The lockdown has had a huge impact on the culture sector.
Following on from last week's conversations, Des O’Driscoll spoke to more of those running venues, galleries and theatres in Cork about the challenges they’ve faced, and what is going to happen in the future.
Joe Kelly and his business partner Ed O’Leary run Live at St Luke’s and the recently re-opened Kino on Washington Street. They also had to postpone their It Takes A Village festival at Trabolgan, due to have taken place over the weekend. The duo were also hit by unfortunate timing with the first round of Covid restrictions in mid-March.
“We had Lankum in the Opera house on March 17th, St Patrick's Day,” says Kelly. “This show would have been incredible. Lankum we have been working with for about five years so to see them grow both sonically over the three albums and crowd-wise is always a joy to watch. We really felt that it would have been one of the gigs of the year.”
He praises the punters who have opted to hang to tickets for rescheduled events, and also the general solidarity that has emerged in the beleaguered music industry. “Artists, agents and management get it. We are all interlinked. without each other there is no industry. All we can do is collectively wait and see. Most venues will take the least risk on shows moving forward so this is not good for new and upcoming acts and artists.” Kelly welcomes the government roadmap which may have some venues open in August, but like other people in the trade, is wary of what can be done when social distancing would still be necessary.
“Kino is licensed for 200. If we had to operate with social distancing we might have only 30 people allowed in. Not alone would it be sparse but it probably would not be viable financially. It won’’t work if you had to double the price of tickets and charge more for drinks etc. People would not attend and rightfully so. To keep standards of professionalism there are certain staff like sound engineers, lighting and crew that are needed so if they can’’t be paid whats the point?” Looking further into the future, Kelly stresses the importance of people supporting the industry when the situation returns to some level of normality. “The only hope is that if we all can re-open that people come out and support their local bars, clubs and venues. That is the only way we will all survive.”
Triskel is one of the venues that have been organising weekly music events through its online channels, with classical recitals and jazz/improvised performances. Keith Pascoe and Cora Vincent Lunny were among the recent participants. The ’’Piece By Piece’’ strand of the weekly performances has musicians taking the previous work and linking it somehow to the next work.
“In the end we’ll have a kind of suite for the days of coronavirus,” says Triskel director Tony Sheehan.
He says these events are good to help keep the arts alive and in the public mind. “But it is no substitute for a fully functioning, vibrant and busy arts centre. That is how we provide work for artists and arts workers, and the sooner we can get back to doing that the better,” says Sheehan.
While the Triskel’s weekly offerings of arthouse and foreign language films are on hold, head of cinema Chris O’Neill has also been using his expertise to provide weekly recommendations on films that are available to screen online. “Each week we will mix movies to rent and movies which are free to view, international and national cinema, and links to streaming sites and content that we will curate ourselves,”says Sheehan.
Funding from the Arts Council and Cork City Council has allowed the organisation to stay afloat for now. “Our grants account for about a third of what we need to get through the year and break even at the other end, so the loss of box office is very serious,” says Sheehan.
The venue’s CE Scheme has 18 workers, and the Department of Social Protection has furloughed their jobs for now. “We’ve been able to keep on the core staff of six because the Arts Council allowed us the 90% drawdown and we are in the Covid Wage Subsidy Scheme,” says Sheehan.