This opinion piece was formed based on an interview conducted by Aoife Moriarty for Buzz.ie
Cormac Cashman of the queer club Mother shares: I find it difficult to talk about the ongoing situation with regards to the government and live events. I’ve put figurative pen to paper countless times and always ended up deleting the draft tweets, slamming my laptop closed in frustration or just generally getting upset about it.
I’ve followed the science all through this, avoided government-bashing and avoided screaming into the abyss that is social media. I’ve tried to avoid writing anything critical at all, as I believe a lot of people are doing their best and there is enough negative noise online already. And what the fuck use is a promoter joining that noise anyway?
But the voices of our industry need to be heard. The government needs to answer our questions and lay out a plan so that we can begin to recover.
At Mother, we were lucky enough to be the recipients of government support for our business, like the LPSS grant with which we are running a scaled back version of our Block Party this September. We are super grateful for this grant because it’s enabled us to hire so many incredible performers, crew, staff and others who’ll get paid work out of it (including ourselves), but with such limited numbers attending it’s hard to square it all in my head.
I can’t get away from the fact that if I was running the gig just up the road in Belfast, it would be so vastly different.
We’ve been hoping for a return to some kind of reasonable capacity with the gig being in late September and vaccination uptake being so high, but there is still absolutely no plan from the government in terms of the return of live gigs.
How can there be no plan? Seriously, like not even a nod to a plan for a very long time. I can hop on a bus and travel for an hour or so and stand in a field with 10,000 other people at a live gig in Belfast, but here we can only have 500 people socially distant in small pods? There is a logical disconnect.
I’m not saying just throw open the doors to all events, but at least have a conversation about how and when we can, at least make a plan. The silence is deafening and the lack of clarity or even meaningful engagement is pretty disheartening.
People working in the live events industry are used to Health and Safety Guidelines. We’re used to logistical nightmares, unexpected situations, dealing with problems on the spot and keeping the safety of our customers at the top of our priority list. It’s much harder to plan events now, but that’s what we’re good at. Give us a roadmap and we’ll make it work.
So far we’ve had nothing. No plan from the government, no date, or scenarios outlined under which we can reopen. When can we be together at events again? When the vaccination rate is at 90%, 95%, 100%? Like I’m actually asking the question. It’d be great if someone in charge could even attempt to answer it.
While I’m grateful for the supports we were able to receive as a business, many haven’t received any supports. Many in our sector won’t be coming back to work in events. So many artists are being forced out of the music industry now, many SMEs have gone bust, and many many in the industry feel completely and utterly let down by the lack of even a rough plan to reopen. We can’t afford to wait around anymore without a plan and the livelihoods of over 35,000 people hang in the balance.
We know that many, many, of our customers feel similarly, we get messages to our socials all the time now – even just from sound people checking in to see if we’re doing okay, which is kind of magic. It did feel great to sell out a show again, at any capacity.
Knowing people still want to come to our shows after such a long break was a nice feeling regardless of everything else. We know our queer family have our back and want to come dancing with us again, which was illustrated by the fact that thousands of people also joined a waiting list for any extra tickets that we’re able to release before the show. So, it’s with the government now to give our sector real guidance and a plan for returning to live events and full capacities.
I’m not saying throw open the doors, and by all means follow the science, but please lay out some kind of plan so an industry that’s been on its knees for over 500 days now can have some hope of recovering.
And look I know, there are unknowns, it’s a pandemic. But with over 90% the adult population vaccinated come September, when exactly will it be okay to gather again in numbers for live shows? I really don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask these questions, and I think it’s pretty disgraceful that the government hasn’t really even attempted to answer it yet.
When one of the worlds leading immunologists, Luke O’Neill, is saying we need to “bite the bullet” and get on with large scale live events (in his article about Electric Picnic and why it should go ahead) there is clearly some disconnect going on.
First to close, last to reopen. Give us a roadmap. Give us something. We’ve been holding our breaths long enough. We need leadership now. Step the fuck up, lads.
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