Call to Shine Your Light at Easter as creative response to Covid-19

Advocate group criticises lack of vision in €1m supports for artists during crisis

Savage Beauty, a lighting installation at a mountain in Connemara created by Finnish artist Kari Kola as part of Galway 2020. Four nights of public illuminations in March were cancelled because of Covid-19. Homes and buildings will be lit for Shine a Light over Easter weekend. Photograph: Christopher Lund

Savage Beauty, a lighting installation at a mountain in Connemara created by Finnish artist Kari Kola as part of Galway 2020. Four nights of public illuminations in March were cancelled because of Covid-19. Homes and buildings will be lit for Shine a Light over Easter weekend. Photograph: Christopher Lund

 

Irish people are being asked to “Shine Your Light” on Easter Saturday for those who are sick, have lost their lives or their loved ones, as well as for frontline staff, healthcare workers and “those who keep us going”.

This is part of plans announced on Friday by Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan to support Ireland’s artistic and cultural life during the Covid-19 crisis. It focuses particularly on wellbeing through personal and community creativity.

The measures include €1 million to support Irish-based professional artists creating new writing, music, painting, photography and sculpture. Jointly funded by the Department of Arts and the Arts Council’s existing budget, it comprises 334 grants of €3,000 each. These are to be administered rapidly by the Arts Council, its chairman Kevin Rafter said at a briefing.

The new work will be presented on a digital platform created by the Arts Council, which was “fully aware of the huge impact the crisis is having on the livelihoods of everyone working in the arts”, Mr Rafter said.

From 9pm on Easter Saturday, public buildings, Irish embassies and peacekeeping posts internationally will be illuminated, and the public is encouraged to create ways to shine lights from their homes.

Another community initiative aims to create a virtual choir singing Ireland’s Call. Sing Ireland has called on people to make a video of themselves singing, which it will bring together.

Creative resources

Other activities Creative Ireland is supporting during the crisis were outlined by director Tania Banotti at the briefing. They will include free creative resources online at #CreateAtHome and #ConnectWithCulture; Fighting Words’ online creative writing youth resources; a team of 80 creative associates – opera singers, dancers, writers and directors – designing a learning programme; Music Generation’s online tuition; and Design & Crafts Council online workshops. It is hoped to mark Cruinniú na nÓg, which had planned 800 nationwide events on June 13th.

However, the National Campaign for the Arts (NCFA) said it is “extremely disappointed” by the department’s response to the impact of Covid-19 on the Irish arts community. “In a time when the Irish Government has acted swiftly and decisively to allay fears and secure the welfare of Irish citizens in this unprecedented crisis, we are dismayed by the lack of vision shown in relation to the arts,” said NCFA chairwoman Angela Dorgan.

In a statement,the NCFA said providing just €1 million to create online work is a small investment in individual artists, and pointed out that other countries have rolled out significant Covid-19 arts supports, including Germany (€50 billion), England (£160 million) and Wales (£7 million). It said initiatives such as Shine Your Light “have little to do with professional arts practice and do not address the real damage that has been done to the sector through the ongoing crisis”.

Cancellations

An Arts Council survey shows the scale of crisis in the sector, with a loss of audiences in March-May of about 2.4 million people, more than 12,000 cancellations, and 112,000 tickets sold for events now not taking place, Mr Rafter said.

Other initiatives the Minister outlined included RTÉ presenting archive cultural, heritage and language programmes, showcasing material from national cultural institutions, arts organisations and the Arts Council, and showing a short film daily. Ms Madigan also mentioned collaborating with Druid and Other Voices to make new work.

Other online projects include the Abbey’s Dear Ireland, with 50 Irish writers’ monologues performed by 50 actors this month; Waterways Ireland’s learning resources about nature and biodiversity; and TG4 and Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann reimagining a Fleadh Ceoil.