Statement from NCFA in response to the current Government clarification on new measures to limit the spread of Covid-19 with respect to the Cultural sector, issued 20th August, 2020

NCFA Statement in response to Government and Department communications around the impact of the new restrictions on gatherings for the Arts and Live Events Sector
19th August 2020
NCFA Statement, 31 August 2020
31st August 2020

20 August 2020

With regards to the clarification published on Thursday 20th August 2020 by Government, addressing ‘new measures to limit the spread of Covid-19 with respect to the Cultural sector’:

NCFA is glad to see that the Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht and the Minister for Heath have agreed on the basic capacity figures for indoor and outdoor arts experiences and live events. However, many questions remain unanswered and clarity has still not been achieved. The Irish arts and live events community have overcome enormous challenges and obstacles to reignite live experiences and events, to get people back to work, to give audiences a glimmer of hope in these dark times. Every moment that arts and events professionals spend devising, organising, managing, testing, and revising these events takes a heavy toll – financially, physically and mentally. The ‘on again, off again’ situation is unsustainable.

In terms of the new directives for Indoor Events:

Businesses/services such as museums, cinemas, theatres and art galleries are deemed to be controlled environments, with appropriate protective measures in place such as physical distancing between people. These venues can continue to operate where appropriate physical distancing and all other protective measures can continue to be maintained. Individual groupings attending these venues must be limited to six people from no more than 3 households. Overall attendance must adhere to an overall limit of 50 people. published on Thursday 20th August 2020

While NCFA welcomes clarification on the maximum numbers permitted in the ‘controlled environments’ of museums, cinemas, theatres and art galleries, we ask why music venues have been omitted? What is the difference between a professionally managed, controlled, socially distanced, fully compliant event in a theatre and one in a music venue? Music venues are the beating heart of arts and culture in Ireland, professionally run spaces who present a vast array of artistic and cultural experiences, in safe, socially distanced, compliant environments. Their omission from this list of permissible cultural spaces is bewildering and is a devastating blow to the sector. Venues can’t open, promoters can’t programme, crews can’t work, artists can’t perform. None can earn their living. What are the criteria that distinguish between a safe space and an unsafe space? Is there the opportunity for experts in health and safety who work at the highest levels in the arts and live events sector to consult on these criteria and explore ways to facilitate music venues while minimising the spread of Covid-19? Are music venues, who have worked tirelessly since March and spent extraordinary sums of money to create safe working environments for their staff and audiences, now suffering because of the reckless behaviour of a few establishments in the licenced trade? We call on the Department of Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht and the Department of Health to clarify why music venues are not permitted to present live experiences that are professionally controlled, fully compliant with the strictest Covid-19 measures and where adherence to social distancing can be implemented.

In terms of the new directives on Outdoor Events:

All outdoor events are subject to the new limits of 15. These events are deemed as mass gatherings where there is a concentration of people at a specific location for a specific purpose over a set period of time. These types of events provide opportunities for the virus to spread. published on Thursday 20th August 2020

NCFA notes that when Government issued the previous directive on outdoor events, permitting up to 200 people at a strictly managed and maintained outdoor event, the sector pivoted towards programming outdoor experiences. The Abbey, The Ark, Druid, Galway International Arts Festival, Dublin Fringe Festival, Dublin Theatre Festival and hundreds of arts organisations and groups across Ireland have, under immense pressure and at significant cost, created and announced outdoor programmes which will all now presumably be cancelled or will need to be reimagined for an indoor setting, at great time and cost and at a hugely reduced capacity, and under the current guidelines, specifically inside a museum, a cinema, a theatre or an art gallery. Additionally, when it comes to performances for children and young people, we believe that there is a contradiction within Government guidelines which allows a class group (gathering) of 30 children indoors in school while not allowing that same class to see an outdoor, socially distant show in a controlled environment.

It is not realistic to imagine that any arts or other live events will be able to take place outdoors with a limit of 15 people including artists, crew and audience. If the Government directive therefore is a ban on outdoor events in the best interests of the health of the nation, then the sector needs assurances that the decision making is informed and considered, that it includes expert contribution from our industry and that the immediate cessation of all outdoor events, regardless of the strict implementation of Covid-19 safety measures, is a proportionate response to the risk they pose. 

If artists, arts workers, art organisations and live events businesses and workers are being called upon to sacrifice their income and their businesses for the sake of the greater good, in solidarity with our fellow citizens, then we are absolutely ready to do so. In response, Government must immediately confirm the investment and support that will be made available to those in the sector who are not allowed to return to work. Government must move without delay to ensure the continuation and restoration of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and the extension of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme to those in the sector who are not allowed to return to work at this time. The Government must urgently address issues around VAT, rates, insurance and other challenges being faced by businesses in the sector in order to ensure that the skilled industry still exists when restrictions are lifted.

For those who have invested their money in staff, infrastructure, equipment, materials, artists, crews, Covid-19 safety measures, marketing and promotion, who have now been told their work is not permitted, through no fault of their own, what plans are in place to compensate for both loss of investment and loss of potential earnings?

We have already issued a statement regarding the sector wide confusion and fear that resulted from the continued lack of consideration for the arts and live events sector in the Government briefings on August 18th and 19th. To reiterate, NCFA calls on the Government and the Department of Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht to commit to providing timely, clear, concise information with specific reference to arts and live events in any situation where overarching national directives on gatherings are being made. This will ensure that the sector can continue to work in confidence when it is safe to do so, or amend their activities without delay and further cost implications when required to do so.

NCFA Steering Committee

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