New public health measures announced: The Path Ahead
Yesterday’s announcements from the Taoiseach and Minister Martin brought in the much anticipated easing of certain restrictions and a welcome vaccine bonus for home and family visitors. Most of these easements had been well rehearsed with post 10 May appointments already snapped up. This re-opening of business, society and hospitality in May and June is positive and let’s hope that we enjoy these freedoms safely.
The Path to June
We’re all too familiar with figuring out what activities are possible at what level of The Path Ahead plan. However, yesterday’s announcement set aside detailed Level 1-5 guidance for various activities in favour of what we can do from May 4, 10, 17 and June 2 and 7. While galleries, museums and other cultural attractions can open from May 10, re-opening of cinemas, theatres and arts centres won’t happen until later in June, subject to the prevailing public health advice and conditions. This reopening plan, however contingent on a positive public health situation, is certainly a welcome development. Yet the approach falls outside of the familiar Levels 1-5 approach with all of the guidance and legislation currently applicable to the performing arts sector predicated on that Level 1-5 framework.
Yesterday’s announcement confirmed that one ‘higher-risk’ activity that will be considered at the end of June for later in the year is mass gatherings/events (including spectators) indoors and outdoors. The other key step for our sector is the development of proposals on the holding of a limited number of pilot live events for arts, culture, sport and live entertainment (indoor and outdoor) and using these to inform the safe reopening of these activities and events when the public health situation allows. It concluded that preparation for the safe reopening of cinemas and theatres in June subject to public health advice is ongoing.
It was heartening to hear Minister Martin confirm these next steps: These are just the first steps in our plan for reopening. I am delighted to confirm that we are looking at the safe reopening of cinemas and theatres in June. Furthermore, Cabinet today also agreed that my Department, along with the Department of Health and the Department of the Taoiseach, will prepare proposals on the holding of a limited number of pilot large events for sport and music, including both indoor and outdoor.
What now for artists, production companies, theatres and arts centres?
Artists and production companies working in arts centres and theatres
Current guidance lags behind the Minister’s announcement and intentions. For artists and production companies, there’s no change as yet to the broadcast-only condition attached to developing, creating, producing, rehearsing and performing work in arts centres and theatres. Theatre Forum along with the NCFA and other arts organisations will continue to work with the Department to update the relevant guidance to open arts centres and theatres as workplaces from mid-May for artists in residence, workshops, development, production, rehearsals and live performance in addition to recording and streaming for broadcast. This is essential to rehearse the work being presented at summer festivals, outdoors and on the country’s stages.
Work is already underway to pilot a series of arts events in theatres and arts centres with small audiences. The pilot approach referenced by the Minister, initiated by the Arts Council and supported by the Department, is a careful and phased approach to test conditions in a variety of theatres with different productions and audience capacities. The pilot events should usefully inform the sector’s reopening plan.
Safe reopening of theatres and arts centres (and cinemas)
Reopening will require adaptation. The Theatre Forum guidelines for Arts Centres and Creating Work are still the relevant ones. We’ll keep you posted on any changes to these and other guidelines.
The Path to Reopening
Lockdown and restrictions were debilitating but offered certainty. Reopening is fraught with uncertainty.
We know that our sector’s reopening will be a partial one and it will take time for work and audiences to return. This means Government support for artists and arts organisations should continue and Theatre Forum wholeheartedly supports the NCFA in asking the Minister to ensure that PUP and EWSS arrangements for the arts, culture and live entertainment sectors will be maintained at current levels until we open at full capacity. It’s the least we should do to support artists and arts workers through the coming reopening months.
We will keep in touch and thanks so much for all your support!
Anna & Irma