Business of Joint Committee

Good afternoon everyone. This is my first time to chair the committee as Vice Chairman and I am delighted to get the opportunity and privilege to do so. We have received apologies from the Chairperson, Deputy Smyth and from Deputy Munster. I remind members and witnesses to turn off their mobile phones or to switch them to flight mode as they interfere with the sound system and make it difficult for the parliamentary reporters to report the meeting. Television and web streaming will also be adversely affected.

On behalf of the committee, I welcome Ms Angela Dorgan from the National Campaign for the Arts, NCFA, along with her two colleagues from its steering group, Mr. Cian O’Brien and Ms Liv O’Donoghue, who will be joining the team remotely via MS Teams.

I invite Ms Dorgan to make an opening statement which will be followed by a discussion with members and the committee. Ms Dorgan will note that the committee may publish the opening statement on its website following the meeting.

Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.

Witnesses are reminded that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. If they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter, that direction must be respected. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.

Ms Angela Dorgan

Before I begin with my opening statement, I thank the committee for its support. Yesterday's budget was a good day for the arts. I acknowledge that the NCFA did not do it alone. All committee members and their parties have been incredibly supportive of the NCFA in addressing the dire needs of the arts sector since the pandemic started. I wanted to put a big thank you from us and the 54,000 people we represent on the record.

The NCFA represents more than 54,000 artists, arts workers and arts organisations who make up Ireland’s internationally acclaimed innovative and intelligent arts ecosystem. We represent makers, organisations, theatre companies, producers, colleges, venues, arts centres, galleries and publishers. The NCFA speaks and plans for both the tip of the iceberg and the many crucial layers of ice that lift that tip out of the water.

The Covid-19 crisis has created profound challenges for the arts, culture and live events sector which have compounded years of underinvestment. Throughout 2020 the NCFA has engaged in cross-sectorial consultation with artists and arts workers, as well as the resource organisations which work with them. On 27 May, the NCFA published a national recovery plan for the arts containing 13 actions essential for survival and recovery.

According to a report by consultants, EY, completed on behalf of the Arts Council, published last weekend, the recession faced by the arts and culture sector will be -55% compared to -11% in the economy overall. Data currently available predicts that employment levels in the arts and culture sector will not return to 2019 levels until 2025. Analysis by the ESRI shows how value added in the arts, entertainment and recreation sectors collapsed by 72%, compared with an average decline of 29% across the rest of the EU.

The arts, culture and events sector is hardest hit because it is public facing, seasonal and composed mostly of SMEs and freelance workers. In June and July, the additional investments by the Government were vital in stemming the losses faced by many artists, arts workers and arts organisations. However, the sector remains in crisis. This investment represented a positive first step in recognising the value of our arts community. Yesterday's budget measures for the arts should also be included in those positive steps.

After positive moments of reopening and re-engagement with our audiences, however, the return to level 3 restrictions means all arts and culture organisations are now closed. Social distancing measures will continue to mean that events and gatherings are simply not viable. These restrictions remain regardless at which level of the living with Covid plan we are. EY predicts that recovery will take two years or longer depending on the evolution of the virus.

The publication of the report, Survive, Adapt, Renew, by the Arts Council’s Covid-19 expert advisory group, of which the NCFA was a member, and the ongoing work of the arts and culture recovery task force are welcome.

The NCFA's pre-budget submission for 2021 called for the Government to ensure artists and arts workers are supported through the pandemic unemployment payment, PUP, and employment wage subsidy scheme until mass gatherings are permitted again and cultural events can take place at full capacity; ensure that the rate of the PUP returns to €350 for the arts and events sector; increase funding to the Arts Council to €135 million in 2021 with a view to at least doubling investment in the Arts Council by 2025; prioritise and expedite the trial for universal basic income, outlined in the programme for Government, as well as to develop a universal basic income model for all citizens over the lifetime of the Government; and classify local authority arts spending as a mandatory requirement.

The NCFA supports the call to commission a review of taxation practice as it relates to the arts. We encourage total insurance reform and call for the transposition of the European Union’s directive on copyright for the Digital Single Market into national law by June 2021.

We recognise that the Government is taking the appropriate steps to protect public health and it has acknowledged the significant challenges faced by the arts and culture sector as a result of these measures.

The arts have provided respite and solidarity for adults and children across the island during the past eight months of the crisis. Never has it been more evident that all our citizens lose out when artists can no longer produce their work.

We would like to end with a quote from the EY report on the arts:

The arts could act during the crisis as a civic force field enriching our cultural lives. It provides joy and inspiration; it helps to energise us; it is a gateway for people to experience our society and all it has to offer. Covid-19 has brought the importance and value of community into focus and in many ways the arts sector is synonymous with community as a place and an expression of positivity. For this reason ... it should be at the heart of our recovery strategy.

I thank Ms Dorgan for her opening statement. I call on Senator Malcolm Byrne.

I thank Ms Dorgan and her team in the NCFA for their work, as well as arts organisations over this difficult period. The arts organisations, along with community and sports groups, are taking us through this period. We will come through it.

The role of the arts task force, established by the Minister, Deputy Catherine Martin, is to see us through this period. One of the challenges, however, is the big picture vision and how will the arts rebuild Ireland. Crucial to that is the role of the arts and entertainment industries in our local communities. I am referring to professional, amateur and voluntary organisations. What more can we do to support venues, as many of them are under pressure? The issue of insurance reform would have been high on the NCFA's agenda.

I know the Irish Street Arts, Circus & Spectacle Network, ISACS, and others have been quite keen to push that. Regarding the immediate priorities and stuff this committee might look at in the area, Ms Dorgan mentioned the transposition of the EU directive, and I ask her to comment on that.

We need to look at the aim of getting support for individual artists and so on in the broader entertainment industry. Obviously, many musicians and others are out of work or with minimum levels of work. Some of the changes to the PUP announced yesterday are positive. What more can be done to support those?

Ms Angela Dorgan

I will start with the Senator's last question and work back. I might just leave PUP because many people might have questions on that, and it is a very specific aspect that remains important for freelance workers. If members will pardon the pun, this is a gig economy. Specifically, for musicians and the entertainment sector yesterday's budget was really welcome with the €50 million for small venues and larger venues as well as the SME supports. Not just in the response of the Minister, Deputy Catherine Martin, but also in the whole-of-government response to this sector, there are elements that will help those individuals. The housing policy will make paying rent more feasible. Specifically, those in the music sector will benefit from the €50 million for venues because they are aimed at performances and getting event workers, sound engineers, stagehands etc. back to work in the venue.

Separately from that, my company, First Music Contact, is administering the music industry stimulus package for the Department and we have judges looking at a significant number of applications - nearly 1,800 across the three schemes. We have provided money to fund writing camps, recording EPs, singles and albums, and then releasing albums. Normally musicians would use their fees from festivals and other bookings towards those kinds of activities to further their career development. The music industry stimulus package, the Minister, Deputy Martin, announced in July is answering some of those alongside that live element. From my reading of the budget, both of those will also be allowed for in 2021. That will also get to artists and individual events workers in that sector.

Local activity is an interesting one. As the Senator acknowledged, the NCFA represents 54,000 individuals and organisations. Those organisations in their communities had an all-of-community response to the crisis. The arts infrastructure in those communities, including the local arts officers, need to be supported. They need to have local authority funding for the arts protected against difficult times. Some of the decisions in the budget yesterday, including providing money back into the local authorities to replace the lost income from the waived commercial rates will really help with that. It will help individual artists and I am sure it will also help the coffers of local authorities.

The EU directive being signed into law in June is really important. Many musicians and anybody representing their art and copyright digitally now stands to make more income from them, but the EU directive will make that income larger. All the member states have signed up to it. The Government has until June 2021 to sign that into law. That will make a significant difference on a day-to-day basis to the moneys these musicians and artists with copyright can collect from the large tech companies from their music and stuff being online. Again, that drives income.

Performance recording and releasing work stimulates more work. The Arts Council giving funding to organisations to pivot to digital output means that while artists may not be able to do a ticketed event in a venue, they may be able to do some ticketed events behind a paywall. A number of organisations, including mine, have done that recently, the theatre festival and the fringe festival being two other noticeable events in this part of the year.

Local arts activity is very important for the three layers of what matters in the arts. It is the artist, the arts worker and the arts organisation, but it also is the audience. We are often asked what arts are for. The answer is always, "Everything and everyone." I think it was more than demonstrated during the pandemic that, without knowing it, that cog turned in all our minds, reminding us just how valuable the arts are.

It is interesting to note that many artists are returning home. Some people were stuck back in Cork - I think that is the best thing that could happen to someone - and stuck back in their own cities and counties or isolated there. They have stayed there and will recontribute to local activity. However, the arts centre, the venue, the activity, the resource organisation, the choir, the band and other activities that were able to flourish locally need to be supported to remain. The individuals in them through PUP and the organisations which drive that activity and create those opportunities for engagement also need to be funded. It was great to see Creative Ireland get an extra €3 million in yesterday's budget because it has wonderful programmes for community and local engagement for the arts.

I ask the committee to support anything that comes from the task force. I am on the task force on behalf of the NCFA and so unfortunately cannot say much about it because we agreed to that before we entered into it. I am confident that what the NCFA has asked for, as presented to the committee today, will turn up in different parts as well as other needs from the wider sector outside the NCFA, like audiovisual and events. It is really representative. I have been very impressed by the collegiality in that task force and it is well put together. Without commenting on it, because I cannot, I encourage members of the committee to support anything coming out of it.

Insurance reform has a particular impact on the arts sector. Can this committee explore specific measures?

Ms Angela Dorgan

I cannot talk about one. I am on two subcommittees of the task force. Insurance is not one of them, but there is a subcommittee that is considering insurance. I do not want to step outside my boundaries. Insurance reform is very important to the NCFA, so maybe one of my colleagues-----

One of Ms Dorgan's colleagues might like to comment. Shortly after that task force presents its report to the Minister, we might ask the task force to make a presentation to this committee to discuss it. I agree with Ms Dorgan about its importance.

Mr. Cian O'Brien

I apologise. We are having some technical issues in the room meaning that Ms O'Donoghue and I are going to be in a bubble now - for the rest of the pandemic. We are just joining one.

We welcomed yesterday the establishment of a ministerial group on insurance reform to be chaired by the Tánaiste. In our pre-budget submission - colleagues of ours have spoken about this - we advocated for insurance reform. A particularly clear solution would be the establishment of a State insurance scheme by IPB Insurance for the those in the arts and culture sector who are in receipt of State funding. The artists who operate small companies in particular areas often struggle to get insurance cover. Something like that would make a major difference. That particularly impacts people who work in the circus and street artist sectors and people working in some areas of dance. Other areas of general insurance reform could be very positive. The establishment of a State insurance scheme would have a very positive impact on the sector.

I thank the representatives of the National Campaign for the Arts for appearing before the committee. The poverty crisis among artists and cultural and creative workers is nothing new, nor is it an employment or jobs issue.

We give State support to the arts because there is a market failure and artists exist on commissions, short-term work, contracts, shares of fluctuating box office receipts, gallery sales and, when they are lucky, royalty payments from their work.

My question is about the pandemic unemployment payment and the employment wage subsidy scheme. Is Ms Dorgan concerned about the failure to address the flaws in the EWSS to ensure the scheme delivers for workers, businesses and the affected sectors, including the arts sector? Is that a significant concern for the National Campaign for the Arts?

Ms Angela Dorgan

The pandemic unemployment payment in its entirety and, secondarily, the employment subsidy scheme are of huge concern. Ms O'Donoghue is the PUP expert in our gang of eight so she will outline the work she has done in that area.

Ms Liv O'Donoghue

As the Senator mentioned, precarity in the arts is not new. We have been experiencing precarity in the arts since long before this crisis. What the crisis has done is exacerbate it. So far, the PUP has been an extraordinary support and a real boon for the sector to keep people surviving. There are major concerns, however, about where we are going next with it. Certainly, the tiered payment levels are causing an awful lot of stress and concern within the sector. Many people are struggling to survive. We have a high cost of living in Ireland. For those who are struggling already, it has become a real struggle and they are concerned about whether they will be able to pay their rent or mortgage or support their families. A large number of our members contact us regularly and they are very concerned about what will happen next, particularly when the payment is reduced and, ultimately, phased out completely in April 2021. As we are aware, this virus will continue for some time, with projections showing it will be here until the end of next year, if not longer. How do we continue to support artists and arts workers and, essentially, keep them out of poverty? That is a huge concern.

Artists tick all the boxes on the 11 grounds we use to measure poverty. Report after report from the Theatre Forum, Visual Artists Ireland, the Arts Council, etc., indicates artists are earning less than €12,000 per year. Reversing the cuts to the PUP was our priority in the budget and it is disappointing that has not happened.

It follows that we must protect the primary resource of the industry, namely, the artist. I know artists who got out of Dublin straightaway as their leases were coming to an end. It will probably happen anyway but is it time to consider a better geographical spread when disbursing the Arts Council's budget? Some local authorities spend a couple of cents per head of population on their arts budget. There is, therefore, a democratic deficit arising from how we spend money on the arts across the State. How would the witnesses like the Arts Council's additional money to be spent? Can we ever go back to allocations of less than €100 million?

Ms Angela Dorgan

I will respond to the latter part of the Senator's contribution. As far as we are concerned, we can never go back to a budget of less than €130 million. As the Senator acknowledged, it was death by a thousand cuts in the sector before we the pandemic. The arm's length principle operating in the arts sector means that none of us can decide how the Arts Council spends its money. I am encouraged that the Arts Council advisory group, on which we sat as the precursor to the task force, will look at how it delineates money provided as bursaries to artists and survival grants to organisations. It is important to note the organisations funded by the Arts Council create work and income opportunities for individuals as well. That trickles down but also takes time.

The wider conversation, especially now with people moving back to counties, is to better fund the local authorities. How the Arts Council delineates its money and plans to help the sector survive and thrive is in its plan, which is available for everybody to look at. In terms of what more we can do, reinstating the €350 pandemic unemployment payment rate is the primary goal for events and arts workers, for all individuals. We must remember that the people on whose behalf we are trying to work are individuals whose lived experience is one of daily fear. We are having Zoom calls with 500 people who are experiencing that fear. We feel that and I know members at local level have all felt it as well. We must expedite support for those individual lived experiences because we cannot just live through the pandemic. We must have a life in it. Life cannot stop. It is for the mental health of the nation. That is what the arts will try to do and it behoves us to support the artists first so they continue to work. Many of the responses we received indicated that the €350 pandemic unemployment payment meant that people were not in a panic every day. The PUP is the priority.

The second layer is always the need for more funding. Members will all agree that any investment in the arts is well spent. It also makes sense economically because every euro invested in the arts makes its way back to the Exchequer in VAT, rent, PAYE and all of that. That applies more to the arts than to most other industries. It also makes economic sense to keep the pandemic unemployment payment at €350 because people can then spend it on butter, bread, eggs and rent. They have to survive. If we do not protect our individual lived experience artists, performers and makers, art-making itself will constrict.

The other major fear of the NCFA and the sector in its entirety is that we have no idea how much flight from the arts there will be or if there will be an arts sector after this pandemic if we do not react swiftly to support these individuals.

I will finish on this. I recognise the trauma and that, having struggled through five years of austerity to this point, people were clinging on for dear life.

I wish the Vice Chairman well in his role today. I welcome our guests and thank them for outlining the position as they see it. I want to try to understand. Unless one lives in a person's shoes, one cannot understand the sheer misery and sense of fear and hopelessness of our artists across the board and the impact that has on the lives of ordinary people who value all the artists, music, song, dance, culture, venues and everything else. It is a complex situation.

I have been contacted by many musicians. This question is not to Ms Dorgan personally. Who exactly does the NCFA represent? I am aware that Ms Dorgan explained that but people think they are not being represented on the ground. I will explain later. Who does Ms Dorgan believe will be the biggest casualty? I know there are many casualties and that is probably an unfair question. We are all casualties, I suppose.

The funding of €130 million and then €50 million provided for artists is substantial and I am delighted with it. The issue is the vehicles and distribution methods for getting that to the people who need it, namely, the man or woman in the van and the entertainer with the expensive equipment who does cabaret in pubs, that side of things. These people are treated mercilessly by the banks. I am glad there is a Cabinet sub-committee to deal with insurance reform but what is missing is something to deal with the banks. The moratorium on mortgages has ended and many people are not sleeping at night. They are sick with fear. Their houses are mortgaged and their vans must have a national car test certificate and safe transport certificate. Much of the equipment value is on loans and hire purchase or whatever. Many of them have a lien against their house covering their vans and equipment. There is also back-up lighting and sound engineers. There is a great deal of detail in all of that.

The money announced is great but will it get down to individuals? People across the country fear it may not but it needs to. I have received a short note. The person who wrote it has also written to our Chairperson, Deputy Smyth, whom I congratulate. This person wrote on behalf of Screen Producers Ireland, SPI, with regard to the work of the committee and seeks a meeting to discuss further works. Other people and groups will have to come before the committee.

We also need to engage with the dance schools. Perhaps we can do so at a later meeting. I have letters from Alison Cronin and from some dance schools. I have to declare an interest in this matter. My niece runs Club Rince Nic Craith, the McGrath School of Irish Dance. It wants to be included because it cannot understand the situation. It abided by all the rules and made the required preparations in its studios or halls. It has now been closed twice and cannot understand why. A national school can have 30 kids in a classroom. That is great but dancing is part of education. It might be as part of a musical or whatever. It could be any kind of dance, from traditional to modern and anywhere in between.

Let us take, for example, Brú Ború in Cashel. It is run by Comhaltas and a former Senator was involved in it. It needs to be embraced and it needs engagement. Its classes usually cater for numbers lower than one would find in a classroom. Why is it being singled out for unfair treatment? We must try to educate in a holistic way. Musical talent must be exploited. People need that; it is very good for us. Some students are more interested in it. They have lost all their scores, réiteoirí, Comhaltas events and fleadhanna this year. Everything has been taken from them. They need to be back in tuition. The dance teachers also need to be supported. They cannot understand this. These dance schools were only allowed to operate with pods of six when they were open and they are now closed completely while the schools are open. They also need to be supported. Our guests will understand where I am coming from, although it is perhaps not fair to ask them about it today.

We will be dealing with correspondence in our private session. I will make a record of the issue.

I thank the Vice Chairman. I was asked to raise these issues. Those people are concerned. This committee is the place to tease out such issues to ensure that the funding percolates down to those people, the individual self-employed artists. The pandemic unemployment payment, PUP, must also be restored and maintained. These people are worried about what is going to happen.

Ms Angela Dorgan

I can answer some of the Deputy's questions. I agree with him and will ask the National Public Health Emergency Team, NPHET, the exact same questions. I am sure many galleries and so on will as well. Why can the National Gallery of Ireland not open if Zara is open? Those questions are repeated over and over. We in the arts sector really appreciate that NPHET and the Department of Health have decisions to make. Nobody in the arts sector wants to put public health in danger.

Other organisations represent events companies. A number of organisations represent technical personnel. One such organisation, the Event Production Industry Covid-19 Working Group, EPIC, appeared before the Special Committee on Covid-19 Response with us. I understand that much of the €50 million announced in yesterday's budget is for that sector - the venues, the lighting and sound engineers, and the people who make their living in that previously commercial part of the sector. There is quite a substantial number of such people. The music industry stimulus package is also aimed at the commercial musicians who found themselves outside the scope of Arts Council or local arts office funding so I believe they are allowed for.

On a very brief reading yesterday, I saw some great SME supports of which many of those lighting and technical companies with overheads can avail. They will now get local rates reductions and freezes, for which the local authorities will be reimbursed. The employee wage subsidy scheme has been extended to the end of next year and a new scheme whereby companies that can show their VAT returns and income for this time last year can apply for up to €5,000 to support and retain their staff. Many of the small businesses in the broader entertainment sector were quite happy with what was achieved in yesterday's budget. With that extra €50 million, that sector got as much of an increase as the Arts Council did. The schemes are designed so that the money will make its way directly out to the exact people about whom the Deputy is talking.

The money is making its way out but the problem is the vehicle for getting it out. Many of these people about whom I have been speaking, the artists, have only the van beside their house, or maybe in a garage. They cannot avail of rates reductions because they do not have a rateable building. They are mobile. There are people in many other sectors in similar situations - milkmen, lorry operators and other one-man shows. They have been failed in this. If these people are over 66, which many of them are, they have been cut off from any payment. That whole cohort needs to be examined.

Ms Angela Dorgan

I agree.

We need to look at the funding vehicle, transparency and how these people will be able to get supports because, if they are not given support, beidh siad imithe, they will be gone and forgotten and it will be the nation's loss.

Ms Angela Dorgan

I agree.

These people provide great psychological support for people who are at home listening to radios or who go to shows.

Ms Angela Dorgan

I agree. They need to be supported.

I thank Ms Dorgan and the rest of the team for coming in to address us today. As she said herself, it took a pandemic to get cogs turning in people's heads as to how important the arts industry, events and live entertainment are to us. It certainly exacerbated the situation of artists with regard to low income but, if there is a silver lining to it, it put a national focus on the plight of artists not just now, but before the pandemic, with regard to low incomes. In her contribution, Ms Dorgan said that one of the most important things for us to work on, whether through the Department, the Arts Council or another body, is ensuring that there is an arts and events industry after the pandemic. We need to ensure that. Even from a regional perspective, I am from west Cork and know that the likes of Clonakilty, Skibbereen and even villages like Ballydehob thrive on music and arts-based festivals. Many of these festivals rely on sound engineers and musical groups doing gigs for next to nothing. They rely on the goodwill of the local arts community. That needs to be maintained in post-pandemic Ireland and that can only happen if we ensure the sector's survival.

I had the pleasure of seeing my first live gig in months down in west Cork when we were still at level 2. It was socially distanced and all above board. Hearing live music and harmonies again was absolutely incredible and reaffirmed how important it is. One really realises how much one misses festivals like the Clonakilty International Guitar Festival, my favourite weekend of the year because of the buzz it brings to the region, when it has to go online. Although the organisers made a valiant effort to replicate the festival, it was not the same. I am just reaffirming what Ms Dorgan has already said about the importance of protecting the sector.

My questions and comments relate to the PUP. I accept that it is requested and desired that it be reinstated to the full rate of €350. I genuinely believe the decision to allow people to take on intermittent work and to earn on top of the current payment was made, first and foremost, with the idea of allowing events and live industry workers to take on intermittent work in mind. That is obviously difficult when we are at level 3 but, should we go back to level 2, it will be much more of a possibility. I met with the Taoiseach and members of EPIC in Clonakilty a few months ago and the group's very first suggestion was that workers be allowed keep the full PUP while taking work when it was available. The feedback I have got from local sound engineers in west Cork is that is a very welcome move. What are Ms Dorgan's thoughts on it? I sense she feels it is not quite enough but I genuinely believe the decision was taken with the arts and events industry in mind so I would like to get her feedback as to how it might help the sector survive and get by until after the pandemic.

Ms Angela Dorgan

It is incredibly useful, important and welcome.

It means people can earn up to €480 on top of their payment over a month, which is incredibly useful. It brings people nearly to the PUP rate prior to the cut. For us, it would be amazing if it was €350 plus €480. There were up to 500 artists at our Zoom events and they said their activity was almost frozen. They were afraid to come off the PUP in case they did not get back on it, even if they got little spurts of work, such as a week at a festival, because they knew would they need support again and these events are so few and far between, with even online events being sporadic. We have to be fair. There has to be an opt-in element for artists and if we make an online event available, maybe some of them will not want to do it, and that is okay too.

That new addition is welcome, although it would have been amazing to have it on top of the €350 for the individual. I agree with the Deputy. There are so many nights that we would have done at De Barra's and in Leap, and that is where we cut our gig teeth. I am from Cork city but many buses went up and down to Leap. It is great that Sam McNicholl and all the people in De Barra's and Connolly's can now apply for funding to try to be a little more imaginative, although they will be restricted depending on whether we are in level 2, 3 or 4. There is an excitement in that as well and, as the Deputy said, when they start programming again, there will still have to be musicians who can afford to work in music.

All artists and musicians are used to living in the gig economy. However, we have to do better by them than a bit of a bursary here and a bit of social welfare there, while allowing them to earn up to a certain amount. We owe them more than that. With regard to the PUP staying at €350, some mechanisms are being looked at by the task force that could allow it to be combined. To answer the Deputy’s question directly, it is very welcome but it would have been great to see it on top of the €350.

Ms Dorgan mentioned the move to online streaming and there was unbelievable innovation, particularly during April and May, when we were locked down. I am thinking of De Barra's in particular, which had the likes of John Spillane streaming into our living rooms and we were able to comment and interact with each other. It was as close as we could get. Is there some change with Facebook or with online streaming in regard to legislation and how that is going to impact on the income of artists?

Ms Angela Dorgan

That issue of the amount relates to the copyright directive being implemented by June. There was a scare from Facebook about what people could and could not perform, but I think that has been somewhat clarified and it is back to where we were. During the early months of the pandemic, the Ireland Performs events - I am thinking of Mick Flannery - were great and had huge audiences. We have to keep in mind that not all performances translate digitally and, for example, while a dance performance can be viewed digitally, it is in person that we get the magic. As the Deputy said, even though it is good to have music digitally, it is always better to be there.

I was spoiled in that we run Ireland Music Week, which is the annual showcase of new music, and we had four days of pre-filming in September and it then went out behind a paywall last week. To hear that first note and that first “One, two” in the room, and then to see 50 people perform and have that filmed, was magic. It is something we are all missing and that digital experience will not replace it.

On the broader conversation, I agree with Deputy Mattie McGrath that the best scenario is if we are all in a room and people can get back to making a living. Until we get there, the support of the individual is going to be paramount, as well as the Arts Council getting enough funding to support the sector to survive and to be ready to thrive at the other end, and the venues also being in receipt of funding. We need to have all of those together. However, we have to lead on that and we have to be better for our citizens who work in that sector.

We are short on time so I ask members to keep their contributions short. I call Senator Cassells.

I welcome the witnesses and join them in welcoming the funding that was apportioned yesterday. It is no more than the sector deserves and, pandemic or not, it is recognition of decades of hard graft by numerous people, many in a voluntary capacity. I want to tease out not so much how the additional money will be spent, but the point touched on by the witnesses, who acknowledged that many competing interests are looking for that money within one sector. Ms Dorgan used the phrase “trickle down”, which is a phrase also used earlier on “Morning Ireland” by a member of the arts sector when wondering how this funding would trickle down.

I have two questions. First, the witnesses referred to the task force and to the adjudication of that. Are they happy supports will be delivered in a timely fashion, given there are so many aspects to be deliberated on?

Second, the witnesses mentioned a possible avenue of better funding for local authorities. I want to put a caveat on that even though many local authorities are particularly good in this area. I am from Navan. The Meath local authorities have the Solstice Arts Centre, which is a very visible physical edifice that supports theatre, live arts, galleries and so forth. However, it is also a massive drain on resources in respect of fixed costs. If we were to support local authorities in regard to the arts, I am sure there could be those in the finance sections who would think they would be helping the arts by paying the debt. There is that caveat. The witnesses may say they think we would be doing good by supporting the local authorities, but when they are supported, it is a matter of how that strand of funding is spent. I would be interested to hear their thoughts on that.

Ms O’Donoghue touched on the challenges in 2021 and this relates to Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan's point on ways of reimagining those arts festivals in 2021 and how an income can be derived from them. While the increased funding yesterday was very welcome, the model, like so many other things, is obviously broken, and we had the sports sector before the committee last week with similar issues. There is the question of how we reimagine that model to make sure it is not a case of continued Government support being the only way this sector will survive, but also how that model can be reimagined to raise finance during what is likely to be an even more challenging year next year.

Ms Angela Dorgan

I might refer the Deputy back to Mr. O'Brien on the larger local arts question. In terms of the question on where the funding would go and how it is matched, for the arts sector in general, as members have said, this money, while welcome, is overdue. It is very important, when we are talking about any investment, that the question of State intervention is always a part of what is a three-part funding model for most of the arts sector. That funding model comprises support from either a local arts authority or the Arts Council, self-generated income such as box office activity and programming, and then sponsorship and philanthropy. Very few arts organisations funded through the Arts Council model are wholly and 100% reliant on Arts Council or State funding.

The challenge for 2020-21 and, as the report set out, up to 2025, is that it is not going to be a question that this sector keeps coming back for more money but to sustain the sector so it can get back to being as robust as it was. Two thirds of the funding that generates around the arts and the value of the arts in society is non-State funded. It is an investment that has other models attached but it is also an investment that comes back into the Exchequer. It is not a handout situation but a collaborative situation, where the arts sector delivers social cohesion and comfort and interpretation of our lives in return, and the State supports that. What is usual in arts organisations is that it is a house of cards in terms of how that is all put together. The arts sector in general is to be commended for being able to keep that going for so long. However, when we take away one of those key areas, which the pandemic has done, there is a case to be made for support.

Thankfully, it has been heard and delivered and State funding, for a time, until the restrictions are lifted, will be needed. It is not only to get us through this. We will keep coming back. More investment is needed in the arts so that more organisations can survive and thrive. We need it for new organisations as well. We are a new society. There are people left outside the funding loop because there is limited funding. We will need more funding, including more youth arts funding, as we become a more diverse society with more diverse arts organisations. It is encouraging to see the Arts Council leading the way on that with its human rights policy. The council recognises that in its funding. There will be more to make it more diverse, but it would not be correct to assume that the reason for supporting people through a pandemic is anything other than another measure for those in the arts who generate income for themselves. That option has been taken away from the arts.

I will comment on the trickle down and how that will work. The sector that is not traditionally funded can go back to being the commercial sector it is as soon as restrictions are lifted. It is a thriving commercial sector. The only reason it is not a thriving commercial sector now, temporarily, is because those involved cannot sell tickets, hold a festival or fill a field. These include people who build the tents and the rigging lights and who hire the rigging lights. They are part of the entire ecosystem that we put in with our submission, the iceberg. The commercial sector has been stopped from commerce. The arts and events sectors are not alone in that.

There was a question about local authorities. We all have a superpower in the national campaign for the arts group. Mr. O'Brien's superpower is local arts funding, so I will hand over to him for that.

(Interruptions).

We cannot hear Mr. O'Brien.

Ms Angela Dorgan

He looks like he is making sense.

Given the technical interruptions we will move on.

Ms Angela Dorgan

I can answer part of the question, although I will not answer it as well as Mr. O'Brien. There could be further investment from the Government either through the Creative Ireland programme or some other means. It is worth saying that for 35 years the Arts Council and local arts authorities have had a partnership in funding arts activities. There has been substantial local arts authority investment in local arts. Committee members will be aware of that. One element in the national campaign for the arts pre-budget submission was the principle that when money is raised for arts activity involving a local authority, it requires ring-fencing. If the money is raised and matched for arts activity, then it should only be spent on arts activity.

I wish to acknowledge the contribution that the arts sector has made during the Covid-19 pandemic. It kept many people, including myself, sane. When it comes around to Friday or Saturday night, we miss the venues and going out. Those involved have done all that for charity. They help local charities, including charities for children with cancer, and so forth and it is all free. That has to be acknowledged as well.

The pandemic payments are imperative. Many people involved in the arts in my area have contacted me. They have families and they have to feed them. They miss the venues because it is part of their aura. Basically, we have only six months and next April will come quickly. I believe, honestly speaking, that as long as Covid-19 exists, there will be trouble in the arts industry. We have to face that. These people need help.

What do the campaign representatives think of the live venue funding? Should the criteria be broadened? Should the application be simplified? Should it be opened to commercial artists?

Ms Angela Dorgan

I agree with the Deputy. I have never read so many books or watched so many brilliant plays or gigs online. The specific question on the venues is one for the Department. I am not aware of the full criteria.

There is a music industry stimulus package. My company, First Music Contact, is running a pilot and there is also a live pilot. These pilots run until the end of December 2020. They will be reviewed before funding. I understand the music industry stimulus package will have funding available next year, as will the live event pilot. I can say that anecdotally - on a personal level rather than a campaign group level - commercial bands applied for resources. Since First Music Contact is the resource organisation for the popular music sector, I know bands have sought help from us. It was open to people who would bring together a venue and a band. I believe all of that will be up for review after the pilot, which ends in December.

I thank Ms Dorgan and her colleagues for not alone sharing some of their wisdom with us but for the consistently professional campaign that they have had under way for several months now. It has produced extraordinary dividends in a short time. I recall in the worst part in lockdown some months ago something appearing on my Twitter timeline to the effect that in the rush back to normal we should decide which parts of normal are best worth rushing back to. The funding now being made available to artistic endeavour in Ireland is a new normal and we are not going back to the old normal. It is wonderful to see. The pandemic seems to have focused our minds on those things that are most precious and most valuable to us as a people. The arts sector is certainly one of those.

I have two quick observations more than questions, because the questions have been asked by many colleagues. I have many friends in the music industry who have never had support from the Arts Council or the State. They have thrived, succeeded and made a good life for themselves from music. It has enabled them to pay mortgages and raise families. They have done extraordinary work pursuing a life where they express themselves through their music. The vast majority play gigs all over Ireland. They do gigs for local arts festivals. In the main, they do not receive any funding and never have. We need to be especially careful in whatever support structures we put in place now. We need to ensure they have the opportunity to be able to somehow tap into these. We need to be careful to ensure there is no bureaucratic overload in accessing supports. We need to ensure that there is, as someone has described, a trickle-down effect. It is crucial to remain focused on that because thousands of musicians are sitting at home now unable to make a living. I reckon it will be at least this time next year before anything resembling a normal living returns for them.

My final point is not unrelated. Again, it has been raised consistently by colleagues this afternoon. We need to ensure that we continue supporting artistic endeavour through our local authorities. I have had the good fortune to know several of the arts officers in Galway City Council and Galway County Council. They are deeply passionate about the promotion and nurturing of arts in their respective areas. As a former local authority member and staff member, I know that in the past they have been acutely underfunded and unable to do the wonderful things they would like to do. We need to ensure that perhaps in this new normal there is renewed focus on the substructure and the deep roots they put down in local communities throughout the country. That ultimately allow us to nurture the artists of the future. It is especially important that we continue to have a significant focus on that.

I thank Ms Dorgan for her time and for coming in today. I thank her colleagues for joining us online as well. I wish to acknowledge what a positive day yesterday was for the arts in Ireland. My thanks go to everyone involved, including the NCFA and their colleagues. My thanks go to the artists and people involved in the arts and workers throughout the country who have got involved at grassroots level with the campaign as well as the members of the committee and those working on this theme in the Department. It is a positive day. I know it is not the solution to all the problems and that some of the outstanding issues were referred to earlier.

It is very important that positive days and achievements such as these would get the recognition they deserve and I hope we can build on this.

Does Ms Dorgan have any idea of the number of people affected with regard to the pandemic unemployment payment? It is an outstanding issue and I do not want it to eclipse the good and positive measures announced yesterday. Does Ms Dorgan have a breakdown on the tiers?

We are limited in what we can do at present and so much of it is dependent on what level we are at. We would all love to go back even to level 2. Earlier, Deputy O'Sullivan spoke about being able to experience live music in west Cork or, like me, in west Kerry. We miss this hugely. It is outside of our control in a way. It is in all of our control in one way but it is outside of our control in another. We are dependent on getting back there and I hope we can. In the meantime, does Ms Dorgan have a message on what people can do right now to support the people she represents? In the context of Christmas approaching, are there special things consumers can do to help? Have we fully explored the online potential? Is there more that can happen online than has already happened? Do we have further potential to support the sector that we have not fully utilised?

Ms Angela Dorgan

I will deal with the pandemic unemployment payment issue first and will then defer to Ms O'Donoghue to give the Deputy more robust numbers. The challenge for us with regard to the pandemic unemployment payment is where people were on 13 March. If we think of the events industry in Ireland and artists, arts workers and arts organisations, it is a gig economy but for a lot of people it is also a seasonal activity. Many people who were working or starting to work in the events and festival industry were beginning around St. Patrick's Day and the season typically runs from March to November. Then there are the rest of the arts activities, which are on every day of every month of every year. The number who qualified for the pandemic unemployment payment at the very start and who said they worked in the arts was approximately 14,500. Since the arts is a gig economy, these people might be professional artists, which means they make more than 50% of their income from their artistic endeavour, but because of the poverty most of our artists experience, due to the lack of support, they might have a second or third job. There is a wider question of what chair people were on when the music stopped. The original number on the pandemic unemployment payment was approximately 14,000 and a number of other people were on jobseeker's payments. There were a number of others on the artist jobseeker's payment. There were also people who did not qualify for the first round of the pandemic unemployment payment but then received it prior to 17 September.

All of this comes back to the fear we spoke about, regarding people being afraid to think about work and being frozen because they do not want to move off the support they are on now for fear there will not be other support. At its height, approximately 14,000 people were in receipt of the pandemic unemployment payment but I am not sure what the current number is. The actual number who identified as working in arts activities on the day would not give a real picture of how many artists, arts workers, events workers and organisations are in receipt of the payment. Then there are a number of others who were supported through the temporary wage subsidy scheme. Subsequently, during the stimulus, a number of arts organisations were able to get emergency funding to get them to the end of 2020. The employment wage subsidy scheme being extended and more money going to the Arts Council will speak to two levels. I am sorry to sound like a broken record but we keep coming back to the lived experience of the individual. This is with regard to the pandemic unemployment payment being restored to €350 and, perhaps, having a less blunt instrument than the pandemic unemployment payment down the line for those individuals.

I am delighted the Deputy asked about consumers. They should buy more Irish books and music. On Spotify Ireland we have a made in Ireland playlist that we update every Friday with new Irish music. People should follow the links and buy people's records. It would be amazing to do a buy Irish campaign. I remember the one from when I was growing up in the 1980s. I do it anyway since the pandemic. I will only buy Irish food. We are all making an effort to mind each other. People should be aware of how hard it is for actors. The Wexford Opera Festival is coming up and Druid is doing shows at present. When there are events run digitally people should support them. If there is a paywall, people should be aware that art is not free to make for the artist so it should not be free to consume for us at the other end. Of course, all of this is said in the context that all of society is hurting. Nobody is awash with money because of the pandemic. Where and when people can, they should buy Irish and attend events. They should still check the listings of their local art centres because they will have something on. Look at what the National Gallery is doing online. Look at what local galleries such as the Crawford Art Gallery in Cork and galleries in Kerry are doing. There are gigs happening in Dingle. They may not be happening in a bar but they might be happening on Facebook or online.

To answer the question on digital, an increase has been given to the Arts Council to the end of 2020 and it has a rolling fund until 9 November to help organisations pivot to digital. Our organisations will be able to feed in our experiences. Any organisation applying now to digitally pivot may not realise the further needs of digital until down the road. I am sure there are other aspects of the economy that would benefit from having a digital fund available. Our organisations were looking into building digital shops on a portal we already have. It is not a big request for us as an organisation to ask the Arts Council but the 16,000 musicians on our website would not be able to find that increase. I ask people to keep an eye on the digital funds that have already been made available, see what the pilots throw back and then perhaps support them.

Will the National Campaign for the Arts consider working alongside the Department and the Arts Council on putting in place an upskilling programme? A number of musicians have a global appeal but do not have the skills to leverage it. Some have done it expertly and I am thinking of friends of mine such as We Banjo 3, who have done extraordinary work online. They are masters at using their talent and skills to propagate their music throughout the world. This could be replicated in so many other forms. Perhaps there could be a webinar every now and again on telling people what platforms are available, how to use them and how to avail of them. That would be helpful.

The message on supporting Irish writers and music is very important. Over the coming ten weeks, people will be looking around and the Christmas market will be very important. This year is unique with regard to the corporate scene. Traditional gifts to employees in the form of nights out, gatherings and events really will not be happening. Many corporate entities are looking at individual packages within the hospitality sector. This is very important for the sector and I encourage it. There may also be further scope to support our artists, not just within the corporate sector but across the board. There may be specific potential that could be examined further. This is something about which we could create more awareness. It would be a help.

Ms Angela Dorgan

I agree.

I call Senator Hoey.

I thank the witnesses for attending this meeting. The arts are a particular grá of mine, having spent some time in them before taking to the political stage. It is great to have the witnesses here and to see a national recognition for the sector. During the difficulties with Covid-19 there was a national awakening, as it were, to the value of the arts. That was hard fought for and hard won. I congratulate the national campaign and all the artists and others who were part of it.

It is interesting to reflect on what Ms Dorgan said about the 50% of income. A large number of people would have fallen through the cracks. For many of us who worked in the arts, some 50% of our income came from bar work and cleaning even though we would have spent far more than 50% of our time working in the arts. That brings me to my first question or point. I have in mind the impact of Covid restrictions over the past while and over the next year on creative development and particularly the early years of people in the dramatic arts or in the creative sector. There is something of a pause, but not a pause everywhere. Does Ms Dorgan have thoughts on the impact Covid will have on the early years career, the play time and the time for development for young practitioners or young artists, and what can be done to deal with that? We talk about flight from the sector, but I am worried about the people who are going to lose the entry level into the sector. I met one of the best lighting technicians I know when she was studying engineering in college. She got involved in it as a side project and went on to study lighting engineering. There is a group of people who, over the next year or so, are potentially going to be lost to that state of play or that entry into the arts world. Has Ms Dorgan any thoughts on that and what can be done about it? That flourishing state of play is important for people in the early years of beginning their careers in the arts.

That brings me to cross-pollination for the arts sector. I would have started the morning in Blackpool teaching children art and theatre, in the afternoon I was doing costumes for a show in the Cork Arts Theatre and in the evening I was in the Granary Theatre doing lighting. That cross-pollination for people in their early careers in the arts is very important for development and flourishing. Does Ms Dorgan have any thoughts on how that will be dealt with over the next year? There is plenty of stuff online and practitioners are doing everything they can, but I am very concerned about the loss of the early years engagement. When people are trying to find their way in their arts careers they do not know exactly what they are doing so they are trying out everything. There is that cross-pollination between different jobs and the issue of how that will happen in the future.

Finally, somebody raised with me the requirement for proof of artistic credentials. This was before the onset of Covid, but it is still relevant. Continuing to have her studio space was put under threat and because she did not have a website she could not prove she was a bona fide artist, even though she had had the studio for 20 years. There was a change in requirements regarding funding and an expansion of proof to prove what type of artist one is. Do the witnesses have any thoughts on that? Fortunately, there is a boon in funding at present, but this onerous requirement to prove oneself as an artist might tie into what an outside perspective of an artist is without necessarily tying into what an artist does. That is a slightly complicated question, somewhat blue-sky thinking, but it arose before the onset of Covid and I suspect it will become more problematic as people are competing for funding. How does one prove oneself as an artist? This requirement to meet certain needs does not necessarily always tie into the way artists live or do things.

Those are my three questions.

Ms Angela Dorgan

If Cian O'Brien's microphone is working, I will put the early arts activity question to him. Then I can come back to the broader question of proof.

Mr. Cian O'Brien

I have been having technical problems. The Senator is right that one of the things that is so important for people at the beginning of their careers is how they form themselves. Artists get better by practice and it is essential that people have that experience. What is greatly beneficial is that the Arts Council has put additional resources into things such as bursaries and commissions for artists, which is exactly where they can hone their craft. There is going to be a challenge for people in how they will interact with each other and how they will develop relationships with other artists and collaborators. The pandemic creates that challenge. However, I always think that artists find a way. They are amazing at finding ways to collaborate with other artists. As a result of the increases in funding, one will see people finding ways to collaborate with one another because they will have the resources. Should they be successful in applications they might make, they will have the resources to do that. That might happen online, but the current level 3 still allows artists to work in their studios or workplaces. People are still able to be in spaces together, albeit safely. I share the Senator's concerns, but the benefits that are coming our way will go some way towards addressing some of the concerns.

Ms Angela Dorgan

On the second issue, credentials are a broad field. There are different requirements depending on where one is accessing and from whom. It is a track record for Arts Council bursaries. Most bursaries are designed for professional artists. While there are other ways that funding and support can get to a person for amateur activity, most bursaries and larger direct funds to artists are for professional artists. It becomes easier because one can demonstrate. Each sector has its own pins, as it were, of professional flagpoles. The music industry has those - it is when one does this or that and it is the same with acting and dancing. Each sector has its own credential-building criteria. In those sectors that do not, we bump up against each other enough. The arts is not one thing; it is a fluid sector. One can be a dancer, a graphic designer and an actor. Liv O'Donoghue is one such example as an artist. One can also be a volunteer in a national organisation as well, and it eats up one's time.

There are enough professional development flagpoles in place. The sector is incredibly robust in that regard. It is also incredibly robust and a leader in many other things, including making this pandemic safe and making interactivity safe. I attended a meeting the other day at which a Department of Health official was able to offer an analysis about a particular place, which I will not name. The Department was able to say that no Covid-19 cases had come from that cultural institution. When we get used to Covid - I refer to Deputy Mattie McGrath's question as well on where is the fair and unfair - and we get better at dealing with it and pass the panic stage of this pandemic, it will be easier to start opening up more places as workplaces and for access. However, I am digressing a little.

The sector has professional development moments in most disciplines. If they are not in one's discipline and if it is a new discipline, there will be an organisation, whether it is a resource organisation or an arts activity in one's locality, that one will be able to lean on for that information.

I welcome Ms Dorgan and compliment her on the campaign. I am the Fine Gael spokesperson for the arts in the Seanad. It is important that we recognise both the Government and the Minister for the support they have given the industry.

Over the past number of months, I missed my regular diet of performances by our local musical society. We have a fantastic stage school in Longford, namely, the Evolution Stage School. It puts on fantastic shows. We have a school of rock, which is an excellent school for young children from various backgrounds and does tremendous work. It is important that this funding was put in place so that they can continue to work in that sector.

Many of the questions I wanted to ask have already been posed so I will hone in on only a couple of points. Ms Dorgan alluded to the fact that theatres - we have our own Backstage Theatre in Longford - are ticketed venues. NPHET needs to look at the possibility of making exceptions for them where it can be managed properly, we can achieve social distancing and get people back into the theatres, especially where they are ticketed. That is something that needs to be examined.

Coming up to Christmas, the usual pantomimes that have been part of the diet of all young children over the years will probably be missing. Reference has been made to online productions. It would be nice to see these happening for the Christmas if funding was put in place. I do not know whether that can be done under any of these schemes or whether funding could be made available to national schools across the country in order that the children could have their Christmas parties. The reality is that they will not be going to such parties this year.

I thank Ms Dorgan for the work that she does for the industry. I am delighted that it was supported. I hope that support continues.

Ms Angela Dorgan

I thank the Senator for the support. I agree 100% that galleries, theatres and cinemas are safe places where social distancing can be adhered to. At the meeting the Minister arranged for us with the Minister for Health, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, representatives from his Department and the then acting CMO, we were able to make that case. The worry was congregation before and after. The arts sector, as I alluded to earlier, responded quickly and early to the restriction of 50 and what it could do. Everybody pivoted in the context of ticketing systems. Nobody could buy more than four tickets in one go. People sit in pods when they arrive or they sit apart in a theatre. Coming into the winter, it will be difficult for us, as a nation, anyway. Where we can start to open up and start to get out there and experience that art in person again, then the position in respect of cinemas, galleries and theatres can and should be re-examined repeatedly. We need to give ourselves permission to change our minds. What we said last week might be the same as what is being said this week. If, however, this week's decision makes it a little easier because we have listened to a particular idea, then we should forgive ourselves for that politically and in the context of our sector. We need to be able to change our minds on matters like that. Those areas that the Senator has talked about are safe already. They could be safer or deemed to be safe in level 3 as much as they are in level 2.

I agree that the Minister and the Department have been incredibly supportive right throughout the crisis, as have all three parties in government. Everyone involved has been incredibly reactive to us, as a sector. I suppose yesterday's budget had a certain feel about it, not only in the context of the €50 million for events, the €130 million for the Arts Council and the €3 for Creative Ireland but also with regard to the various decisions made. I referred to this earlier. I cannot over-egg the pudding when speaking to all the people in this room about their contributions or when I refer how those in the sector felt when seeing the Taoiseach talk about the arts in the way he did last night and realise that he gets it and to see the Minister getting her colleagues in government onto the same page. As I am listening to the members, it sounds as if there was open door for each and every last one of them. I do not think there is a citizen who does not agree that the arts are really important. That is great. I agree with Deputy Cannon that it took a pandemic for us to all realise just how important the sector is. It is also important to allow ourselves to revisit those activities in society that are actually safe, if we can start to say that cases are going in a particular direction and ask whether we can be a little more open in certain areas.

Senator Carrigy is correct about cinemas, pantomimes and galleries. Some of the events funding is aimed encouraging those involved with pantomimes to come up with innovative ideas, maybe as a seat subsidy for a pantomime to go ahead and for the production company to still pay its actors, musicians, lighting crew and event staff. It is, perhaps, an acknowledgement that this was previously a commercial endeavour and that parts of what these people have to do deliver a show may have to be subsidised. I think that is what the events budget in the Department is for. I do not know, in terms of levels 3 and 4, if pantomimes can go ahead. If we are re-examining those places where social distancing can be adhered to and where people would be congregating on the way to a show, for example, outside the theatre, then we are aware from our conversations with NPHET that this is where the concerns lie. There is not a challenge that has not been met or tried to be met by the sector. Given time, we may solve more of those.

I sincerely thank Ms Dorgan and her esteemed colleagues, Mr. O'Brien and Ms O'Donoghue, for attending. This is my first day operating as Vice Chairman and I have just gone 35 minutes over time.

Ms Angela Dorgan

Congratulations. This is my third Oireachtas committee meeting. The Vice Chairman is doing well.

It was a very worthwhile discussion. It has given all of us members of this committee an important insight into the council for the arts. We look forward to inviting Ms Dorgan back in the near future, especially on the recovery task force for the arts and culture. That is an important element in order to give us visibility on the challenges to ensure that the sector gets back to pre-Covid times and that the sector is sustainable when Ms Dorgan is building it back up to where it should be.

The joint committee went into private session at 3.37 p.m. and adjourned at 4.05 p.m. until 2 p.m. on Wednesday, 21 October 2020.