This year, with pandemic related emergency funding, the Arts Council’s budget is €100 Million Euros. The largest in the history of government funding of the arts in Ireland. New funding streams are being created, but they won’t serve all artists. That’s not the purpose of the arts council funding the arts. Receiving funding is not a right. Not every project is right for the time. Not every artist is right for the project. But artists do need to survive. And for some, their art is the only way to do so.
There are a lot of conversations that need to be had. Does government policy need to change to give artists a chance to survive? Does public perception of the arts need to change? Or do artists need to step up? One thing is very true: The term starving artist is real. With concerns about the depreciating P. U. P. and the stall in the phased reopening of the country, the majority of artists are not quite sure when and if they will get back to work.
Creating is a way of life that must be respected as a valid way to make a living, yet some artists will never be able to buy a house or may struggle to put food on the table, not just now, but throughout their lives. Theatre makers will work two or more jobs to survive and to save a bit to produce their next piece of work. Others will and have scrounged the 350 euro per week P.U.P. to re-invest it into their craft. For some, creation IS survival.
Tonight’s show was not meant to be comprehensive. It can’t be. There are too many conversations to be had. The sector was broken long before Covid-19. There is a real fear that in reopening our theatres and getting back to work, the creatively starved artists and arts workers will accept anything just to get back to get back to the room. This can do more harm than good. Behind the word funding are very real concerns: rent to be paid, empty cupboards, hospital bills, children that need to be clothed, the lack of workers rights, the absence of holiday time, the very real fact that most artists and arts workers do not earn a livable wage. These are conversations that need to be had – Now, before we’re back into the daily routine of making theatre and running from project to project.
We tried to bring forward a variety of ideas tonight. Some popular, some unpopular. But as always, we want to get some conversations started. It’s not only about the arts council budget, it’s also about creating a sector where artists and arts workers can not just survive, but thrive.