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Van Morrison among artists urging financial support for NI music industry

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Van Morrison performing at East Side Festival in Belfast in 2015

Van Morrison performing at East Side Festival in Belfast in 2015

Van Morrison performing at East Side Festival in Belfast in 2015

Van Morrison, Snow Patrol and Ash are among the artists pleading for “urgent financial support” for Northern Ireland’s music industry.

Almost 150 artists have written a letter to the Department for Communities (DfC), including Soak, The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon, Bronagh Gallagher and David Holmes, as well as members of Stiff Little Fingers and Two Door Cinema Club.

It was addressed to the then minister, Deirdre Hargey, and said the coronavirus pandemic would have “serious implications” for the sector.

The letter said: “As a result of Covid-19, the work of many in the music sector has come to an end overnight.”

Music venues have been closed since mid-March, and there has been no indication yet as to when live performances will resume.

Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody said it could be 2021 before the live music industry is up and running again.

“There are no gigs and there will be no gigs in the foreseeable future,” the Bangor man told BBC NI.

“An artist that needs gigs to live day to day, has one or two gigs every weekend and needs that money to pay the rent, to buy food, they just disappeared and to be honest they’ll be gone for a while.”

He added: “There’s so much other stuff that goes on in the background that people don’t witness, there’s so many freelance workers in music as well as the musicians, the struggling musicians themselves, that are feeling, not just the bite of this, it’s swallowing people whole.”

The letter, which was was sent to Ms Hargey in May, said that while measures to guard against the spread of Covid-19 had been necessary, the cancellation of concerts, festivals, weddings and the closure of venues would be felt “by a vast majority of individuals who rely on music as their primary source of income”.

“The outbreak is already having a far-reaching impact on both the personal income and quality of life of many in NI’s music community,” it said, “from individual freelancers and micro businesses to grassroots organisations, local music initiatives and established companies.”

“We have never been more at risk. Music and the arts must be protected and we need urgent financial support to survive in any recognisable form.”

The letter from Northern Ireland musicians said that figures including managers, producers and sound engineers had lost income and many venues were under threat of closure.

It asked Ms Hargey for “immediate help.”

“Swift action must be taken to safeguard and invest in the future of an industry which has significant economic, cultural and social benefits for Northern Ireland,” it concluded.

The letter was written prior to the announcement of a £4m fund for the arts as a whole on July 1 by the current Communities Minister Caral Ni Chuilin, who said she would be talking to organisations about funding.

“This pandemic has exposed the financial vulnerability of our arts and cultural organisations, many of whom are household names,” said Ms Ni Chuilin.

“As an immediate next step I intend to engage directly with organisations to agree the detail of how the funds might best be put to swift use.

“The huge part the arts play in all our lives has come into sharp focus through the closure of theatres, concert halls and other venues during this terrible pandemic and the cancellation of so many shows and arts programmes.”

Belfast Telegraph