- 16 Apr 21
For over a year, the Irish live music industry has been forcibly shut down. The effect on individual artists, bands and businesses alike has been catastrophic, with incomes plummeting – and mental health with it. In the new issue of Hot Press, people from across the industry reveal what it’s been like and make a plea to Government that a roadmap is desperately needed. “It’s vital to get back out there,” says Moya Brennan of Clannad (pictured).
The Irish music industry has united in a call for a roadmap, for the re-opening of live music.
While it is probably fair to say that the question on every Irish music fan’s lips is, “When are we going to be able to go to gigs again?”, for musicians, and indeed the entire infrastructure of the industry, it is even more urgent than that: it is potentially life or death stuff.
In the first part of a wide-ranging feature on the future of music here, published in the latest issue of Hot Press, a range of people involved in all aspects of the business offer a rare and remarkably honest account of just how badly they – and their businesses – have been hit by the restrictions imposed by the Government, as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Many of those who contributed to the feature talk about the impact on their mental health.
“This has had a toll on all our mental health,” Neil Dolan of Dolan’s in Limerick summarises. Meanwhile, rising Donegal singer songwriter Rosie Carney takes a more personal approach, when asked what is the worst aspect of the lockdown experience.
“The impact it’s had on people’s mental health,” she says, “not only for me but also for people I know. It has been a severely isolating time.
“I can only describe it as having the rug pulled from under me,” she adds.
The absence of a roadmap adds hugely to the prevailing sense of anxiety.
“The past year has been very challenging mentally and financially for those working in the live events industry,” Kim O’Callaghan, an event manager with MCD and a director of the mental health platform for creatives, Minding Creative Minds, says. “The lack of clarity about the road out of this crisis is compounding those effects on the mental health and well being of workers in our industry.”
Derek Turner, of The Spirit Store, highlights the devastating impact of uncertainty.
"Business came to a shuddering halt in March 2020,” he says, “and put five full-time and nine part-time staff out of work, with immediate effect.Nobody could have realised at the time quite how devastating this would be, and how long it would go on for.”
While there is much praise for the Department of Tourism, Culture, the Gaeltacht, Sport and Tourism, and Minister Catherine Martin, there is general agreement that a roadmap to reopening is crucial – and needed as soon as possible.
“We urgently need Government supports for SMEs within the industry,” Kim O’Callaghan adds, “and the swift establishment of an expert working group to develop a sector specific strategic roadmap."
In special editorial, Hot Press editor Niall Stokes also offers his perspective – again stressing the importance of a roadmap.
“It is long past time to get our musicians working again,” Stokes says, “weaving magic as only they can. There are so many reasons to be optimistic about the creative strength of Irish music right now. It is a river deep and wide. But we need a plan… The time for getting it right is now.”
In the new issue of Hot Press we also look at how other countries are putting systems in place that would allow for both indoor and outdoor concerts this summer.
From the 3,000-capacity Covid ‘test gigs’ in Liverpool’s Cream super-club and Holland’s CoronaCheck live event passport to Germany’s rapid onsite testing and New Zealand’s complete return to live gigging, there are no shortage of options for us as a country to consider.
• 'Music Industry in Ireland: Where To Next?' is a special feature in the new 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.