Arts venues 'limping' through Covid-19; fears theatres won't be able to keep going

Arts venues 'limping' through Covid-19; fears theatres won't be able to keep going

Sean Kelly, CEO of The Everyman Palace Theatre, MacCurtain Street, Cork. 

FEAR around the future of theatres in Cork has been heightened following the announcement of new government restrictions to combat Covid-19.

Ireland has now shifted from a short-term emergency response approach to a medium-term approach to managing the risk and minimising the societal damage inflicted by the virus. 

The country is currently at level 2 of the plan to eliminate the disease.

Current guidelines state that up to 50 patrons are permitted in pods or groups of up to six.

Up to 100 patrons are permitted for larger venues where strict two metre seated social distancing and one-way controls for entry and exit can be implemented.

Executive Director of The Everyman theatre, Sean Kelly shared his thoughts on the news.

"We are greeting this news with a very cautious welcome," he said.

"The Everyman will last into 2021, even though we will limp through this period. Beyond that, it's going to be very difficult for any theatre to keep going. We will certainly be here next year but- under our current set-up there is no way that we can continue for two or three years. 

"The longer this goes on, the more difficult it's becoming to see what's waiting for us on the other side. Nobody really knows when this emergency might be over but everyone is really motivated to get out of it."

He fears that the arts community in Cork has a long way to go before being viable again.

"The Everyman has been running for 125 years and we want to make sure it goes on for a long time. This is not just about the Everyman. It's about the whole ecosystem attached to live performances. 

"92% of our income is generated through ticket sales. However, now we are filling 50 seats instead of 650. It's something we can and will do, but this is only possible for a short time. Even if we get to 100 seats it will improve things greatly. Nonetheless, we are a long way short of where we need to be to have a viable long term theatre."

He extended his gratitude to the public for supporting them through such a difficult period.

"It was better to be open to the public and serving artists if we could at all," he said. 

"The new restrictions are not viable to maintain in the long term, but The Everyman has an obligation to serve the people of Cork and provide support and connections to artists. We are incredibly thankful for the generous donations from our patrons. 

"These monies, along with Arts Council Funding, will allow us to be viable until the end of the year."

Meanwhile, the director of Cork Arts Theatre, James Horgan said the theatre is now surviving on just 30% of its audience.

"In many ways, the small size of Cork arts Theatre has been in our favour," he said. 

"It's going to be difficult for larger venues when you consider they can only have 100 audience members. I don't think we can say we're out of the woods. 

"We sat down and came up with a plan of action with a view that once we were allowed to open we would. We have been forced to reduce or rent by half to match capacity. 

"Even if the restrictions were eased to a one metre distance it might bring us up to 50% of our audience. At the moment we are looking at 30%."

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