People are ‘chomping at the bit’ to be entertained

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Analysis
Anton McNulty

PEOPLE are chomping at the bit to get back inside a theatre and be able to sit down and listen to music and be entertained, according to Rosaleen Heraty, manager of Westport Town Hall Theatre.
For its winter schedule, Westport Town Hall Theatre has provisionally booked comedians Neil Delamare, Reginald D Hunter and Joanne McNally. Although the dates have not been officially announced, there is already a waiting list of people looking for tickets.
“I have waiting lists of people who want to come and see these gigs and are chomping at the bit,” Rosaleen explained. “With our doors being open we are getting so many people calling in asking ‘When are you having a gig?’ and ‘When will you be back?’. They cannot wait to get back and have a good night out again.”
There is no doubt that after 18 months of being told to stay indoors and socially distance from each other, many people are itching to get out and see some entertainment.
When Brendan Hurley was initially contacted by The Mayo News he was hanging lights in preparation of this weekend’s Claremorris Folk Festival. Headline acts will include the Hot House Flowers and Luka Bloom. In all, close to 30 other acts will be playing at outdoor venues in the south Mayo town.

Huge demand
The organisers had to cancel last year’s festival due to the pandemic. Brendan explained that they could have sold three times the number of tickets this year, such is the demand.
“We can tell from our web traffic in the last month or so, I’d say we could sell treble the amount of tickets if we were allowed to do so,” he explained.
“There is a buzz around the place. You can tell just by talking to people and the response on social media. It is really important to people. Getting out into the community has such benefits. Just being able to mingle again and feel there is an end in sight with these events.
“The importance of the arts and entertainment industry is not appreciated enough. Some people think it is only for a certain portion of the population, but I don’t buy into that. We have people at this festival, people in their 70s right down to 12 year olds. People are happy to come along to be in the presence of live music and the emotion that brings. People are really looking forward to it.”
The attendance for the venues at the festival is set at 200, but because the organisers are all volunteers and it is not a commercial venture, all involved will be happy to just cover their costs. Brendan explained that the musicians and singers are delighted to be able to get out and play in front of a live crowd again.
“Our gigs will be slightly more like a return to normal. Yes it is a small crowd, but it will feel more intimate, and the musicians are very excited about that. It is a full-on programme over two full days with 14 or 15 acts on each day. It has the feel of a more traditional festival, but with the Covid elements very strongly emphasised. It will have a slightly more normal feel to it.
“We cannot wait for it. The reason I do this is for the love of live music. It is not a commercial venture. We do it to bring the best Irish talent to Claremorris and Mayo. There is an abundance of talent in the county and the country, and we are all very excited.”

‘We have to be realistic’
With a large percentage of the Irish population now vaccinated there is a hankering from many in the industry for a full reopening of the indoor scene. Promotor Finbar Hoban said that while Covid prematurely ended some people’s music careers there are a number of talented young singers and bands who are itching to play in front of a live audience and show what they can do.
“There is also a hunger there from the young artists coming up, the 18- and 19- and 20-year-old musicians who still have the hunger to get out and play again. It is important that you are playing to an audience,” he said.
Finbar added that while it may take a while for consumer confidence to return and for people to start going to live events, he is of no doubt that the live scene will return healthier than ever.
“When gigs do come back to 100 percent capacity it is going to be a few months or maybe a year before things return to any normality for the live music scene. We have to be realistic about this. It is not going to happen all at once.
“I am fully confident the scene will return. It will not be all roses, it will take some time but the music will return.”