Call for roadmap for reopening arts as sector is in ‘the danger zone’

Minister inquires if Covid Digital Certificate could help reopen live entertainment

Angela Dorgan, chairwoman of the National Campaign for the Arts: ‘There’s great frustration when we see other sectors getting back to life.’  Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Angela Dorgan, chairwoman of the National Campaign for the Arts: ‘There’s great frustration when we see other sectors getting back to life.’ Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Representatives of the arts sector are seeking the publication of a roadmap for reopening, expressing concern it is in “the danger zone” with fears of a loss of artists and audience.

Angela Dorgan, chairwoman of the National Campaign for the Arts (NCFA), said her organisation wants information now on when arts venues will be allowed to increase capacity so that they can make plans.

Fianna Fáil Senator Malcolm Byrne criticised the lack of an agreed roadmap, saying he does not accept that an aspiration to have one by the end of August “represents any sort of coherent Government policy”.

He has written to Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Minister for Culture Catherine Martin calling for the Minister and Government officials to meet the arts sector by the end of next week to agree a clear roadmap for reopening.

At present just 50 people are allowed in theatres while other outlets for artists are also restricted, such as the ongoing ban on live music in pubs.

Ms Dorgan said the sector has been hit by the pandemic for more than 500 days and it was “hurting artists and arts workers” to the point where they were considering leaving the sector.

She pointed to Arts Council research that shows that 48 per cent of professional artists surveyed have considered abandoning their career over the past year.

Impact

She also raised concerns at the impact on audience levels both because there would be less art for them to enjoy and because they would lose the habit of booking gigs.

Ms Dorgan added: “There’s great frustration when we see other sectors getting back to life.”

She said the sector was willing to implement public health measures as “nobody wants to put anyone in danger of being unwell”. But she said: “Most of the population are vaccinated. We’re not getting clarity on what is it that makes it different for us to reopen.”

She credited Ms Martin with fighting for the arts since she took office and for providing supports but called for the roadmap for reopening to be published.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Culture said the Minister was working with Cabinet colleagues to “provide certainty for the sector around a reopening plan at the earliest possible date”.

Ms Martin is said to have written to the Minister for Health and the Expert Working Group on Rapid Testing to establish if the Digital Covid Certificate – which provides proof of vaccination, PCR testing and antigen testing – could play a role in the reopening of the live entertainment sector.

The spokeswoman said: “The Minister will be working with Government colleagues, throughout August to chart a clear roadmap for the reopening of the sector.”