Dear colleagues across the arts sector,
It is undeniably strange to be starting this role at a time like this, but I have been hugely fortified by your good wishes and by the warmth of the welcome I’ve received from staff and Council members. Two weeks in, I am struck by everyone’s commitment to conducting business as usual (as far as possible) and the sense of dignified professionalism that pervades the organisation and the sector.
I know that we have made a number of requests for information from you. It really is crucial that we get this so that we can help the government to gain the best possible understanding of the stimulus required for recovery. With so much ongoing uncertainty, I know it’s hard to project forward but we really need, and appreciate, your help with this.
Not surprisingly, the surveys that we’ve conducted so far show a colossal level of disruption to activity. We’ve learned that 19,000 days of paid work have been lost and that’s just to the end of April. 2.4 million members of the public will lose out on artistic experiences. By the end of May, 55,000 people of all ages will have missed taking part in workshops and classes. A potential income of €6.4 million will be lost from cancelled activities to the end of May.
Enormous emotional and financial investment has gone into planning those events and the sense of shock and worry is palpable. For a profession that is already characterised by a high degree of insecurity, this added layer of uncertainty is deeply unsettling.
These refrains sing out clearly again and again:
‘I can’t get to my studio’
‘I’m worried about the future for my team’
‘I want to engage with an audience’.
At the Council’s meeting last week, the scale and urgency of the crisis was acknowledged and a clear commitment was made to work to ensure that the arts ecology survives. Your representations are being heard and are enabling the Council to give the best possible advice to government at this time.
Like me, you’ll also have been engaging in Zoom calls which can be exhausting. These days and new ways of working are making great demands on people’s stamina. We need to mind ourselves and to remember to rely on the currency of kindness now more than ever. There is a sharp brutality in this new way of communication but the camaraderie of the sector is reassuring.
In the last few days the Cúirt festival improvised to bring us some very enjoyable online sessions. This coming week will offer the pleasures of Sally Rooney’s Normal People for which all portents are excellent. And we’ll also have the Abbey’s imaginative Dear Ireland project to anticipate. A welcome reminder of what good art is there to do – to thicken our sense of being alive.
I hope you all stay safe and well.
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