Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport And Media

Challenges Facing Arts Venues and Theatres as a result of Covid-19: Discussion

Photo of Niamh SmythNiamh Smyth (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I thank Mr. McGowan for that response and Senator Cassells for his contribution. It now falls to myself to contribute. I thank all our guests for their presentations. I have my own hobby horse, as does everybody involved in the Arts, which is arts in education and it could apply to both the amateur sector and the professionals.

The Minister for Education, Deputy Foley, made a big announcement of 400 arts in education residencies for schools across the country at the beginning of June. I am passionate about the arts in education charter; it is a significant avenue that has not been fully explored yet. There is much work to do in providing artists with that opportunity and, more important, providing our young people with the opportunity to engage in the arts in a school setting where we are growing our audiences. That is the direction in which we need to be thinking ahead. I am digressing a little from the topic under discussion. I will first bring in our guests from the Arts Council. That was a second tranche of arts in education residencies for schools, following the first such scheme having been a success. Has the Arts Council had any feedback on this in terms of providing a glimmer of hope for artists in the sense of schools engaging in this and hopefully the take-up of this from schools will be good? It is one avenue artists can look forward to and hopefully it will provide them with an opportunity to go into our schools. Have our guests from the Arts Council any thoughts on that and how we can progress it? That feeds into what the future of the Creative Ireland programme will be after 2022. I also want to get the views of our other guests on that.

As a former staff member of the Garage Theatre in Monaghan I am mindful of all these beautiful arts buildings having been empty for almost the past two years. The arts come alive with people. I dread to think of those beautiful buildings across the country lying empty not having had performances or audiences. The same applies to our community centres or halls in rural parts of the country, the first of which comes to mind is Mullagh in County Cavan. It is a community centre that is used for myriad events. The drama group that use it is one aspect of the life of that community centre. It is not a state-of-the-art theatre but it has a specific purpose. I have attended countless performances at that centre and it would have been packed to the rafters in a previous life. It is a specific attribute to a community in terms of the arts and what that brings, which is in a different light from what the Garage Theatre would bring. Those are my rambling thoughts. Will Ms Kennelly and Professor Rafter give their reflections on that announcement for arts in education residencies for artists and then I will get a response from the amateur sector?


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