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Show must go on with €180m to Arts Council and live events

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Actor Rory Cowan

Actor Rory Cowan

Actor Rory Cowan

The show will go on after news that the live entertainment sector is to get fresh funding of €50m from the Government in Budget 2021.

The package will come as a huge relief to those working in the industry.

An unprecedented €130m will go towards supporting the Arts Council in its work, which is an increase of 62pc on last year.

Lobbying

The support comes after months of lobbying and campaigning to save the arts by those who were suddenly left jobless by the pandemic and facing an uncertain future.

The announcement was universally welcomed by those in the sector.

Speaking about the funding, Culture and Arts Minister Catherine Martin said it showed the Government recognised the "vital importance of sustaining Ireland's creative communities at this challenging time."

Screen Ireland will see a €9m increase from yesterday's Budget, while €8m will be provided for the transfer of the National Symphony Orchestra to the National Concert Hall.

Ms Martin said her focus is on giving sectors such as the arts "a lifeline" as performers, artists, crews, promoters and venues struggled to create work.

"Today's Budget packet recognises the combined contributions of the commer- cial arts and entertainment industries, in addition to the traditionally funded arts sector," she said.

"Measures include a live entertainment support package designed to help performers keep performing.

"These measures will de-risk the cost of running events such as concerts and live shows amid the stop and start nature of the pandemic.

"There will also be seat compensation funds for schools and colleges, musical theatres and dance societies.

"In addition, the successful music stimulus fund for songwriting and recording will continue into next year.

"The Arts Council sees its budget significantly increased. This provides increased supports for individual artists, freelance workers, festivals and organisers.

"The show will and must go on."

In his Budget speech, Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath outlined a range of spending initiatives for the sector.

"Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on arts, cultural and sporting activities," he said.

"The spaces that brought us together, often in celebration of some of our most talented people, for now lie empty and silent.

The Arts Council, the government agency for funding and developing the sector, said the €130m investment fund would be used to support artists and organisations through the crisis.

In a statement, it said it would ensure that people across the country will continue to engage with the arts in 2021.

"The funding commitment for 2021 represents a strong signal that artists and arts organisations will be central to the Government's national recovery plan," said council chair Professor Kevin Rafter.

"The sector has faced extraordinary challenges arising from the Covid-19 crisis, but the historic €130m Budget allocation will help the council protect jobs and livelihoods as well as help key arts organisations experiencing financial difficulties as they continue to deal with the crisis in 2021."

Meanwhile, while he strongly welcomes supports for the industry, former Mrs Brown's Boys actor Rory Cowan said he would like to see any fresh funding distributed in a fair manner.

Cronyism

He said there was "cronyism" in the arts and entertainment world and there had to be a sense of "fair play" when it comes to government grants.

He said Budget 2021 provided the ideal opportunity for the Government to overhaul the arts industry and make the system of accessing the supports more accessible.

"If someone has a proven track record of steadily working and paying their taxes, then they're the ones that should be getting the money," Cowan said.

"I know an awful lot of people in this business whose livelihood was just taken overnight, all their gigs were gone.

"And for those who were refused the PUP payment, it was very hard for them. There's a huge industry there that has just stopped."