Live events industry calls for indicative dates for reopening

The industry is one of few who've been unable to operate since the onset of the pandemic. Credit: UTV

The live events industry is calling on the Stormont Executive for clarity as they look ahead to reopening.

The industry is one of few who've been unable to operate since the onset of the pandemic last March.

Mass gatherings are on hold due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, halting music gigs, festivals, theatre performances, cultural celebrations and more – putting thousands of jobs at risk.

But, amid the crisis now facing the live events industry, many people have been unable to work since March and are facing uncertainty about when events may return.

Business leaders say the industry needs to plan ahead, and are calling on the Executive to clarify when they'll be able to reopen.

The Executive published its Pathway Out Of Restrictions blueprint earlier this month.

Lyndsey McDougall, the lead singer of Belfast-based band 'New Pagans', says it was a concerning, and often times scary, situation.

"My partner and I are both in New Pagans, and we've had to leave our home in Belfast and move in with my parents.

"A lot of my friends have retrained and left this industry - I don't know whether those people are going to come back.

"I think we've realised how important live music and events are.

"The government needs to sit down with the people that run these places and find out what they need to make this roadmap to recovery work."

Many in the sector have relied on financial support to stay afloat amid the uncertainty of the past twelve months, and once large gatherings were outlawed and venues shut their doors, those who earn their living in this sector were forced to adapt.

Ciaran Smyth, owner of Belfast venue Voodoo, says while business owners understand why a timeframe for reopening hasn't been published, businesses need time to plan.

"The whole thing was a black hole to me and I was frankly quite distressed when this all happened.

"The thing that has now turned it for us is an offer we received from the Arts Council.

"It's no way of covering everything, but it's a darn good help, and I can now see the bottom of the hole.

"We will try and do some sort of open air stuff, but we will have to bring it back because this city needs live music."

"There's no dates - which we knew was going to happen.

Professionals behind the scenes have also struggled with the uncertainty of the past year.

Marco Landi, a sound engineer from Dungannon, says his income was decimated once lockdown came into force.

"I've lost my entire livelihood, whenever the first lockdown came in March, consistently and gradually I was losing dates.

"It can be frustrating at times, you can feel hopeless at times as well.

"The arts and this industry bring in so much for the country.

Those in the industry remain hopeful that lockdown has prompted people to appreciate the value of live music and events, and that going forward the public will support local artists, venues, and those in the sector.