Eimear Reynolds and Paul Hennessy performing at Longford Live & Local last weekend Picture: Shelley Corcoran
As the pandemic continues, so to put severe restrictions on the arts, which is arguably the industry that has suffered the most since Covid-19 caused global lockdowns, quarantines and social distancing to become the norm.
Many Longford artists have been out of jobs, not eligible for wage subsidies, and struggling to make ends meet as the pandemic forced them to resort to online methods of performing, instead of their usual live gigs.
Students of Evolution Stage School have been making the most of the restrictions, with classes and workshops taking place on zoom or in outdoor locations. But one of the school’s directors, Paul Hennessy, has said that those arrangements are not “ideal” for students.
“I think the current restrictions are ridiculous at this stage,” he told the Longford Leader.
“There’s no reason why indoor gigs/concerts can’t be attended by fully vaccinated people in the same way you can go to your local pub or restaurant.
“The public are as frustrated about the arts restrictions as we, the artists/producers, are. They can’t see the sense in what’s happening here compared to the UK where all venues are open. You could fly to London and attend a West End show any night in a full theatre.”
While bars and restaurants are now allowed to serve customers both indoors and out, arts venues are under threat.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people attend matches at Croke Park, leaving theatres and other venues feeling cheated.
“I think music/arts venues should be allowed to open and use their own discretion on how events should be run,” said Mr Hennessy.
“They certainly know how to run events safely so let them do it. A recent concert in The Bord Gais Theatre was restricted to an audience of 50 and the capacity is 2,100. That is absolutely crazy.”
Currently, the Longford Live & Local series is allowing people in Longford to enjoy live music events again, while giving artists the chance to perform for a live audience.
“The Live and Local concerts are brilliant and a huge thanks to Shane Crossan and Longford Co Council for giving the artists and the audience a chance to get out there and enjoy live events again, even if it is outdoor for the moment,” said Mr Hennessy who is performing at some of the events himself.
“It was very strange to be back on stage last week but it was wonderful to hear applause again.
“The Arts Minister Catherine Martin said recently she hopes to have a plan in place for the Arts at the end of August,” he added.
“It’s amazing how the Arts has been treated and I think ‘The Arts’ deserves its own minister and not one that has five other portfolios on their desk. We live in hope to be back on stage very soon bringing some overdue happiness and joy to audiences young and old.”
While live theatre, music and other events are still highly restricted, there are politicians who are showing support for local artists and venues, with Senator Micheál Carrigy recently releasing a lengthy video of interviews with local figures in the local arts scene, as a way of raising awareness for the struggles experienced in Longford.
In an interview, recorded by local videographer, Shane Crossan, Backstage Theatre’s Head of Communications Mona Considine told Senator Carrigy, “It is a long uphill battle to restore our sector, but step by step we can create conversation and rebuild the community.”
Filmmakers Robert Higgins and Paddy McGivney, Paul Hennessy from Evolution Stage School, and Director of Still Voices Film Festival Ronan O’ Toole were also interviewed by Senator Carrigy on the harsh effects of Covid-19 on the arts industry.#
“The arts are a crucial part of any community,” said Senator Carrigy.
“This fact has sadly been forgotten throughout the hardship of the pandemic and constant lockdowns.
“Each artist deserves a voice, to be heard and given a platform to express how they feel. This event wants to envelop how arts and culture shape a community and that we need to create a conversation and recognize this fact nationally.”
Senator Carrigy has shared the videos across his own social media sites where it is still available for viewing.
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