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'We have opened the schools, now let's run some shows' - MCD boss calls for 'roadmap' to reopen live events industry


MCD's Denis Desmond

MCD's Denis Desmond

MCD's Denis Desmond

MCD boss Denis Desmond has called on the Government to be proactive in getting the live entertainment industry up and running again.

In an interview, Mr Desmond said “there are no initiatives coming from Government. There is nothing.”

The concert promoter said the commercial live entertainment business has been “at a standstill for the last six months”.

“It is going to be at a standstill for the next six months and probably longer if the Government doesn’t move and support the industry to re-open."

The commercial live entertainment industry employs 35,000 people, generates €3.4bn for the economy, and has this week been running an awareness campaign on the impact of Covid-19 on the sector.

MCD is the biggest player in the industry here and last year clocked up an estimated €144m in ticket sales from 2.3 million music fans who attended concerts by acts including Hozier, Westlife, Metallica, and the sell-out Electric Picnic.

However, ticket sales this year will only be a small fraction of that due to Covid-19, and Mr Desmond said he was “disappointed” by the absence of a road-map for the reopening of the live entertainment industry in the Government plan published this week.

Mr Desmond said: “We are six months into the pandemic and there needs to be a roadmap and a plan to financially support shows with social distancing.

“We will be doing everything in our power to ensure that our business is back to 100pc capacity by next summer. With Government support and allowing for social distancing, we would hope to get our smaller venues open between now and Christmas, and push bigger venues to open by next spring, and have our festivals up and running by next summer.

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“We have opened the schools, now let's run some shows and start small - 1,000 capacity, 2,000 capacity. Let's get people back to work and give people something to look forward to.”

Mr Desmond said workers in the entertainment industry were not looking for hand-outs, they wanted to get back to work. He said that France is already looking at 5,000-capacity seated shows with people wearing masks and no social distancing.

Mr Desmond said what is needed is rapid testing where people will be able to show their “immunity passports” to get into concerts, sporting events, etc.

“Testing and immunity passports will allow 50,000, 60,000 and 70,000 people back into the likes of Croke Park, Electric Picnic and Slane,” he said. “In the meantime, there is nothing to stop smaller venues of up to 2,000 from re-opening as long as social distancing is in place and there is Government support.

“It is time for a plan to allow for testing rather than waiting for a vaccine as there might never be a vaccine.”

When asked to quantify the costs to his own business of Covid-19, Mr Desmond said it runs “into the millions”.

He said: “It is not just about the money, it is about opening up the sector. People want to get back to work.”

In recent days, the Government has announced a €6m support scheme for the live entertainment industry. Mr Desmond said: “No one wants to be seen to be ungrateful, but it is a very small amount of money to cover a huge amount of people.”

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