LEADING members of Cork’s arts, culture and live events sector yesterday came together to amplify the Save the Arts campaign, a nationwide movement by National Campaign for the Arts (NCFA) to highlight the value of the industry and to address the challenges faced by the sector.
With the help of local business Notes to Cork, formerly Poster Display Ltd, the NCFA’s powerful message is now visible on billboards dotted all over the city – 'The arts gave us hope in a crisis. Now we need you to help #SaveTheArts.'
Al Dalton, at the helm of Notes to Cork, is also the Co-Artistic Director of Cork theatre production company ALSA Productions.
"I felt it was my responsibility to reach out and give a hand," he told.
"I approached the NCFA last week to offer some billboard space free of charge just to get the word out there and support the cause.
"There are a lot of causes that are in the public domain at the moment and I don’t think everyone is actually aware that the arts are in dire straits,” he said.
NCFA is a voluntary organisation representing more than 23,000 artists, arts workers and arts organisations across Ireland.
Their recently published 13 point National Arts Recovery Plan called on Government to immediately invest an additional €20 million in the Arts Council for 2020 to support artists, arts workers and arts organisations to enable the sector to survive the Covid-19 crisis and to create work and innovate solutions for strong, viable sectoral recovery.
That €20 million investment was confirmed by An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan in an announcement on Tuesday, along with a €5 million investment for key cultural and museum spaces, digital art and online performances.
Mary Hickson, the curator of Cork’s Sounds From a Safe Harbour (SFSH) Festival said while the investment is very welcome, more needs to be done for an industry which has been many people’s saving grace during these difficult times.
"It is the thing that is really keeping people going at the moment – the books, the music, the films," she said.
"I want to acknowledge the efforts made by Government on Tuesday releasing the extra €25 million.
"While it’s not where it should be, it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
"I’m just interested now to see what schemes they release it through the Arts Council and how we can access some of that funding," she said.
Renowned Cork-based singer Karen Underwood said the arts deserve to be seen as a vital industry.
"I believe that the arts are an essential service.
"In these Covid times, in these protesting times, music and arts are the things that bring us together and gives us a sense of expression," she said.
"More money is necessary and the allocation of those funds is imperative.
"What is Cork going to see of this money?
"We are a very strong arts community in Cork, painters, writers, musicians, singers and technicians – what’s going to happen to us?" she continued.
Julie Kelleher, Artistic Director of the Everyman Theatre, stressed the precarious position of the arts.
"Now more than ever we’re in existential threat territory.
"We’re risking losing so much talent and skills and knowledge and experience from the sector if people aren’t able to get back to work or aren’t able to earn the way they normally would," she said.
Ms Kelleher said while the additional funding to the arts is very welcome more needs to be done to help the industry survive.
"We need to see the pandemic unemployment payment and the wage subsidy scheme both get extended so that arts workers and, in particular freelance workers who are very vulnerable at the moment, would be protected."