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Gatherings of up to 5000 people may be allowed from September says Taoiseach; €25 million arts support package announced

Gatherings of up to 5000 people may be allowed from September says Taoiseach; €25 million arts support package announced

In April, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar banned mass gatherings of up to 5,000 people until August 31st, effectively shuttering any hope of a summer festival or gig season in 2020.

Today, Varadkar said that if the virus continues to be suppressed as it is now, “we could see some smaller outdoor or mass gatherings in September, maybe outdoor cultural events of a few thousand people – 3,000 or 4,000 or 5,000, but unlikely to be more than that,” reported the Irish Times.

“I would envisage cinemas opening in August but socially distanced, and I am told that cinemas can operate at a profit socially distanced. That’s really hard for live performances for theatres, so that’s trickier.”

Cinemas were already allowed to reopen from July 20th as part of the COVID-19 roadmap.

“The demographic likely to attend the theatre and the opera are generally older so these are things we have to take into account but can’t rule anything out later on in the year,” said Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan.

In addition, the Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan announced a €25 million package of additional supports for the arts sector. €20 million is being allocated to the Arts Council, bringing its total to €100 million, while, €5 million is to go towards “securing the future of key cultural & museum spaces, digital art & online performances.”

The funding will include bursaries and commissions to artists and arts organisations, and resources for museums and culture workers and ” including supports for freelance artists and those looking to develop projects on a collaborative basis.”

“The livelihoods of artists have been hit very hard,” the Taoiseach said, speaking on Bloomsday, before talking about the appeal of Normal People and quoting Ulysses.

“The pandemic hasn’t been easy for our artists and cultural institutions, and I know their livelihoods have been hit hard.”

 “In Joyce’s masterpiece Ulysses, it is noted that life is the great teacher, and that is true. Life teaches us but culture inspires us.”

The National Campaign For The Arts responding by saying:

The €20 million increase in funding to the Arts Council for 2020, as called for in the NCFA’s National Arts Recovery Plan, and the €5 million investment for key cultural and museum spaces, digital art and online performances is a solid and authentic response to the Covid-19 crisis which has ravaged the nation’s artists, arts workers and arts organisations.

It is heartening to have the voices of artists and arts workers heard by Government, and we want to thank Minister Madigan and her Department for their constructive engagement with our 13 Point National Arts Recovery Plan. This investment is a positive first step in recognising the value of our arts and culture community. We await the publication of the Arts Council Expert Advisory Group report for the detail on how this investment will directly reach the sector. 

We are revitalised and energised and look forward to continuing our fruitful engagement with Government, on behalf of the sector, in pursuing the remaining 12 points in our National Arts Recovery Plan.

The €25 million adds to the existing  €193 million. As a reminder,  In 2017, Leo Varadkar promised to double the arts budget by 2024 in his election promises, which was then €158.3 million (so double is €316.6m).

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