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Covid-19 (Arts): Statements (Continued)

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 998 No. 5

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Catherine Martin: Information on Catherine Martin Zoom on Catherine Martin] It is important to note that the council has reported that to date in 2020 a very significant proportion of its grants to individuals were made to artists who had never before received Arts Council funding. They represent people who would normally be fully employed in the commercial sector.

I will turn now to the July stimulus package and give the House a description of the work which has been done over the past few months in rolling out the stimulus. In the area of culture, creativity and the arts, the stimulus is designed to create opportunities for professional artists and creatives, and their support staff, through increased support for the Arts Council, live production, live performance and specific measures targeted at musicians. A key objective of this funding is to provide enhanced support for freelance arts workers who have been impacted severely by the Covid-19 public health emergency. The stimulus announced a new €10 million culture fund to include increased funding for Creative Ireland to employ artists through the creative youth and creative communities programmes and funding to support the commissioning of artists to produce creative content for national broadcast and for Ealaín na Gaeltachta for new artists bursaries and art activities in Gaeltacht schools.

Musicians and music performers across all genres face particular difficulties. The music stimulus package, which is part of the culture fund, is a dedicated fund of €1 million for musicians. It involves three funding schemes designed to help sustain the popular and commercial music sector across a diverse range of genres, including rock, pop, hip-hop, indie, jazz, country and western and traditional and folk. It is designed to stimulate areas of work which artists would usually fund with income from their own sources, including live event fees.

The three schemes are targeted at professional musicians and their teams and will support songwriting camps, recordings and album releases. The aim is to ensure Irish musicians, engineers, PR, media, agents, labels and publishers can continue to develop and share their work while Covid restrictions are in place. The music stimulus package schemes are being managed on behalf of the Department by First Music Contact and there was an extremely strong interest in the call which had a closing date of yesterday. Applications will now be assessed by an expert music peer panel.

The additional moneys allocated in this job stimulus package includes an increase in the Arts Council 2020 allocation from €100 million to €105 million, some 40% higher than in 2019. Among other initiatives, the additional moneys allow the council to increase to 164 the number of creative schools in the 2020-21 academic year. This brings the total number of participating schools to 314 this year. It also allows for an increase in the grants to each creative school from €2,000 to €3,100. Consideration for diversity and inclusion within arts initiatives remains hugely important and all of the additional schools entering the programme have been selected from applicant DEIS schools. Some 50 of the schools starting in creative schools this year have DEIS status.

A sum of €1 million in extra supports was made available to help key cultural organisations in receipt of annual funding from the Department to deal with the difficulties of operating in a Covid-19 world. These organisations house collections of movable cultural heritage of national importance or are unique in the country and relate to matters of national interest. They include Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, the Hunt Museum, Archbishop Marsh's Library, the National Print Museum and Foynes Flying Boat & Maritime Museum.

Capital funding of €6 million is available to accelerate the redevelopment and renewal of our national cultural institutions envisaged under the national development plan. Over the coming 18 months, we will seek to complete the design and planning phases of a number of these iconic buildings with a view to commencing construction in 2021. Highlights under this programme of capital investment include the reimagined and significant restoration of the National Library. The National Archives redevelopment will see our valuable trove of State archive material rehoused. Advanced design and planning works will commence at the National Concert Hall and at the Crawford Art Gallery to enhance this cornerstone building in a regenerated city plaza in Cork city.

The additional capital in the July stimulus has allowed me to allocate funding to the Irish Museum of Modern Art to invest in a new collections management system, as well as to the National Concert Hall for the purchase of video infrastructure for ongoing high quality live streaming, a particularly innovative response to the crisis. A sum of €10 million was provided for a pilot performance and production support package to support the live performance and audiovisual production sector. Of this, €5 million was allocated to a pilot live performance support scheme.

I am conscious of the unprecedented nature of the challenge facing live performance promoters and producers, not least from a financial point of view, and the wider impact that has on the sector's ecosystem of freelance performers, technicians and creative artists, particularly those dependent on its visibility for their income and livelihoods. It should also be noted that the live entertainment sector is worth an estimated €3.5 billion annually to the economy and employs 35,000 people. The pilot scheme is designed to assist and establish commercial promoters of live performances in music and theatre to provide employment to workers in the creative industries.

The scheme will help to de-risk the cost of preparing for new productions which may subsequently have to be postponed, cancelled or curtailed due to restrictions to safeguard public health. The main objectives of the scheme are to provide employment opportunities in the ticketed performing sector, allow commercial organisers of live performances to commence preparations immediately and allow productions to go ahead in the near future, while also complying with public health protection measures. This scheme has been developed in conjunction with the sector and will be managed directly by my Department. There have been a significant number of applications which are being assessed at present and allocations will made on the basis of the number of people being employed. I hope to announce the recipients of this funding in the coming weeks.

The balance of the production support package was allocated to Screen Ireland, which put in place a pilot €5 million production continuation fund for film and television projects to assist production companies with the uncertainties caused by Covid-19. The fund will help to cover costs incurred where production must be halted as a result of an incident related to Covid-19 in circumstances not covered by other insurances. The maximum made available to any one production shall be €500,000. The fund will enable independent Irish production activity to return as safely as possible and help retain Ireland's talented creative workforce as the industry recovers and adapts to the challenges of Covid-19.

An amount of €3 million was allocated to Screen Ireland's television drama fund to support the production of new Irish TV drama content in line with the Government's audiovisual action plan and building on the success of Screen Ireland's support of "Normal People" last year. Last week, Screen Ireland announced details of the first tranche of this funding to five television drama projects with production set to commence in Galway, Cork and Limerick by the end of 2020, as well as funding for a number of joint development initiatives with RTÉ, Virgin Media TV and TG4.

I have given the House a very brief outline of the extensive work being undertaken by my Department and its agencies in the areas of the arts. It will take me many hours to give Deputies a good understanding of the breadth and depth of interventions. Perhaps Deputies may want to point to or ask for details in particular areas and I will be happy to oblige. I will finish by alluding briefly to two task forces under way at present. These are the arts and culture recovery task force and the night-time economy task force. Their work and reports will inform the direction of Government policy for the medium term.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Gabhaim buíochas leis an Aire agus tá brón orm as ucht an mhoill - bhí mé ag cruinniú Zoom leis an gCeann Comhairle. Ba mhaith liom díriú isteach ar an athrú atá tar éis teacht ó mheán oíche aréir.

While we are not at level 5 shutdown, the arts and entertainment industries have once again been shut down in many ways unless people can avail of online opportunities. For the vast majority of those in the arts and entertainment industries, online is not as feasible as it is for other sectors. This is a sector that has been on its knees since it was closed down for the first time in March. More than 5,000 workers in the sector having had their pandemic unemployment payment cut only a few weeks ago. They are struggling to survive and have been let down by the Government which does not seem to have the urgency or a plan to deal with those who have no other outlet for income. There are only cuts.

Sinn Féin has called for a clear plan from the Government to deal with the crisis in the industry since March.

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