Help urged for Covid-hit entertainment sector

Michael Freeland of popular mas band, Myst
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By Carlena Knight

Local entertainers are calling on the Ministry of Culture, National Festivals and the Arts to give a helping hand to their counterparts struggling from the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Paddy Prendergast, of the Itchyfeet band, believes that there can be some assistance given to local entertainers “who play a vital role” in the economy. He said, despite the tourism industry preparing to reopen, the entertainment sector is likely to remain on the back burner for some time.

 “We all know the constraints on the government’s finances but I think in good times the government relies on entertainment and musicians all the time when they are putting something on so [we] are vital and I think the government could look at maybe some sort of a stipend situation for entertainers that have genuinely lost everything and have no form of income.

“Even if it was two or three hundred per week or being able to get on the food programmes, I think those are the sort of things the Ministry of Culture should actually be looking at, to ensure that when we come out of this, we have the same amount of entertainers as we went in with.

“The few hundred musicians that we have here are vitally important to the tourism sector and to our general wellbeing,” Prendergast told Observer radio.

The well-known guitarist is also suggesting that the government encourage local radio stations to play mostly local songs to generate royalties for those artistes, producers and songwriters who are members of ECCO.

Local promoter Chalita Rose, who is responsible for fetes like Red Eye and LOL-Lots of Liquor, agreed that there should some sort of incentive in place for the entertainment industry, possibly via concessions on infrastructure to host fetes, and less taxes.

“We as promoters have been engaged with the Minister … we do recognise that the government has a lot going on but what we had consultations on is maybe putting certain things in place like infrastructure to host an event at a particular venue. Some advertising-type scenario through the Ministry of Tourism and so forth, to try and enhance our product to try and facilitate some of the costs we would have but we are not asking for a pay out, what we are asking for is some support when we make that investment.

“What we are not having a conversation about is … those businesses that are solely reliant on the investment of Myst, Marketing Machine, all the other events, so what we recognise is that we make serious investment on our own which is why we are now asking for some support to allow us to thrive. We are saying, don’t over tax us, don’t come at us too hard,” he added.

Meanwhile, Michael Freeland of popular mas band, Myst, is not sure what other incentives can be done at this time to help entertainers but he does believe that the focus should be on the health and safety of the patrons themselves.

“I think it’s just a matter of people feeling safe and then they will definitely venture out and the entertainment sector will kick back up,” he said.

“I don’t know that the government can say, I am giving the entertainment sector this to offset anything other than offering concessionary elements, but other than that I can’t see, even if the government gives each stakeholder X amount, I don’t know how that propels any one of us to feel good about what we are doing for our patrons because at the end of the day it’s about our patrons and if the patrons are not feeling safe then how much can the government give you for you to feel satisfied?

“You want to ensure that whatever you are doing in terms of business is sustainable and, in our minds, sustainability means patrons feeling safe and come back in their glee,” Freeland added.

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