Undoubtedly consuming all of our lives, the impact of the Covid-19 health crisis has been felt across all professions and demographics. Whilst numbers affected in Ireland steadily rise, further strategies are sure to be enforced over the coming days, on top of the already present school and university closures, work-from-home, and of course the (hopefully) temporary closure of our nightlife and cultural spaces.
From March 15th, the closure order affected 7000 pubs and bars across Ireland, in turn affecting an additional 50000 workers. Vast numbers of restaurants and cafes have taken their own initiative and shut down. Likely, some of these smaller businesses will not open again. Indoor gatherings of more than 100 people and outdoor gatherings of over 500 people were banned, resulting in the cancellation of festivals, concerts, club nights, exhibitions and theatre shows. Iconic clubs including Berghain and Fabric have closed. The implications for the music and arts sector are significant, and if there is ever a time to support the creative industry and the people in it, this is it. March 29th will see a review of the closures, but realistically there will not be a full recovery so quickly. New developments (battling with fake news) emerge daily, keeping the rumour mill turning at the cost of mental clarity, and it’s important to balance optimism with realism.
We are navigating through a tragic loss to culture, as are all societies globally. For the first time in 258 years in New York City, there will be no St Patrick’s Day parade. Ireland’s celebrations were estimated to generate 73 million euro for the economy. Occupying large or intimate venues in the face of a pandemic is ludicrous, and the preventative measure of social distancing should be maintained on a personal level in society rather than solely a structural one. There is no reason to put others’ health at risk. While closing these spaces is an essential public health measure, we must be compassionate and empathetic toward those who have lost their jobs overnight.
Arts and culture is a broad umbrella, under which fall theatre, music, production, history, events, art, etc. Artists and performers of all kinds are one of the most instantly impacted groups of people. Most earn under the minimum wage already, if earning a regular wage at all. Some live gig to gig, event to event with the grim reality of no safety net, no sick leave, no security, no long term plan. To make matters worse, a large portion of people within the artistic community supplement their sporadic income with part-time jobs, often in the newly devastated service industry.
As venues and festivals have shut down, artists are finding that some or even all of their planned work in the coming weeks, potentially months, has been cancelled or postponed without any kind of payment. An issue that will surely carry through in the predicted economic crisis we will emerge from this scare in. Though many creative people may already work from home, there is something different about being forced to do so. Inspiration emerges from the world around us, by attending other events. For many artists, day-to-day living can be structureless, but for others, it is their created structure that keeps them sane. Independent theatre productions created by freelance actors and crew took the hit instantaneously, losing money as their productions often run on a loss anyway. The hard work put into creating a piece is dishearteningly destroyed, as some shows will now fail to reach audiences.
Similarly, the impact Covid-19 has had on those involved in the nightlife industry is evident. Shows have been postponed or cancelled, and once again there are extreme financial losses among other concerns. The work, effort and money involved in putting on a show through any medium, be it live music, DJ sets or drama, is immense. What may appear as low-budget productions can cost thousands and months worth of work. Many involved in the community can speak first hand as to how devastating it can be when the costs cannot be covered, with many in leading roles incurring huge personal losses to ensure their teams will go without, to ensure positive relationships are maintained across the board and to ensure the name and legacy goes unhindered.
Pushing on from the bad news, the end of one opportunity opens up room for more. There are 24 hours in the day, 16 if you get a good night’s sleep and for some, there may be more freedom to create. We are cursed and blessed with the internet, and at this time we can harness it for good. Discover new mixes, artists, ideas. Nothing is wasted time in this scenario. Join StumbleUpon, tick your interests and get brainstorming. Access other art forms digitally. The Metropolitan Opera are offering free virtual concerts and the Berlin Philharmonic has made its digital concert platform completely free for thirty days after sign-up. Closed museums around the world, including the Louvre, are offering virtual tours and free access. Discover thousands of mixes through SoundCloud, Youtube, social media. Working from home means free reign on music choices, from Tiny Desk concerts to boiler rooms, or even a podcast.
On the other hand, without demonising the effort, take motivational threads or images that are spewed across online platforms with a pinch of salt. Explore and create if that suits you, but sometimes these motivators have the opposite effect as intended and stress you out. Acting as signifiers of an effort you may not be making, social media is expert in making us feel like everyone else is busy. There are endless reasons why isolation may not be a time of creative productivity for you, and that needn’t be justified to anyone. Your pace is good enough and if engaging with online artistic movements induces stress, anxiety or feelings of inadequacy, leave it. Know that if you want to spend your homestay listening to the music that makes you happy with no purpose other than to keep you level, know that I amongst many others will be doing the same.
How can I help myself?
Stay at home but get outside for a walk off-peak times. Get decent rest and eat well.
– Social interaction is essential for wellbeing so call or text your friends.
– Ask yourself what positive you can take from a time of economic and social hardship. It’s not an easy thing to do, and of course, we’d rather this never happened at all, but keep moving forward.
– Explore the mass numbers of sites that offer creative prompts, found through a quick Google. Often geared toward writers, the themes emerging can be translated into all art forms.
– Do the things you were putting off. If the tasks are mundane and seemingly void of creativity, that is all the more reason to get them done and make room in your headspace for creative time. Use this time of uncertainty for reflection, personal development and productivity as best you can.
– Or use it to connect, rejuvenate and relax, if that is what you need.
– If circumstances have left you out of work, visit mywelfare.ie and sort out your relevant social welfare payment, whether it is Jobseekers, Sick Pay or the Emergency Covid-19 payment. Self-employed artists who experience a drop off in employment are eligible to apply, but please do not go into the offices.
– Choose a trusted source for news coverage and limit your exposure. Filling our brains with noise and fear limits the space for better things.
– Try out set time slots for productivity. With an undetermined amount of days in this adapted way of living, it is easy to subconsciously give ourselves the entire day to get something done, only to get way less done than if we had a three-hour block of free time in a working week.
– On that note, look after your mental wellbeing. If you struggle to identify your coping mechanisms, don’t hesitate to reach out to someone you trust. We are in this together.
How can I help other artists and creative peers?
– Staying at home protects the most vulnerable in society.
– If you can afford it and wish to do so, support individual artists by buying music and merch on Bandcamp and Soundcloud. Donate to organisations that support artists, or gather together old equipment, vinyl, CDs, etc that you no longer use and have them ready to send somewhere that needs them (ideas including schools, libraries, charity shops, charities)
– The Civic Theatre has established an emergency fund to provide financial relief to Irish artists experiencing lost income due to Covid-19. They have raised over €15000 so far, and are providing small grants of up to €500 paid on a first-come-first-served basis to affected artists and groups. They are accepting donations where 100% goes directly to the eligible artists in the community. See their website for more details, to check your eligibility or to donate.
– If you wish to support the local independent artists and promoters whose performance or event has been cancelled due to Covid-19, you can consider donating your ticket or holding onto it for the rescheduled date rather than requesting a refund. Funding and resources for culture and entertainment are already stretched. Providing you can afford the gesture, it is a token worth enacting to ensure the performance can go ahead in the future and the arts are kept alive and cherished in a society that desperately needs them. As in every industry, thousands of jobs are at stake.
– Check out Resident Advisor’s article “Coronavirus: How to help the electronic music community.”
– Working freelance or having a profession built on nightlife or another area hit hard, the effects are personal, financial and disheartening. Offer your encouragement, empathy and solidarity with those around you in a similar boat. Make an effort to attend postponed events when the time rolls around (within your financial means and physical/mental capabilities of course).
– Use the internet for the better, instead of allowing mindless scrolling to become your dominant narrative. Like, comment, encourage, feedback, and share the work and efforts of other artists.
– Prepare yourself for the future. Educate and read up on Give Us the Night, preparing to continue the push for improved nighttime economy, extended licensing hours, a Night Mayor, prevention of club closures, all of which are now more essential than ever. The nighttime economy can help rebuild Ireland once it stabilises, creating jobs and opportunities for artists and more.
We are all faced with newfound anxieties, concerns and uncertainty. Thoughts, compassion and strength to those artists, production crews, producers and promoters hit by the closing of cultural institutions and spaces. Public health and safety come first, and as we are all affected in some way, please keep those most vulnerable in mind and in action. As society groups together for the greater good, we can hope that when the hardship passes that good fortune will come back around and that we can rebuild the culture we have worked so hard to create over the years. Support, assistance and kindness will go a long way.
There is light shining in unstable times as we are breaking and rebuilding together. Gyms are live-streaming classes. Yoga teachers are uploading meditations. Artist relief funds are popping up around the globe, while closed museums have enabled virtual tours. Videos of Italian citizens singing across their balconies, and DJs playing upbeat music to boost morale have gone viral. Musicians are live streaming performances (as is Marc Rebillet), and staff at The Irish Times, Vice and Vox media are working hard from home. Defected Records and Ultra Music Festival (subscription-based) are hosting virtual festivals this Friday. Clubcommission Berlin and Reclaim Club Culture are launching a “digital club” on Wednesday, March 18th at 7 pm. Moog and Korg have released synthesiser apps for free. Creativity, music, beauty and art get us through some tumultuous changes. They will have their time again on a larger scale, but for now, we can utilise what we’ve got.
Feature photo – Bang Bang