The live music and entertainment industry in Ireland is growing increasingly concerned that it is yet to receive a clear roadmap from the government on how to reopen in a sustainable and profitable way.
Now, with the Dail on recess until September, it looks like they could be waiting a while yet.
As political Irish Times journalist Jennifer Bray noted in a column last week: “The resumption of indoor dining and an increase in guests at weddings and baptisms were both welcome, but what is striking is the lack of a plan for the live events sector.”
What’s happening with live music and events – in a nutshell
Minister for Arts and Culture Catherine Martin has warned Stephen Donnelly in a letter seen by the Irish Times that the live entertainment and music sector is currently “in danger of collapse”, and that a path for reopening is now “critical”.
Although several pilot music events have taken place outdoors in recent weeks, and grants have been awarded to promoters and performers, there are no clear plans to date on what a reopening will look like for the sector.
Currently, a maximum of 200 attendees can attend the majority of outdoor venues.
A limit of 500 people is in place for venues with a capacity greater than 5,000 with “appropriate protective measures in place” – including social distancing.
Why is the live music and events industry unhappy?
Meanwhile, Minister for Sport Jack Chambers announced last week that up to 40,000 fans will be permitted to attend the All-Ireland finals in Croke Park.
This is in addition to the 24,000 people due to attend the four GAA semi-finals next week, and the 25,000 fans that will be at the Aviva Stadium for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Azerbaijan and Serbia.
Not unexpectedly, this has provoked accusations from the live events sector that culture is not being treated with the same importance, respect and economic significance as sport.
Last week, prominent Irish DJ and gig promoter Niall Byrne wrote on his popular nialler9 music website:
“Why are restrictions still placed on live music sector, while Croke Park hosts thousands? Why can 24,000 people go to the All-Ireland semi-final next week but the best we can get for a gig is a socially distant pod of 4, in a field at 200 capacity?
“I understand a seated stadium is different than a standing or seated crowd at a live music event, theatre, or comedy event but why the massive discrepancy? These decisions are no longer rooted in reality, in what’s happening right now.”
What has been said
Fianna Fáil Senator Malcolm Byrne has also expressed frustration that “theatre and arts venues continue to be an afterthought”.
“Why is the same level of attention not being paid to how we can safely resume cultural activity as to other sectors?” he recently told the Irish Times.
“Venues and spaces can’t stay shut indefinitely”
Sunil Sharpe, DJ and co-founder of Give Us The Night campaign, told Buzz:
“We have to bring more confidence and certainty back to the industry. And that will come with some firm and clear decisions from the government, hopefully as soon as possible.
“We’re now pushing on for 17 months [of late night/music venues being shut], and before we know it we’ll be talking two years.
“How can an industry like ours, that was already under threat, sustain that length of closure? It’s not possible. And for that reason, many venues are not going to reopen. It won’t be the majority of venues, but it’ll be quite a few.
Buzz has reached out to Minister Donnelly and the Department of Health for comment on Minister Martin’s letter re the urgency of the situation.
The bottom line
While it’s clear that the live music and events industry needs solutions soon, Taoiseach Micheal Martin has committed to examining the issue in the coming month.
But according to some, this is not soon enough.
“The end of August is too late,” Byrne also wrote on his website. “We need a roadmap now. Stop telling us about what could happen in the future, and make the present relevant. Our lives, and our livelihoods depend on it.”