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Cummins calls for Venues, Theatres and Stage Schools to be reopened

Speaking in Seanad Éireann today, Waterford Senator John Cummins called on the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin TD to come before the House as a matter of urgency to discuss the failure to reopen theatres and venues and to clarify the contradiction from the CMO Dr. Tony Holohan regarding the risk level between cinemas and other venues. On the day when large parts of our economy are reopening following a very difficult six weeks of lockdown which has decimated large parts of our economy, there are a number of sectors which aren’t being permitted to open which Senator Cummins says “needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency”. In making this strong call he specifically referenced the arts sector, theatres, stage and music schools and venues such as Bingo halls right across the country. Speaking in the Seanad Senator Cummins said “In my own county of Waterford, the Theatre Royal is an example of one such venue that re-opened successfully and without cases of Covid- 19 when restrictions were eased during the summer. That theatre can hold 90 audience members across 3 floors with 2 meters social distancing in place, but they would be happy to operate with just 50 patrons because one must understand the arts sector is not about making money, this is about ensuring engagement is maintained for artists and audiences and it is about keeping the sector alive.” Senator Cummins also used the example of the Forum Waterford, a bingo venue, which are permitted to operate under Level 1 with 200 patrons, under level 2 with 100 patrons but under level 3 they must remain closed. Stressing the importance of bingo, an alcohol free event, as a social outlet for local communities “it is crazy to suggest that a venue that has a capacity of 600 people can’t operate safely with only 50 people in attendance”, he said. While millions watched the Late Late Toy Show with great joy on Friday night watching children singing and dancing and performing, there are stage schools across the country which are an essential outlet for many children because not every young person is involved in sports. Senator Cummins said “the outlet that stage schools provide is very important to young people and those who teach in them and at a time when we are re-opening gyms in order to facilitate our mental and physical health, and allowing sports training for youths to continue, I have to question how stage schools that operated successfully with the use of pods aren’t being permitted to re-open”. Concluding his forceful statement Senator Cummins stressed the urgency surrounding this issue and that clarity must be provided to the arts industry as a matter of urgency.

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