, Chasing Abbey, Christy Moore, Clannad, Colin Murphy, Corrina Lynch, Cry Monster Cry, Daniel O’Donnell, Dara O Briain, Dave Kearney, David Keenan, Davina Devine, Declan O’Rourke, Delorentos, Des Bishop, Diffusion Lab, DJ Karen, Dublin Gospel Choir, EDEN, Elaine Mai , Emma Langford, Eric Lalor, Erica Cody, Eve Belle, Fia Moon, Fiachna O Braonain, Fontaines D.C., Frances Black, Fred Cooke, Gavin James, Gearóid Farrelly, Gemma Doherty, George Feely, Ghostboy, Happyalone, Hozier, Hudson Taylor, Jafaris, Jenny Greene, Jerry Fish, Joanne McNally, Joe Wall, John Gibbons, John Hughes, Just Mustard, JyellowL, Kelly-Anne Byrne, Kevin McGahern, Kodaline, Kojaque, Laoise, Lar Kaye, Leo Moran, Lisa Hannigan, Little Hours, Luka Bloom, Lyra, Malaki, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Mark McCabe, Mary Black, Mary Coughlan, Melodic Dublin, Mike Denver, Mike Scott (of The Waterboys), Mother DJs, Moya Brennan, Neil Delamere, Niamh Farrell, Noel Hogan (The Cranberries), Patrick Scahill, Patrick Sheehy, Paul Brady, Paul Ryder, Phil Bass, Picture This, PowPig, Róisín O, Rory O’Neill (Panti Bliss), RuthAnne, Sinéad O’Connor, Somebody’s Child, Sorcha Richardson, Soulé, Stephanie Rainey, Steve Wall, The Academic, The Blizzards, The Coronas, The Murder Capital, The Riptide Movement, Tommy Fleming, Tommy Tiernan, True Tides, U2, Wyvern Lingo, Ye Vagabonds and many more in the industry including venues, promoters and technical staff and crew.

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