Last October, when Budget 2020 was published, the National Campaign for the Arts (NCA) said it was “devastated”, declaring the sector was being left behind.
The NGO, which represents 1,000 artists and arts bodies, anticipated a 15% rise in funding in line with a government commitment to double it within seven years. Campaign chairwoman Angela Dorgan said the increase in the Arts Council budget from €75m to €80m felt “like a standstill”.
That “standstill” was, is, and will be exacerbated by the pandemic. The NCA suggests arts organisations will lose €2.9m for every month of shutdown, that 19,000 days of paid work were lost to the end of April, and that income of €6.4m was lost to the end of May.
Apart from sport, few sectors depend on a paying audience as dramatically as the performing arts.
Thousands of musicians, actors, and all of their support crews have seen incomes evaporate.
This is especially true for musicians struggling to monetise their work in a world where technology makes piracy is life everyday. Some have responded by offering concerts behind paywalls, but most seem to have had limited success. Huge change is needed if this option is to prove viable.
In June, a €25m Covid-19 package was announced to support the sector but, in the grand scheme of things, that figure may prove inadequate.
For many artists, an immediate income is a priority if they are to continue in the sector. It is time to be imaginative about answering that pressing need.