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Budget 2021: An overview of live music, arts and entertainment funding announced

Budget 2021: An overview of live music, arts and entertainment funding announced

It’s been an unforeseen 12 months since we last discussed the Budget in regards to Irish arts and entertainment funding.

Last year, myself and Luke Sharkey crunched the numbers and wrote about how Varadkar’s promise to double arts funding by 2024 had to significantly increase year on year to hit the €316.6m target. All bets are off now, as the artist industry is in crisis mode, and the extra money coming in today’s 2021 Budget is a necessary buttress to stop the industries collapsing altogether.

The entertainment part of “arts and entertainment” is something which is normally not considered in the Budget specifically as it’s commercial, but COVID-19 disallowing all festivals, live events, club nights, theatres, cinemas to operate on anything like a profitable capacity means the lobbying that groups like EPIC, Event Industry Alliance, AIST, and Music & Entertainment Association of Ireland have joined the arts-centered National Campaign For The Arts (NCFA) in campaigning for support.

So what does this year’s Budget do to help the beleaguered arts and entertainment community and industries?


  1. The Arts Council’s funding has increased by €50 million today, bringing the total to €130 million. As Una Mullally points out, some of that increase was previously announced so the true value of the Budget increase is closer to €25 million.
  2. The Pandemic Unemployment Payment has NOT been reinstated to €350 as was suggested it might be. It will continue til April 2021 at the highest rate of €300 a week with a Christmas bonus for anyone on it over 4 months included (usually an extra week’s ‘s payment). That’s bad news for anyone who is self-employed and relied on the ecosystem of live music and beyond.
  3. Following on from suggestions yesterday, an extra €50 million has been allocated to support the live commercial entertainment sector under the banner – Live Performance Support Scheme.
  4. The Music Stimulus Package which opened with €1 million fund for professional musicians and their teams to help fund songwriting camps, recording and album releases is expanded but we currently don’t know the figure. This will benefit producers, studios, engineers, en
  5. Details of the above two packages will likely follow on from the outline of how they first operated as listed here.
  6. The Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) provides support for businesses who have had to prohibit or restrict access to customers due to Level 3 or higher restrictions. Under CRSS The Government will make a payment, based on the 2019 average weekly turnover. Qualifying businesses can apply to the Revenue Commissioners for a cash payment in respect of an advance credit for trading expenses for the period of the restrictions. The scheme comes into effect today and will run until 31st March 2021. The first payments will be made to affected businesses by mid-November. Payments will be calculated on the basis of 10 per cent of the first €1 million in turnover and 5 per cent thereafter, based on average VAT exclusive turnover for 2019. It will be subject to a maximum weekly payment of €5,000.
  7. The VAT rate of 13.5% for the live entertainment sector was cut to 9% until the end of 2021.
  8. A €8 million fund was made available for transfer of the National Symphony Orchestra to the National Concert Hall from RTÉ, building on last year’s budget of €1 million for that purpose.
  9. There will also be a €9m increase in funding for Screen Ireland while Section 481, a tax credit, incentivising film and TV, animation and creative documentary production in Ireland which benefits the film industry remains in place until December 2023.

We will have to wait to see exactly how extra funds to the Arts Council will be given out and who will benefit but a larger fund should mean a larger remit.
Grants applications are often prohibitively obtuse and difficult so I hope any new funds that will address and fund arts organisations and artists will follow the straightforward nature of The Music Stimulus Package applications.

Similarly, how the Live Performance Support Scheme will be allocated. In England, 1385 arts organisations, venues and media secured funding (from a total of £257m) to enable them to survive. The Irish equivalent of €50 million should not be tied to specific events, in my opinion.

Freelancers and self-employed are yet again on shaky ground. Able to claim the €300 a week payment and now able to earn €480 a month maximum on top of that. The problem with that is that only adds up to €1680 a month, which will still be far below what many people were making pre-pandemic. Again, sole traders are stuck between a rock and hard place, with few supports available to them unless they run a small business that has access to grants.

The National Campaign For The Arts (NCFA), which represents representing 55,000 artists, arts workers and arts organisations in Ireland, broadly welcomed the news today saying the measures “demonstrates a clear commitment from Government to ensuring that both funded and commercial arts can survive, recover and thrive in 2021.”

It continued:

The announcement of the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) will provide vital support to arts organisations closed as a result of pandemic restrictions, and the increase in funding to Screen Ireland and the extension of the Section 481 Regional Uplift Scheme will ensure that film and television production can continue to employ Irish artists and arts workers and contribute to the economy. NCFA also welcomes the establishment of the Ministerial Group for Insurance Reform chaired by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and await the outcome of their work in relation to the arts where urgent action is needed.

It is important to note however that the arts sector has many talented artists and freelance arts workers who have not been accounted for in today’s budget. While NCFA welcome the PUP income disregard which will allow artists and arts workers to earn €120 per week without losing the PUP, we are disappointed to see that the reduced tiered payment rates are still in place, and are hugely concerned about what will happen in April 2021 when the PUP is phased out. The Government’s Living with Covid plan extends to the end of 2021, and as we now know, depending on the evolution of the Covid virus, we could remain in crisis for even longer. Even at Level 1 of the Living with Covid plan, arts events are still hugely restricted, affecting employment levels across the arts sector.

“Through tenacious, solution-based grassroots work by more than 40 local NCFA constituency groups, along with the ongoing work of the NCFA Steering Committee, and the hard work of many other arts organisations and groups across Ireland, artists and arts workers have at last been embraced as an intrinsic part of Irish society, no longer outliers. With this significant investment from Government, the arts, in all their myriad forms, will continue to contribute to Irish community, society, economy and recovery. There is much yet to be achieved, but today is a positive and hopeful day for Ireland’s artistic, cultural and creative communities”

Angela Dorgan, Chair of NCFA

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