Epic the people behind Songs From An Empty Room have chastised the Government following amendments to Pandemic Unemployment Payment.

The organisers of the event which raised over €400,000 for Irish live events workers were delighted with the response from the public which they believe shows that regular people understand the plight faced by arts sector in this country.

“It was wonderful to be involved on a show with such skilled individuals, the contribution from President Michael D. Higgins showed someone who really understands the live sector and the donation of €200,000 from U2 made for a very successful and emotional night,” says Shane Dunne of EPIC.

“However, the mood was acutely marred with stress and worry, a tangible feeling of dismay and anger at the previous day’s announcement by our government, it’s very clear that we are no longer all in this together.”

James Vincent McMorrow rehearsing ahead of “Songs From An Empty Room” in the Olympia Theatre, Dublin. Photo by Ruth Medjber

EPIC are now calling on the Government to review decision-making in the following areas in relation to Professional Live Events Workers a sector which employs over 35,000 people and generates over €3.5 billion per annum for the economy.

Review the new restrictive amendments to the Wage Subsidy Scheme

Review the impending reduction in the Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Review the amended parameters in qualifying for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment

The immediate setting of a task force on the recovery of the Live Entertainment Sector

“Songs from An Empty Room was a joyful experience but the stimulus package presented bears little good news for the 35,000 event professionals in Ireland whose ability to earn a living has been destroyed. Our industry is on its knees and there seem to be few in Government who give a damn.” adds Sophie Ridley of EPIC.

The money raised by Songs From An Empty Room will be split evenly between Minding Creative Minds, which provides 24/7 counselling services for those who work in the music business, and the AIST Hardship Fund, administered by the Association of Irish Stage Technicians (AIST) and available to all live events professionals in Ireland.

“The key message from EPIC since the start of this pandemic has been the need to protect the skills within the sector. We have met with so many TDs and civil servants, we have made the case, delivered a clear message but it seems to have fallen on deaf ears,” says Kim O’Callaghan of EPIC. “The Government has turned their back on us. When they next go abroad and lay out their ‘Brand Ireland’ stall to sell our country, the festivals and gatherings, the events, the spirit, the music, the craic, they can hang their heads in shame. It is live events, entertainment and arts that drive Ireland’s international reputation, and when we needed our leaders to stand with us and recognise what we have contributed, show us that we are worth the investment, they’ve turned their backs on us, ripped out the plug and powered down an entire community.”

Songs From An Empty Room can be watched on the RTÉ Player. Donations can be made via Songs From An Empty Room or by texting SONGS to 50300 to make a €4 donation. Branded crew merchandise is also still available to purchase through the website with all proceeds from these sales going to the initiative.

Photo: Ruth Medjber