“It’s thrilling to hear of events being staged for real, live audiences,” says Maureen Kennelly. “Arts organisations’ standard of care for the public is really quite striking and instils me with confidence about a safe return to in-person performances.”
After what seems like a lifetime for artists and art lovers, arts shows, festivals, and all kinds of events from dance to street theatre are cautiously opening up for limited audiences for live performances, in line with Government guidelines. While
online events have become the norm, there is nothing quite like sitting in a theatre for a live show.
Arts centres across the country have taken great care to create safe spaces in line with Government health advice. All of which have had the support from the Arts Council, the Government agency which encourages interest in Irish art and provides funding
to Irish artists and arts organisations.
“Technical and front of house personnel in the arts are uniquely placed to present events safely for the public, as they tend to have particularly high standards in this area,” says Maureen. “Many have qualifications in health and safety, and they have
amassed vast experience over the years, working across festivals and venues of every description. Arts organisations are taking tentative and careful steps back.”
Maureen says there is a great hunger from the public for the arts. A recent survey showed 61pc of people saying that the arts are essential for their wellbeing.
The Arts Council recently supported pilot live performances by the Irish Chamber Orchestra in University Concert Hall, Co Limerick and the Irish National Opera in Cork Opera House, and these were enthusiastically received by the public.
“In fact, they were very highly charged emotional events, with rapturous standing ovations for the performers when they first came on stage,” adds Maureen. “There was a great passion and emotional urgency to these events, and I think we will never take
such happenings for granted again.”
Adapting and thriving
Live arts returning comes as a relief for Maureen whose appointment to Director of the Arts Council was announced on March 6th 2020, just days before the Covid-19 shutdown. She worked remotely for many months, so she understands the strange circumstances
that artists have had to work through over the last year and a half.
“Artists and workers in the arts have shown extraordinary resilience and resourcefulness,” says Maureen. “They have adapted imaginatively and have been generous and open in their approach to each other and to the public.
“Staging events during the pandemic is far more expensive and their box office potential is often very limited, which makes Arts Council support even more essential.”
In this magazine, we are celebrating arts events live and online! Not only do live events create a cultural offering to entice people to an area where they spend money, but they also provide employment for artists and the many others involved in making
them happen. But even more fundamental is the cultural, artistic and social impact.
“It makes us what we are – it tells the story of Ireland like no other medium can. You always can tell a thriving town or village by the health of it art scene. A community that invests in culture will inevitably prosper in education, industry and tourism,
and in other areas.”
The Arts Council received significant additional funding from the Government in 2020 to help alleviate the impact of the crisis on artists and arts organisations, and they are putting all those extra resources to good use. On pages 4-9 [please see full PDF linked below], we have the events guide with a variety of exciting arts events, all supported by the Arts Council, coming up through August, September and October. From music performances to art exhibitions, and from theatre productions to festivals, there
is something for everyone in all regions of Ireland.
“We have initiated a great programme called Faoin Speir which will see outdoor performances staged in several counties, including the wonderful aerial dance company Fidget Feet in Ennis, Co Clare. We are also supporting a great initiative called Festival
in a Van, which involves the performance of live music and poetry nationwide over the coming weeks.
“There are so many gems across all art forms,” says Maureen. “Art that is true and convincing speaks best to me. I recall times that I listened to music, read poems or prose, or saw visual pieces and knew that I would see the world differently forever
more because of those experiences. That’s an extraordinary gift and I am always amazed that artists can keep doing it. There is so much in the world that is yet to be discovered, so it is a resource that we can return to time and again.”
Full coverage from the Sunday Independent Magazine, including a list of events being supported around all four provinces and a look at post-COVID safety measures can be viewed as a PDF here.