- Lifestyle & Sports
- 30 Aug 22
The Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media claims they are "working to address significant cost of living increases for artists, arts workers and arts organisations" as well as putting a focus on the climate crisis.
With households around Ireland struggling to keep up with rising electricity costs, could this potentially mean the closure of much-loved art institutions? Our neighbours across the pond seem to think so.
The Guardian reported recently that the Greater Manchester theatre has estimated it will cost approximately one million pounds to keep the lights on, as electricity bills triple. Elsewhere at The Lowry, a theatre and gallery complex in Salford, insiders have said the art space is facing a bill "substantially" higher than its £860,000 annual Arts Council grant, which poses "a major challenge" for the charitable organisation.
The Lowry chief executive, Julia Fawcett told the Guardian: "Compared to the previous year we’re projecting that the Lowry’s electricity bill for the year 2022-23 will have increased threefold.
"To give an idea of the scale of this increase, this amount is substantially more than the figure the Lowry receives annually from Arts Council England’s National Portfolio funding programme," Fawcett explained.
The chief executive was unable to reveal the exact projected electricity cost: "As we are actively working to renegotiate contracts and suppliers, unfortunately, currently we’re unable to publicly reveal the exact figure as it is commercially sensitive."
Although the organisation is committed to reducing energy consumption, its energy bills will significantly increase this year, as is happening in both the UK and Ireland. "We believe this is a major challenge that will be felt across our sector," said Fawcett.
In Ireland, landmark cultural homes like the National Concert Hall are budgeting for exponential rises. Head of Operations at the NCH, Barry Walsh said: "The energy market continues to be extremely volatile and while we budgeted for upwards of a 40% increase in our energy costs in 2022 we are continually adjusting our year end forecasts to take account of this volatility."
Price increases across electricity providers in both May and August have seen Ireland soar to the top bracket of electricity costs with Irish consumers paying 26% more than the EU average.
A report published towards the end of June has placed the cost of living in Ireland at a remarkable 40% higher than the EU average, with health costs standing at the most expensive in the EU: 72% above average.
With rising costs across every sector, regular citizens can't afford the price tag that comes with attending events in the arts industry. With these artistic spaces suffering at the hands of a cost of living crisis and rising electricity costs, could we see a dip in the amount of Irish cultural spaces?
In an Irish arts scene that's already underfunded, is it realistic to expect a subsidy for electricity costs in arts spaces?
In response, the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media told Hot Press:
"Rising energy costs and energy security are increasingly an issue that touches all sectors of our economy and society, including the arts, creative and culture sectors. This Government is acutely aware of the challenge and the need to ensure a sustainable energy future for all as we move towards our carbon emissions reduction commitments in 2030 and 2050.
"For the arts, creative and culture sectors, the Department and its agencies are working on a broad range of initiatives ranging from income and grant supports to individual artists to energy efficiency and structural enhancements for our arts and culture infrastructure.
"Some examples of these initiatives include: The Basic Income for Artists Scheme– a scheme to support 2,000 artists by providing a guaranteed basic income to support their continued practice; The Green Arts Initiative – a project supported by the Arts Council to reduce the carbon footprint and enhance the sustainability of arts centres and venues; and Capital grant funding schemes for retrofitting and other enhancements to the arts and culture infrastructure. It is noted also that many arts venues are also eligible to apply for SEAI grants and supports.
"The Arts Council is also working to address significant cost of living increases for artists, arts workers and arts organisations, as well as planning further focus on climate and sustainability as a key area of work in 2023."
Aside from electricity, the arts have a high amount of other emissions. According to research done by Julie's Bicycle and Festival Republic, the biggest problem in the ways of arts industry emissions is audience travel. For festivals alone, it produces 68% of the sector’s total emissions, and 24% of all music audience travel emissions. This, coupled with the high emissions of touring artists, leads to a very problematic scenario. Melvin Benn of Festival Republic is one of many organisers bringing sustainability to the forefront of music industry issues.
Electric Picnic is one of Benn's babies, run in accordance with Live Nation's Green Nation Sustainability Charter.
This Charter is:
- "A unifying vision that will capitalize on and accelerate the work that has been done to date and align toward a common sustainability purpose, taking our efforts from incremental to game changing.
- "An aspirational but actionable set of goals. We will align our efforts and goals to the most currently established global standards and frameworks like the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and Science Based Targets Initiative
- "An inspirational and public engagement platform that brings together the best of live music, culture, brands, education, and science to address and inspire solutions to climate change among the industry, our employees and the millions of fans that come through our gates."
Live Nation say: "We have identified eight priority areas that make up our sustainability work: emissions and energy, resource use and waste (including plastic), water, food, public engagement, procurement, transport, and local impacts. Each area has been assessed in the context of their impact on, and contribution to, the relevant UN Sustainable Development Goals."
The Green Arts Initiative in Ireland supports Irish arts organisations to reduce their environmental impact through: practical advice on reducing the organisation's carbon footprint and overall environmental impacts; providing arts organisations with opportunities to enhance their sustainability competencies through training and networking; and collecting information about what organisations are currently doing to improve their sustainability.
During 2020, the organisation commenced a Greening Venues Pilot Project, allowing them to assess the environmental impacts of seven venues throughout the country: Pavilion in Dun Laoighaire, axis in Ballymun, the Taibhdhearc and Town Hall Theatre in Galway, Belltable in Limerick, Hawk’s Well Theatre in Sligo, and VISUAL in Carlow. An Taibhdhearc was replaced by the Theatre Royal in Waterford during 2021. The total emissions of CO2e for all seven venues amounted to 691 tonnes in 2018. This figure reduced to 673 tonnes of CO2e in 2019.
In 2021, the Arts Council funded the commencement of the GAI's Greening Arts Centres Project with the same seven venues, building their capacity to better understand their impacts and begin to plan how to reduce those impacts – particularly their carbon footprint. The project is due to be fully completed by September 2022.
With costs of electricity rising, and Ireland needing to cut emissions drastically, it's worrying to think of what the arts will endure in the upcoming 2023 budget. With this looming, as well as the country preparing for a changeover of Taoiseach, artists and arts centres nationwide wait with bated breath, fearful of what the next year will bring.
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