The Irish Times view on the crisis in the arts: a fog of anxiety

Our artists and performers are in the front line of the Covid-19-induced economic crisis

The Abbey theatre in Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

The Abbey theatre in Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

‘We’re gone,” tweeted playwright Michael West as his play, The Fall of the Second Republic, closed early at the Abbey. “Shout out to all our comrades who have lost a gig, particularly those in rehearsal or about to open.”

“Hard to convey how heartbreaking this is,” tweeted theatre maker Philly McMahon as he announced the closure – just one day after it had opened – of the Where We Live 2020 arts festival run by his company, thisispopbaby. More than 80 artists and crew – “Cultural warriors, all”, he called them – found themselves suddenly out of work.

Our artists and performers are in the front line of the Covid-19-induced economic crisis; they have perhaps even more reason than most to be shrouded in a fog of anxiety. And yet as that fog descends on us all, and we seek solace and solidarity in our screens, it is the arts that break through those clouds and bring sunlight.

Musician Colm Mac Con Iomaire played a live concert from his livingroom on Sunday, via Facebook. (It can be watched online.) Poetry Ireland poet in residence Catherine Ann Cullen (@tarryathome) is tweeting a daily “poetry prompt” to encourage people to write and share poems via Twitter. Children’s writer Sarah Webb is running daily “creative bursts” for kids on the website of MoLI, the Museum of Literature Ireland. Author and illustrator Oliver Jeffers is doing daily live readings of his books. Our theatre makers will no doubt find ways to bring what is the most social of the arts into this era of isolation.

The unpaid and underpaid work of artists has long provided a hidden subsidy to the nation’s cultural life; this crisis may prove the apogee of that. There are small things we can do to help. The National Campaign for the Arts has encouraged people to not seek refunds for cancelled events. The Civic Theatre in Tallaght is using gofundme.com to crowdfund an emergency relief fund for artists. But perhaps the most obvious thing is to do what audiences always do: enjoy, applaud, and spread the word.

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