‘Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle’.
The late, much-loved writer Philip Casey used these words from 19th-century Scottish writer Ian MacLaren at the end of his e-mails.
It’s a good clarion call for us all to bring to our dealings with each other. The ongoing worry and uncertainty might well cause us to feel that we’ve grown extra nerve endings, as visual artist Aideen Barry puts it, in a great essay on artsandhealth.ie It can be easy to forget our usual courtesies when we’re under pressure and feeling deep levels of frustration.
That kindness, of course, must also extend into our financial dealings with artists, and most especially freelancers whose income depends on a multitude of sources. They’ve seen their income brutally swept away and it’s essential that funded organisations
meet their financial commitments to them. Payment and contract guidelines published by resource organisations like Visual Arts Ireland and Theatre Forum, among others, are an excellent source of information for how people should be treated in the
event of cancellation. Very much guided by our recently introduced Paying the Artist policy, we moved to advance payments to strategically funded organisations so that artists could
be looked after. We strongly encourage people to honour their agreements, even where not fully contracted, with creative and technical freelancers across all art forms. Those disbursed funds must reach those most in need.
A few days ago, a friend in Pretoria told me with excitement that 1,700 people had tuned in to hear poet Annemarie Ní Churreáin and South African poet Mthunzikazi Mbungwana speak about cultural silence in an on-line event.
All over the world, beautiful events appear in front of us on screens, most often entirely free. Organised by the Irish Embassy in South Africa, both artists were, of course, paid for their contribution. And let’s make sure that this newish way of experiencing
beautiful pieces of art doesn’t further compound the oft-held belief that artists can actually live on thin air. People must always be paid for their on-line work.
Over the last few weeks, it has been energising to hear members of our recently formed advisory group bring their perspectives to bear on the current crisis for the arts. We’re grateful to these busy people for joining with us to lend their time and their
imaginative thinking right now. Among the topics discussed were the need to deal with the psychological damage caused by the current crisis and how the arts can help us all heal. What was striking was everyone’s absolute belief that the power of the
arts will be a civic force field. Recovery and return will be our bywords.
It’s a time for big ideas, resilience and no small amount of kindness.
—Maureen Kennelly, Director of the Arts Council, 25 May 2020