Frank Brandon column

A flat note: We need to bail

out the entertainment industry!

 

Our columnist is feeling sorry for publicans, musicians and entertainers…and reports on a welcome sighting of a legendary umpire…

 

It’s Bank Holiday Monday…and in normal times I would be heading for Ballygar for the Carnival Fair Day, enjoying the craic and banter as I made my way around the many stalls and fairground attractions – trying to get an odd bargain, haggling over the prices, and just having a bit of fun.

Today however is very different: the carnival is on hold for this year, the fair day is cancelled, and there are no amusements on The Square.

As I was thinking (with sadness) about the big void in all our social lives, my mind turned to the terrible situation that the musicians/entertainers who should have been playing in Ballygar and at festivals and carnivals all over Ireland now find themselves in.

Of all the sectors that Covid-19 has hit, the entertainment one must be the worst, because most of those that play in showbands or musical groups of any type rely solely on the income from their music. Not only has that income dried up, but there is very little likelihood of anything happening for them in the foreseeable future.

One day last week I was visiting a family member in Galway, and as I left the city I happened to tune into Galway Bay FM (tell Joe Finnegan I couldn’t get Shannonside). The show’s presenter had various entertainers on, all telling their stories about how the pandemic had derailed them entirely. Among those he spoke to were singer Mary Coughlan, who spoke about how she was being harassed twice daily on the phone by some bank because she was behind with her mortgage payments, and comedian Frank Forde, a very funny man, who spoke about how his entire list of summer engagements, including performing on a number of cruises, had just evaporated.

Now it goes without saying that all those well-known people usually play four or five nights a week all through the summer, and earn big money – and rightly so – but that income has totally dried up, and the Covid payment of €350 a week is but a pittance compared to their normal income. It seems there is no allowance at all for the fact that musicians and entertainers are a specialist, irreplaceable, and vitally important group of people. I know the suddenness of the pandemic outbreak took the legislators by surprise and they hurried stuff through, but surely there could be some extra help available to those entertainers who have no other source of income, and who have no prospect whatsoever of getting back to work any time soon.

At the time of writing, nearly everything has reopened – except the pubs – but it will be a long time before we will have live music, concerts, or dances in any venues anywhere.

In my view we must do something to help all the entertainers who have effectively had their incomes wiped out. From the tourism point of view, the entertainment industry is vital to our economy. So, in their hour of need, let us show that the country appreciates their work and do what we can to steer them through these financially tough times. Over to you, Micheál, Leo, Eamon and all of you who seem to be able to find money for yourselves at the stroke of a pen.

 

Publicans are being

unfairly punished

 

It’s now a very wild, wet Tuesday afternoon (as I write), and I’ve just made it back from my daily (almost) walk before the rains came. At time of writing, the whole country is wondering as to whether or not the ‘wet’ pubs will be allowed to open next Monday (Editor: we now know…they won’t be).

The truth, in my opinion, is that it doesn’t make the slightest difference, as either way, the pub is not the problem. Long before this horrible virus arrived on our shores, one of the things that drove me mad was the availability of every type of alcohol, at ridiculously low prices, in off-licences and supermarkets. As we know, a minority of people who drink at house parties/even in public locations (nationwide) can sometimes engage in anti-social behaviour on the streets of all our cities, towns and villages. (There is no suggestion that there is any culpability for this on the part of businesses who sell the alcohol).

Obviously the nightclub scene is presently off the radar, so we should have less trouble on the streets, but as long as pubs – where there would be some type of supervision – remain closed, all of these low-cost alcohol sellers are experiencing massive queues outside their doors all around local towns.

House parties – where anything goes – are cropping up all over the place, so is it any wonder that we are seeing an escalation in the number of new virus cases? Whether the local pub is open or not, as long as the Government (yet again) tackles the wrong man/woman, things will carry on as they are. It is my view that supermarkets where you can buy a bottle of vodka for as little as €13 and 20 bottles of Heineken for €21 should have had to close, while the pubs remained open. Simply by having the drink much more expensive, there would be a lot less house parties and a lot less scope for the virus to prosper.

One great development is that the local drunk, who continually annoyed everyone within his range, is a thing of the past, and no self-respecting publican will allow such behaviour any more. Even if they did, social distancing considerations would allow you to tell your tormentor to leave you alone (maybe even in stronger terms). As I say, there’s always a silver lining.

 

Umpire strikes back:

Danny still going strong

 

Last Saturday evening I was in the lucky 50 who got tickets to the Creggs v St. Aidan’s championship game in Creggs. Thankfully we won fairly well, but the truth is that this was a real tough, proper battle and the scoreline in no way reflected the quality and effort of the Ballyforan men.

However, it was an event off the field (well sort of) that showed (yet again) what makes the GAA, at grassroots level, the true sport of the Irish people.

Almost fifty years ago, as a young bank clerk I arrived into work in the Bank of Ireland, Castlerea, and one of the first people I got to know was the local postman, Danny Burke – a man I was soon to find out who was at the heart of everything that took place in Castlerea football. He coached and managed teams all the way from when they were young school kids to (in some cases) senior inter-county level.

I have told you before that it has been my privilege and honour to have known Danny for all those years, and indeed we have shared many a glass of porter since then, so it was a nice surprise to see him in Creggs – talking to Tommy Gately – when I arrived at the pitch. I assumed he was on a spying mission – but I was wrong.

At the wrong side (or maybe the right side) of 80 years, Danny had answered the call of referee Dermot Lyons, and was in Creggs to do umpire for the game. In his white coat he looked as fit and as sprightly as a man half his age, and it is a tribute to him and his love of Gaelic football that he would travel, during this pandemic, to do his bit for his fellow Castlerea man.

The good news is that he didn’t have to call on Hawk-Eye, and, as always got through with the minimum of fuss. Well done, Danny, there’s not many like you.

 

And finally…

 

Finally for this week, down there in Strokestown, Ado Kenny, one of the most respected and important members of the Irish Showjumping Association for many a long year (a former national chairman) celebrated a big birthday recently. All of us out here in Crosswell, who have known him for quite some time, would like to wish him well. Happy birthday, Ado – and here’s to many more.