- 29 Jul 20
"It’s very clear that we are no longer all in this together," they add whilst calling for an urgent review of pandemic payments in relation to the 35,000 people working in the live sector here
The Event Production Industry Covid-19 working group has revealed that last Saturday's Songs From An Empty Room initiative has raised €400,000 – and rising – for Irish live event professionals who are suffering major financial hardship due to the cancellation of gigs and festivals. €200,000 of this came in the form of a donation from U2, with Bono and Edge contributing a mini-cover of Led Zeppelin's 'Stairway To Heaven' to the live RTÉ 2 event, and Adam Clayton explaining why Irish crew are the best in the world.
While the generosity of Irish music lovers who've supported Songs From An Empty Room is to be applauded, it represents a drop in the ocean for the 35,000 people working in the live sector here, which generates €3.5 billion annually. The widespread feeling is that the Government has abandoned one of the first industries to grind to a halt because of the pandemic – and one that is likely to be among the last to get up and running again.
“It was wonderful to be involved on a show with such skilled individuals, the contribution from President Michael D. Higgins showed someone who really understands the live sector and the donation of €200,000 from U2 made for a very successful and emotional night," reflects EPIC's Shane Dunne. "However, 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."
Adds Dunne's EPIC colleague Sophie Ridley: “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.”
“It doesn’t make any sense," rues EPIC's Pearse Doherty. "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. Doherty adds: “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."
With professional live event workers in mind, EPIC is calling on the Government as a matter of urgency to:
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
In conclusion, EPIC's Kim O'Callaghan says: “The key message from EPIC since the start of this pandemic has been the need to protect the skills within the sector. We have met with so many TDs and civil servants, we have made the case, delivered a clear message but it seems to have fallen on deaf ears. The Government has turned their back on us. When they next go abroad and lay out their ‘Brand Ireland’ stall to sell our country, the festivals and gatherings, the events, the spirit, the music, the craic, they can hang their heads in shame. It is live events, entertainment and arts that drive Ireland’s international reputation, and when we needed our leaders to stand with us and recognise what we have contributed, show us that we are worth the investment, they’ve turned their backs on us, ripped out the plug and powered down an entire community.”
You can watch the https://www.rte.ie/player/movie/songs-from-an-empty-room/146517032133 playback of the gig and still donate €4 by texting SONGS to 50300