The Irish Times view on reopening cultural venues: lights, vaccines, action

Government’s reluctance to introduce vaccine certificates for cultural events will leave cinemas and theatres more disadvantaged than restaurants and pubs

Sibéal Davitt, a sean-nós dancer, choreographer, bilingual broadcaster and beauty queen, stages her first Dublin Fringe show, Minseach, in September. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Sibéal Davitt, a sean-nós dancer, choreographer, bilingual broadcaster and beauty queen, stages her first Dublin Fringe show, Minseach, in September. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Away from the fractious debate over reopening indoor hospitality, arts venues and festivals are pushing ahead with ambitious plans of their own, despite the fact that for the foreseeable future they will remain subject to more stringent regulations than those applying from Monday to pubs and restaurants.

The Galway Film Fleadh comes to an end tomorrow after a successful week of outdoor screenings and online streaming. Kilkenny Arts Festival picks up the baton in 10 days’ time with a programme that includes indoor and outdoor performances, with strict limits on numbers. Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre reopens its doors in August with an opera based on James Joyce’s The Dead, while Druid brings its new production of The Seagull to Lady Gregory’s former home at Coole Park in Galway. Druid’s show will be filmed and later presented online at the Galway International Arts Festival, which has shifted from its usual calendar date of July to early September. And this week Dublin Fringe announced its own ambitious programme of more than 160 performances of 30 events at 16 venues across the capital.

All this activity is testament to the ingenuity and adaptability of creative artists and producers, who over the past 18 months have learned how to work minor miracles within the constraints imposed by the pandemic. Outdoor performance, online streaming and audience pods all have a part to play, as do the emergency financial supports which the State has made available to artists. It still remains unclear, though, what the outcome, if any, will be of the various pilot events which have been held since June.

In early July, Minister for Arts Catherine Martin said she was not in favour of vaccine certificates for cultural events. But Government policy on the use of certificates in other contexts has shifted dramatically since then. With the vaccination programme now rolling out rapidly to younger adults, it would seem strange if theatres, cinemas and other similar venues were to be left more disadvantaged than restaurants and pubs. The Minister should reconsider her view.

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