A musician who has lost almost 20 bookings for the Christmas period has said his band is "hanging on by a thread" after the chief medical officer Tony Holohan said cancelling social plans was a "responsible" decision.
Stewart Quinn sings lead vocals for the events band Transmitter, which covers all kinds of events, from ticketed venues and weddings to corporate events.
The band has been playing together for 15 years and Mr Quinn was a full time musician up until March 2020.
“Just a month before then, my bank manager told me it was a viable business. Things changed very quickly,” he said.
This Christmas the band had 22 bookings, the busiest they had been since Ireland's first lockdown. Now, almost every gig has been cancelled, including parties at KPMG, Midlands Park Hotel, Gibson Hotel and a Christmas market.
“We are hanging on by a thread to the few weddings we have left, which is roughly five gigs,” he said. “When Tony Holohan made those comments in November about restricting movements and cancelling Christmas parties, that was it for us.”
Mr Quinn said his band were fortunate because they owned their own gear and van and did not have any loans. He acknowledged that cancellations “won’t affect me as badly as others in the industry” but said Christmas gigs were important for tiding those in the entertainment industry over from January until March.
“When you consider that we shut down last year in the week leading into St Patrick’s Day, that has meant we never got a foothold in the year at all. So it’s essentially two years without work,” the father of two said.
There are four full-time members of the band, though some larger gigs require hiring extra crew, and a loss of work affects those people, too, he adds.
"There are people I know who have left the industry completely – qualified, talented people – but they're thinking that there's no longevity or security in it, and then they're offered an IT job in Google or Facebook, and why wouldn't they go?"
He said it was “maddening” to see the industry “whittling away”.
Mr Quinn and his fellow band members have tried to be “creative and adaptable” and have played gigs “to say thank you to frontline workers”.
“We’re trying our best to maintain whatever is left of the industry,” he said, though as someone who “can’t sit still” the lack of work over the past two years has led him back to education, and he is now studying arts and humanities in Carlow.
“It helps with writing letters to TDs,” he joked.
“I signed off the PUP [pandemic unemployment payment] in September in good faith, but within four weeks of reopening, we were in what’s effectively a shutdown. They’re saying the industry is still open, but it’s not. Just look around. Your eyes aren’t telling you lies.”