Northern Ireland news

Musicians call for financial support package during protest at Stormont

Belfast singer Brian Houston at the Support for Live Music protest at Stormont yesterday. Picture by Hugh Russell
Marie Louise McConville

AROUND 50 musicians and entertainers gathered at Stormont yesterday to protest about a lack of financial support during the pandemic.

Singer and songwriter Justin McGurk said he and his colleagues in the music industry in Northern Ireland had been left in "dire straits".

The Cookstown man said those who took part in the protest wanted to "negotiate a financial support package from the executive".

"Everyone in the industry has nothing coming in and we have had nothing for the past 15 months," he said.

"Some of us have been lucky enough to receive grants from the Arts Council. Many didn't qualify. But it was a sticking plaster.

"Mortgages still have to be paid. Bills are still coming in every week. Depression is setting in, anxiety over mounting debts. It's really dire straits at the minute."

Mr McGurk, who has just released protest song about the situation entitled Is Anybody Listening? said even when live music returns, it would not be sustainable.

He said venues will not be able to keep going as members of the public don't yet "have the confidence to come out and be in crowds".

He said musicians needed a support package which would sustain them "to the level it was before Covid".

"We have been forgotten about and something that is very important to emphasise is that the music industry in Northern Ireland brought in some £475 million in the year 2019/20, before Covid, and that is more than half of agriculture and fisheries," he said.

"We feel undervalued. It is just not good enough. If something is not done about this now, we will not have a music industry to come back to."

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Northern Ireland news