- 11 May 21
As part of our special feature on the impact of Covid-19 on the Irish music industry, Kim O'Callaghan – an event manager with MCD, founder of EvntzApp, and Director of Minding Creative Minds – shares her thoughts, and looks to the future...
What is the worst aspect of it all for you?
It has been extremely difficult, watching the industry that we love so much and that generates so much for both the economy and culture of Ireland being ground to a halt so suddenly in March 2020 – right as we were heading into a very busy outdoor season. I have witnessed first hand so many talented, skilled workers who have been mandated to stop working and – through no fault of their own – left struggling to look after their families and businesses as they try to get through this. Almost all of my closest friends and colleagues in the wider industry have not worked since March 2020. Seeing the financial impact as well as the impact it is having on people’s mental health is heart-wrenching.
Some people have been finding it hard to survive. Is that something you’ve encountered?
Yes. I’ve heard first hand very difficult stories from people. Personnel within the live events industry are really struggling. It is so hard to listen to some of the situations colleagues in the industry have found themselves in. Every day, I wish that there was more that could be done to help them. People should not have to suffer like this. Anyone who works in the live events industry is extremely resilient and innovative but we are now 13 months in, and with each day that passes it gets harder and harder for people .
Were you in a position to try anything new or different?
I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve still been working through my MCD role, albeit on a variety of different aspects of the business. Unfortunately however I am one of only a small number of people in the industry who has been lucky enough to still be working. For me personally, in addition to the impact Covid had on my role in MCD, I was impacted on a second front as EvntzApp, which I founded, was just in the process of a big expansion into the Irish events market. We had just started rolling the App out into indoor venues the week of March 12. I am not one to sit still so I decided instead to try use the App to help support others in the industry. Chatting with Bressie, who’s a close friend, we both had an initial reaction to do something to help support crew – so I quickly “pivoted” the App to use the merchandise feature to launch a campaign in May 2020 called #WeAreTheSupportAct. We started off selling crew merchandise. Then a team of myself and colleagues via EPIC went on to produce Songs From An Empty Room with Shinawil and RTÉ, which aired last July and helped raise a significant amount of money for the campaign overall, including a very generous €200,0000 donation from U2. The fundraising is still ongoing and to date the campaign has raised over €450K to support crew. The money has been split between the AIST hardship fund and Minding Creative Minds, which are both very much needed resources for those in our industry.
Mental health has been a huge issue for a lot of people involved in music. How has your experience been in that regard?
The past year has been very challenging mentally and financially for those working in the live events industry. The lack of clarity about the road out of this crisis is compounding those effects on the mental health and well-being of the workers in our industry. Against that background, Minding Creative Minds was founded by Dave Reid in late May/early June 2020 to offer a free 24/7 wellbeing and support programme for the Irish Creative Sector. I have witnessed first hand the impact that Covid-19 restrictions are having on people’s mental health. I would encourage anyone in the creative sector who is finding things difficult to remember you are not alone. Please reach out and avail of the free counselling services, advice on day-to-day issues, legal assistance, financial and consumer assistance and life coaching.
Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future?
Despite everything, I am very optimistic about the future. It’s great to see international markets opening back up. We have however still quiet a way to go here in Ireland and there are still significant challenges to overcome. We have seen some successes from supports such as the LPSS, and the extension of the PUP and EWSS helping to maintain as many of our staff as possible. However there have also been large parts of our sector left behind, such as our supplier SMEs of which only 4% are eligible to access the CRSS. We urgently need government business supports for SMEs within the industry and the swift establishment of an expert working group to develop a sector specific strategic roadmap. We have proven to be an extremely resilient industry and I have no doubt that things will come back bigger, better and busier than ever.
• Kim O’Callaghan is an event manager with MCD and the founder of EvntzApp. She is a Director of Minding Creative Minds.
'Music Industry in Ireland: Where To Next?' is a special feature in the current issue of Hot Press, running to over 20 pages, featuring music industry professionals as well as artists including Moya Brennan, Jess Kav, Luka Bloom, Fia Moon, Kneecap, Gavin Glass, Mick Flannery, King Kong Company, Mary Coughlan, Rosie Carney and many more.