I welcome this opportunity to update Deputies on the impact of Covid-19 on the arts and culture sector and my Department’s response. We have been confronted with a public health emergency and have sought to slow the spread of the virus and protect the health of our people, to do what is best and seek the common good. The public health measures have had an unprecedented impact on our cultural life. Going to a concert or theatre or visiting a museum are all vital to our well-being but this has been stopped as a result of Covid-19. This reduction in the access to culture has had an enormous effect on our artists, arts practitioners and all arts and cultural workers.
Over the past ten weeks, my Department has focused on contributing to the national effort by ensuring compliance with public health measures and support for the health and well-being initiatives. We have been engaging with all stakeholders, including our national cultural institutions, artists, arts and cultural organisations, to assess and measure the impacts of Covid-19 and we have brought forward measures to ensure the continuity of cultural services. Since the publication of the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business, we have been working with stakeholders to implement the roadmap and put in place all necessary public health measures to facilitate a gradual reopening of services to the public.
I want to focus today on the impacts of the crisis on the cultural sector. On 12 March, we took the necessary decision, on the advice of the National Public Health Emergency Team, NPHET, to close our cultural institutions to the public and to advise that gatherings of people should be restricted and physical distancing rules observed. From that date, all performances were sharply curtailed and live production of films in Ireland ceased. On 24 March, we announced that all theatres, libraries and similar venues were to close and that all indoor and outdoor events of any size were not to take place. From that date, it has not been possible to undertake any cultural activity based on the collective gathering of people and many summer festivals that have been a fixture of our national life have been postponed or cancelled.
The impact of these public health measures has been unprecedented. Many of the challenges are being addressed through economy and society-wide income support and liquidity measures, and others through actions taken by my Department. The impact on the not-for-profit cultural sector has been severe. This sector includes Arts Council funded national organisations, theatres, cultural centres, festivals and performing groups, our national cultural institutions and individual artists and cultural workers. They are our national cultural infrastructure.
The largest cultural programme affected has been Galway 2020. I acknowledge the huge amount of work undertaken by the board and team at Galway 2020, artists, cultural workers and the whole community. Unfortunately, the programme has been necessarily scaled back. I have assured Galway 2020 that remaining funding from my Department for the European Capital of Culture will be made available for projects that can be completed later this year or early next year.
This pattern is reflected across the cultural sector. Successive surveys undertaken by the Arts Council show dramatic losses in audience numbers and box office receipts following cancellations and postponements. Some 19,000 days of paid work were lost by the end of April. We estimate that 2.4 million people lost out on artistic experiences and €6.4 million in estimated income will be lost by the end of May.
We are all aware that 1.1 million people’s incomes are now supported by the State, through the Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment, PUP, the temporary wage subsidy scheme or payments made to those on the live register. Statistics from The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection indicate that there were 14,000 people in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector receiving the pandemic unemployment payment at the start of May. To put that in context, in 2019, some 54,000 people, on average, were recorded as employed in this sector in the Central Statistics Office's labour force survey. Covid-19 has also impacted on those working in the audiovisual sector. There are currently almost 5,200 people previously employed in film and television production, sound recording and music publishing activities who are now receiving the PUP. This is a significant proportion of those employed in that sector, according to the CSO. Clearly, this Government measure is providing vital support to our artists, arts practitioners and those working in the audiovisual sector. As we are all aware, given the nature of cultural work, the employment status of cultural and audiovisual workers can be complex. The dedicated help desk my Department has established to answer all queries from cultural workers on the available supports has been providing valuable support and advice.
My Department has worked with the Arts Council, Screen Ireland and other stakeholders on measures to sustain our cultural infrastructure, support artists and arts practitioners and ensure the ongoing provision of cultural services. I made sure that we acted early in this regard. First, following a meeting I convened on 12 March with the Arts Council, the national cultural institutions and Screen Ireland, the Arts Council announced a series of immediate measures, including an undertaking to honour all funding commitments made to organisations and allow grantees to draw down up to 90% of their funding commitment. On 18 March, Screen Ireland announced a set of measures, including provision of 90% funding on all development loans, an extension of development production loans, the provision of additional marketing and distribution support for Irish television releases, and continuing support for skills development opportunities. To facilitate this, my Department advanced payment of the annual allocation to the Arts Council. These measures were taken to ensure grantees could continue to operate and meet their financial commitments, particularly to individual artists. The measures provided much needed support to arts and cultural organisations and, more importantly, those working in the sector.
Second, I announced measures on 3 April to enable artists and cultural workers to share their work through alternative channels. The new measures included the Arts Council’s Covid-19 crisis response award, and the Ireland Performs grant from Culture Ireland and Facebook Ireland. The Covid-19 crisis response award of €3,000 per grantee supports the creation and dissemination of new artistic work for the public benefit and was jointly funded by the Arts Council and my Department. I understand the council received over 900 applications, proving the scheme's extreme popularity. In fact, it was almost three times oversubscribed.
Ireland Performs provides each artist with a grant of €1,000 to enable the live presentation of his or her work on online platforms. As of last Friday, 75 artists have performed to audiences of approximately 450,000 worldwide. I acknowledge the extraordinary standard of performances under the programme, which have been uplifting for many in recent weeks. Highlight performances of the initiative to date include Cormac Begley's performance from his vintage campervan close to his home on the Dingle Peninsula, which has garnered almost 49,000 views so far, and Aoife Scott's performance from her garden shed, which has had more than 31,000 views. Given this success, I have increased the funding available to support an extra 20 performances, with the option of extending the scheme further in the future.
My Department is continuing to partner with RTÉ, TG4 and others to bring a broad range of cultural and Irish language programming to the public. This includes the Courage project, which has been delivering performances from artists to the public since 23 April.
The Government's Creative Ireland programme is working with colleagues across Departments, including in the Healthy Ireland programme, on the #InThisTogether initiative to promote physical and mental well-being during this emergency.
As part of the initiative, my Department and RTÉ will bring Cruinniú na nÓg, the national day of free creative activities for children and young people, online for 2020.
Our national cultural institutions are providing many existing and new services online, from the creation of new online galleries to the Abbey Theatre's acclaimed Dear Ireland project. On 16 April, Screen Ireland announced further initiatives, including an expansion of the strategic slate development fund, an additional €1 million in enhanced development supports across feature film, television and animation, a new creative concept development scheme to be made available to Irish directors and writers and additional funding for skills development. These measures will ensure that skills are retained and developed and that there is a pipeline of future productions. All of these measures have supported our cultural services from within existing allocations. The Government is providing significant income and liquidity supports across all sectors, rather than directing them at any one particular sector.
I emphasise that, in respect of the roadmap, it is clear that facilities may only open if they can maintain physical distancing and these indicative dates are dependent on three-week reviews and, of course, the advice of NPHET. We know that it is hoped that museums and galleries will open in phase 4 from Monday, 20 July and theatres and cinemas will open later in phase five from Monday, 10 August. I would like to extend my appreciation to all of those working in the cultural sector during this difficult time.