- 13 Aug 21
As frustration mounts among artists, crew and others involved in the Live Entertainment industry, the campaign for the re-opening of the sector has accelerated with the announcement of a National Awareness Week.
The Live Entertainment & Event industry has launched a National Awareness Week, to run until 25 August, 2021. The aim is to pressurise the health authorities and the Government into accelerating the reopening of gigs, events and festivals to September 1.
The initiative is supported by a wide range of groups within the live music and entertainment sector. These include The Event Industry Alliance, EPIC, Event Industry Ireland, Aoife (the Association of Irish Festival Events), the Event Industry Association of Ireland, the Association of Irish Stage Technicians, the Wedding Band Association and Venue Operators and Promoters Forum.
A campaign poster has been circulated, which makes the main arguments advanced by people right across the industry – including the vast majority of musicians and artists – in suitably terse form. “First to close. Last to re-open,” the lines run.
In stark red, the poster makes a demand for an imminent opening, “Wanted,” it says, “Reopening date with full capacity from 1st September 2021.”
The stepping up of the campaign follows coverage on Prime Time last night, during which Justin Green of Wide Awake Communications made a strong case in favour of re-opening. The contrast between scenes from festivals in the UK and Northern Ireland and open air-music events held in Ireland, shown on Prime Time, couldn’t have been more stark.
Minister of State at the Department of Trade, Robert Troy of Fianna Fail, defended the Government’s handling of the response to the pandemic – while acknowledging the enormous difficulties with which musicians, and everyone else working in the music, entertainment and events sector, have been faced. Angela Dorgan of the National Campaign for the Arts spoke about the damage that had been inflicted on the industry and warned that an entire industry is at risk. The same point is taken up in the campaign literature released today.
“The wider events sector needs to be supported now,” the poster said, “or this industry worth €3.5 billion to the Irish economy will be lost along with the brilliant SSMEs and skilled workforce that has taken decades to cultivate.”
There is understandable frustration within the wider music sector that 40,000 people have been allowed to attend games in Croke Park, while festival events have remained on the barred list.
"If you look at Electric Picnic they had proposed,” one leading industry figure said yesterday, "you had to be fully vaccinated and registered for Department of Health contact tracing. Those measures are even more restrictive than the current regulations applicable to indoor hospitality; than the rules governing international travel; than large sporting events currently being organised by the GAA, IRFU and the FAI with up to 40,000 attendees; and than applies for live events currently underway throughout Northern Ireland, Europe and the USA.
“Only permitting those who are fully vaccinated to attend live events will certainly encourage people – and young people in particular – to continue to play their role in the government’s vaccination programme, so it is a win-win situation for them.”
There is a general feeling within the industry that the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media and the Minister Catherine Martin have shown a determination to make events happen again as soon as possible – but that they have been frustrated in this by opposition from some combination of NPHET, the HSE and the Department of Health. Either way, at this stage, it seems that only the full engagement of the Taoiseach Micheal Martin and the Tanaiste Leo Varadkar can open the way to a full return for an industry that in so many ways has been brought to its knees over the past 17 months.