“Our industry is on its knees and there seem to be few in Government who give a damn.”
Last Saturday saw a number of artists perform on RTÉ to raise money for the live events sector. €400,000 was raised in total with U2 donating €200,000 as well. The final total will be split evenly between two organisations. These are Minding Creative Minds, which is the first 24/7 counselling service for those working in the music industry and the AIST Hardship Fund. While it’s an impressive amount that resulted in a successful night there was a sour taste left in the mouth when the government announced their restrictive measures on the Wage Subsidy Scheme and the impending reduction on the unemployment payment which many in the events industry are currently availing of.
Shane Dunne from EPIC Working Group who organised Songs from an Empty Room has said, despite the success and brief feel-good mood post-event, the government response has been disappointing.
“The mood was acutely marred with stress and worry, a tangible feeling of dismay and anger at the previous day’s announcement by our government, it’s very clear that we are no longer all in this together.”
Songs from an Empty Room came as a response to the growing pressure on the events industry. With many of the country’s music venues likely to be part of the last places to open in the final phases of reopening the economy their employees have been hung out to dry by the government who have shown little in the way of a concerted effort to support the workers.
Subsequently EPIC has called on the government to review the following in relation to Professional Live Events Workers:
- Review the new restrictive amendments to the Wage Subsidy Scheme.
- Review the impending reduction in the Pandemic Unemployment Payment.
- Review the amended parameters in qualifying for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment.
- The immediate setting of a task force on the recovery of the Live Entertainment Sector.
Sophie Ridley of EPIC said, “Songs from An Empty Room was a joyful experience but the stimulus package presented bears little good news for the 35,000 event professionals in Ireland whose ability to earn a living has been destroyed. Our industry is on its knees and there seem to be few in Government who give a damn.”
To put the situation into perspective, the events sector is worth in excess of €3.5 billion annually to the Irish economy and 35,000 people are employed in the sector. Subsequently, their work ranges from community events to international celebrations that attract thousands to Ireland annually and share our skills and expertise with the world.
Concerned with the actions of the government EPIC’s Pearse Doherty notes that the hard work and expertise built up over the years will go to waste and Ireland and its workers will suffer as a consequence.
“It doesn’t make any sense. The skills and wisdom built up over decades will be lost, and when live events do return there will be no-one with the expertise or the equipment to get events up and running again. We feel absolutely abandoned by our public representatives. People who have invested their entire life’s work in events, created employment, paid their taxes, invested in their communities are being ignored. Our industry has never asked for a cent of investment or funding, we’ve paid our own way for decades, built up a workforce that is in demand across the world, invested our own money, our own time in developing our skills, creating world-class events that sell Ireland across the world. Now our backs are to the wall and this Government has completely failed to recognise or address the needs of the live events industry.”
“We were the first to be shut down and will be the last back, and we have no roadmap to recovery. Many of the SMEs who worked on Songs from An Empty Room, and many more across Ireland, who supply the live events sector will go to the wall in the next few weeks. There is little in the Stimulus Package for these small, family-owned, independent businesses, it was a real kick in the stomach from this Government.”
EPIC have also noted their concern at the impending cuts to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP). In a statement they have said:
“Following the Government legislation passed by the Dáil and Taoiseach Micháel Martin’s comments that those on the PUP “must be actively seeking work” shows an absolute disregard for the unique situation within the live events, entertainment and arts industries. Live events professionals want nothing more than to work again, but there are no immediate opportunities in live events while the sector remains in almost total shutdown in order to protect public health. EPIC now call on Government to urgently review PUP payments for live events professionals and guard against a catastrophic wipeout of an industry that has put Ireland on the world stage and can and will return to capacity once the health crisis is brought under control. There is much that the sector can do in that time to innovate new ways of presenting live experiences, develop safe and healthy solutions so the public can once again enjoy the very basic need of physical connection with fellow citizens, professional upskilling, mentoring and teaching, contributing positively to other sectors, investing in local communities and much more.”
You can donate to Songs from an Empty Room here.
Photo: Ruth Medjber // Soulé – Kyran O’Brien