Irish Equity calls for more support for Arts workers

Irish Equity has said that Budget 2021 does not provide enough support for artists, theatre and entertainment workers.

Karan O Loughlin, Irish Equity Organiser, said: “While the announcement by Arts minister, Catherine Martin, of critical investment in the Arts is broadly welcome, there is not enough focus on retaining artists and arts workers in the sector.

“Artists and workers are being prevented from working because of the restrictions on gatherings and they need urgent and ongoing financial support. With the Arts, Culture and Entertainment expected to be hit harder by job losses than any other sector of the economy, funding must targeted towards those artists and creatives who are most exposed. 

“Irish Equity seeks to ensure that the funding announced in the budget promptly and directly benefits our members including actors, directors and theatre makers, dancers, designers, stage managers and other creatives. These people are the backbone of the creative industry. We also want to see funding channelled into building sustainability in the Arts.   

“For Irish Equity representatives, negotiations on better pay and conditions are just one feature of our work and we also campaign for a sustainable environment for workers. Being a member of the union is even more important for those employed in the Arts and Entertainment as this public health crisis continues.”  

Karan O’Loughlin was speaking at the release of a promotional video created by Irish Equity and highlighting the importance of the work done by the union on behalf of its members. 

The video features some of Ireland’s finest acting talent, discussing why membership of Irish Equity is important and the protections it offers them in the frequently precarious freelance world.  It also demonstrates the rich and rapidly growing diversity among the membership of Irish Equity.

Watch the video now

Irish Equity Housing Survey

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to cause utter devastation right across the Arts, more and more performers, theatre makers and practitioners, musicians, entertainers, events and other workers are continuing to feel the financial strain of not being able to meet their obligations and in particular, their rent. 

In the link below, we have created a short survey to gather information to make the case for specific rent supports for your sector as it was the first to shut down and will in all likelihood be the last to reopen. We have harrowing testimonials from some artists about their accommodation situation before this pandemic but the shut sown of the sector has further exacerbated their situation.  

If you are in a rented property please take a few minutes to click on the link (its also phone friendly) and share it with other artists and arts workers.

Click here to fill out the survey

Level 3 – What this means for the Arts

The Government Roadmap Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19 can be found here https://www.gov.ie/en/campaigns/resilience-recovery-2020-2021-plan-for-living-with-covid-19/?referrer=http://www.gov.ie/roadmap/

What does the Government Roadmap mean for the Arts on level 3 

Organised indoor gatherings – These are controlled environments with a named event organiser, owner or manager. For example: business, training events, conferences, events in theatres and cinemas or other arts events (excluding sport). Under level 3 – No organised indoor gatherings should take place.

Organised outdoor gatherings – These are controlled environments with a named event organiser, owner or manager. For example: outdoor arts events, training events. Under level 3 – Gatherings of up to 15 people can take place.

Museums, galleries and other cultural attractions – Under level 3 – All venues closed. Libraries will be available for e-services and call and collect.

Bars, cafes and restaurants (including hotel restaurants and bars):- Under level 3 – These venues may remain open for take-away and delivery and outdoor dining or service to an absolute maximum of 15 people except Dublin where wet pubs in Dublin are to remain closed. All Nightclubs, discos and casinos will remain closed.

Returning to Work in the Audio Visual Sector

Returning to work in the Audio Visual sector – see the industry guidance documents for safe working in Film and TV Drama (live action) and Factual and Entertainment here

Irish Equity concerned at remarks by Minister for Social Protection about artists

Irish Equity members have welcomed the clarification by the Minister for Social Protection, Community and Rural Development, Heather Humphreys, on her earlier comments made last weekend regarding the future expectations of work within the Arts in Ireland.

Irish Equity spokesperson, Karan O Loughlin said: “As artists prepare for hopeful signs of a managed return to what they do best the Minister for Social Protection it appeared, had already concluded that ‘some jobs will never return and there is no point in waiting for the never never.’

“Our members in Irish Equity were extremely disappointed at the comments as we would have expected a more considered and enlightened approach from a person that previously had responsibility for the Arts. 

“After barely a month in her new post, the Minister consigned thousands of hard-working and highly skilled artists to a future with no hope of working in their chosen field again. Instead, she wanted artists and other experienced workers to ‘re-skill, re-train and look at other jobs they can take up’. Ms Humphreys has now issued a clarification of her remarks which our members have welcomed. 

“Artists in this country are already incredibly skilled people. We recognise the impact of Covid-19 across all sectors of Irish society and what we need now is to hear what plans and creative supports are being prepared by the Government to assist people go back to their jobs. We need to see a strategy that will allow our renowned artists to get back to making world class art, not the bleak and ill-considered diagnosis that consigns artists to the bin.

“The Ministers’ comments came at a time when the first tentative steps are being taken towards a return to live theatre, with Bewley’s Café Theatre staging a performance by Michael Ford in the premises of The Irish Georgian Society in Dublin. Other events in the city include a series of short plays being staged in The International Bar by Peter Reid and selected readings from Christine Dwyer Hickey’s book Tattyat The New Theatre.”

“There was no suggestion that our artists should re-train and go and look for other jobs while they were keeping the population entertained and engaged all through lockdown,” Karan O Loughlin said. “Irish Equity members will continue to work with our colleagues in theatre, film and other performing arts to ensure that they get the respect and opportunities they deserve.”  

Irish Equity says support measures for the Arts do not go far enough

Irish Equity has today (Monday, 22nd June) called on the Government to put artists and arts workers first in planning for the recovery.

Irish Equity Organiser, Karan O’Loughlin said: “We have seen movement from the Government over the last week in increasing the funding for the Arts and now we also have the report of the COVID-19 Expert Advisory Group.

“While all of these initiatives are welcome, neither goes far enough to create the structural change and support needed for individual artists and arts workers. Funding the arts is not the same thing as funding artists and these issues should not be confused. Working in the live performance sector in Ireland is precarious, is characterised with insecure freelance work, low pay, long hours and has no measures in respect of industry pensions.

“What we need is a structure to support artists and arts workers in making a decent living while remaining within their chosen profession. This can be done by creating special measures such as a basic income scheme for artists, dedicated social protection measures for employed as well as self- employed freelance workers and taxation measures for professional artists that are fit for purpose. The measures announced to date deliver none of the above. Until the precarious existence of actors and arts workers is recognised the Arts, and in turn the artists and arts workers who bring so much joy, colour and creativity to our lives, will remain the poor relation in the economy.”

Irish Equity welcomes additional €25 million funding for Arts sector

Irish Equity has welcomed the announcement by the Government of vital additional funding for the arts and cultural sector, amounting to a total of €25 million. This will bring funding for the Arts Council in 2020 to €100 million.

SIPTU Divisional Organiser, Karan O’Loughlin said: “This funding will help to stabilise a sector which has been decimated by the Covid-19 pandemic but which has also been struggling for years as a result of chronic underfunding.  

“We now await the report of the Arts Council Expert Advisory Group and their recommendations around how these additional funds will be allocated. Continued and increased structural funding for the arts is necessary but the question of how artists are treated from an income, taxation and social protection point of view remains open. 

“Irish Equity has long been calling on the Government to recognise the special circumstances of artists by way of introducing a basic income structure and expanding the current artist exemption scheme beyond its current remit. 

“In this regard, we will continue to be focused on how funding decisions can directly benefit arts practitioners themselves and we are encouraged by the acknowledgement by the Minister for Arts, Josepha Madigan, of the precarious nature of much work by arts practitioners within the sector. It is vitally important that this hard-won additional funding is proportionately used to maximise the opportunities for work and for the creation of better conditions for artists.

“Irish Equity also recognises the dedication and hard work of the various support organisations for artists which have lobbied, researched and documented key findings on pay and conditions within the sector. In particular, the National Campaign for the Arts, Theatre Forum and the Irish Theatre Institute are to be commended for the collaborative and consultative approach they have taken to make the voice of Irish artists heard. Irish Equity looks forward to continuing our very productive partnership with all these representative groups.”

Letter to An Taoiseach on Arts & Cultural Sector Funding

Members – Send us your email address

Irish Equity members if you are not receiving updates from us via email then please email equity@siptu.ie with your name, Irish Equity membership number and email address and we will update your contact details to include your email address.

President Higgins responds to the employment crisis of the Arts and Cultural Sector in the European Union

President Higgins responds to the employment crisis of the Arts and Cultural Sector in the European Union by writing to Heads of European Institutions, and his Presidential colleagues in the Arraiolos Group, on the importance of protecting the space of art and culture and those who work in it.

Conscious of the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on all aspects of society, and particularly those who work in the performance of the arts and the institutions related to them, President Higgins has this week written to the heads of European institutions with an urgent call to support cultural institutions and workers.

With movement of people limited, almost all museums, theatres, libraries and heritage sites are closed to the public, the Covid-19 crisis has struck the cultural sector very hard.

Given this fundament threat to the arts sector, President Higgins has taken this step of writing to the Heads of European institutions so as to ensure that the threats to the culture sector in the European Union and the Member States are treated as a European, as well as Member State, problem. 

The letter explains the significance of culture in the European Union. The cultural space is a fundamental part of democracy and the public world with a particular set of employment conditions and vulnerabilities.

The central importance of  culture and creativity is a core theme in the Presidency of President Higgins, who was Ireland’s first Culture Minister (1993-1997) and who was President of the Council of Culture Ministers of the European Union in 1996 when Ireland held the Presidency of the EU. Stressing the importance of giving recognition to, and encouraging the development of, culture and creativity in our societies, President Higgins has asked for support across Europe for what is an emergency in terms of the future of creativity, work of the human spirit, from which all benefit, and which society needs to survive and flourish in achieving the fullness of democracy.

The text of the President’s letters is available below.

—-

lency Mr. David Sassoli
President of the European Parliament

4th June, 2020

Dear President Sassoli,

As a former President of the Council of Culture Ministers of the European Union, I write to you to stress the need for, and seek support for initiatives that I believe are urgently needed to make good a lacuna we have experienced in our European Union – recognising and realising the contribution of culture, cultural workers and artists. When I had the honour of being President of the Council of Culture Ministers of the European Union during the Irish Presidency of the Union in 1996, not only in that year but so often before and since, I heard the phrase attributed to Jean Monnet – nobody ever gave the source of the phrase – ‘If I were starting again I would start with culture’.

I write to suggest that in our response to Covid-19 and its devastating consequences for cultural practitioners, we have been given a golden opportunity to address this neglected dimension of the European Union’s possibilities and capacities, be it in terms of resources, heritage, shared expression and life by seriously addressing the issues of income, resources and sustenance needs of cultural workers, who have been among those who have suffered most due to the Covid-19 pandemic. I speak of cultural workers in general and performance artists in particular who are affected by both lost audience venues, and conditions of production made near impossible.

Let us, as holders of public offices, past and present in our countries and the European Union ask ourselves, how often have cultural workers, creativity and performances been used to enhance public celebrations, gatherings, national aspirations and affirmations? Not only on such occasions but in the rhythms of our shared community life, have we not received renewal and inspiration from a sharing of culture, our own and that of others? Now the livelihood of workers in the cultural space are in the greatest danger of disappearing from the public world and they are seeking our help, not for themselves I suggest, but for a version of the European Union that represents so much of our hopes for the future – the rich diverse culture of our peoples inherited and contemporary.

We are facing an emergency in the cultural sphere in terms of income, venues, public access, participation, and may I say social cohesion and fulfilment.

Is it not now the time to place access to culture among the necessary infrastructural spending and investment in provisions for Universal Basic Services? Surely, it cannot be beyond us to bring into being a system of support and solidarity for artists, from the emerging to the established? As the Union resumes its necessary commercial and retail transactions, hopefully in a way that shows a reflection having been made on a better fit between ecology, society and economics, can we not look also to the public spaces, the venues for public performance, the basic needs of emerging and classical expressions of all the arts and say – “We commit. This can be an enduring expression of our European Union where culture is made safe for the future and for sharing with the world. We salute the creative expression of the peoples of the European Union and the living conditions of all those who make our lives more fully human by such work. They will have our support and protection.”

I offer my support for such an initiative and would appreciate your support for any set if initiatives that will help achieve the making safe of the space of culture and performance in our European Union for now and into the future.

We have attempted, as a Union small steps before with which I was associated. I so remember how in the past we very nearly succeeded with the Yehudi Menuhin initiative which was to ensure that every child in the European Union would have access to a musical instrument. We didn’t succeed but we tried.

Now we can succeed with a strong step in the most urgent of times. Our artists of all ages and backgrounds, contemporary and classical, need our solidarity now. Let us, together, help them and fill the gap Jean Monnet identified. Let us be able to say “We in our time recognised the importance of ‘The Cultural Space’.

Yours sincerely,

Michael D. Higgins
Uachtarán na hÉireann
President of Ireland