The Irish government reacted fast and with a good awareness of the impact on the private sector in Ireland. More than 230,000 people applied for the Covid19 emergency payment of 350 euro per week for 12 weeks. Most artists were eligible for the emergency payment and the Arts Council honoured any contracts affected by the lockdown itself.
Artists’ responses vary from silence to very active and innovative. Sharing full length recordings of their work online or engaging in youtube tv channels and storytelling. Some are using social media to interact with a new audience and to choose which favourites they want to see. Some are providing interesting art and creativity ideas for children to engage with at home. We all accept that not having the audience present is a huge challenge for performing artists, not least when that energy comes from an audience of children or young people, but we are also, as artists, continuously trying to communicate in a new reality and for some, this is easier than for others.
Some examples of our members’ responses are here :
www.branar.ie (full length performances)
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChADXidNeoFLCs5moAE2ByA TradoodleTV (youtube) live music and storytelling for young audiences
www.baboro.ie (supporting the sharing of artists’ activities during cover 19)
Acting Up! Early Years Arts (stories and songs to shake to for 0-3’s) (https://www.facebook.com/308558366129/videos/651291102331708)
https://ark.ie/projects/the-ark-at-home The Ark, Dublin (The Ark@Home creative events)
We have been very inspired by the support offered by venues and other larger organisations in the immediate aftermath of the closure announcements. Although not exclusively TYA, our artists’ community was also eligible to apply for support from funds such as that opened by the Civic Theatre in Tallaght. This is the overarching response to the crisis as the weeks go by. Many punters have even asked not to be refunded for their cancelled tickets, but to use the money as a donation to the theatre in the future.
The Civic Theatre’s own initiative raised 15,000 euro almost overnight. Artists could apply for 500 euros each during the first week of the emergency..
Another venue that has risen to the challenge is the Axis theatre in Ballymun, where bursaries to the value of 20,000 euros are on offer to artists (some aged 16-22 yrs) to begin their work virtually and continue in-house later in the year. www.axisballymun.ie.
Our own TYAI has become very active in recent months and one of the most successful initiatives has been the workshop series run by members themselves for other and new members. It generated a great interest. Workshops ranged from How to Start A Play For Young Audiences to Theatre Lovett’ s Masterclass on working for a young audience. The popularity of these events this past year means that our list of membership has risen considerably and we are in a position to disseminate information on these schemes at this time to a wide range of artists in the sector.
First and foremost TYAI is providing a platform of support for the members. A message of solidarity was sent immediately by our chairperson recognising the plight of many of the artists in the sector and offering a contact point for anyone struggling to come to terms with the situation. The centre also continues to plan for the future, albeit a changed one, through its active committee. Communication is still possible through emails, zoom etc.
In the letter to membership, there was also very practical information on funding resources for Irish artists in the crisis, and an idea was shared that the National Campaign for The Arts in Ireland could be contacted to lobby on behalf of the arts community at the onset of the crisis. Also to rethink its strategy into the future together.
Although not directly linked to the TYA sector, many online musical projects have been piloted in an attempt to raise the spirits of the Irish nation. Some of the pieces are quite challenging and require practice and knowledge of music, some less so and are more improvisational…. (www.singireland.ie, www.hawkswelltheatre.com)
Ireland is a community in itself and we are doing our best to support each other, to look out for each other and to see this time as a challenge, but one that we may overcome if we work together. This is exactly the message from the Irish National Centre and we are proud to be able to contribute to the wellbeing of all the members of the theatre for young audiences’ family during this emergency.