Irish music has massive clout. That sounds like a throwaway, odd point to make, but let’s face it, national identity is key to tourism, it’s key to opportunity, and it’s key to national income. Irish music on its own won’t produce those things, but it unquestionably plays a role.
That status is not about any individual musician or genre, though certainly some have played really key parts. It’s also not invulnerable. If people start coming to Ireland on holiday and go home not talking about music, or culture, one of our major draws as an international destination dies. And you don’t need me to tell you how important tourism is to the country, or how important arts are to wellbeing, after we’ve spent 18 months at home leaning more heavily on the screened version for entertainment.
It’s essential, then, that these things survive, and survive in good health. Unfortunately we now face something of a cultural perfect storm. High prices for rent and housing are as bad as they have ever been for those without means (or, realistically, most young musicians), and many of the more established places have had no income for over a year and are facing serious issues. Young people are being pushed out of the city, which has traditionally been a hotbed of culture.
A major aspect of Irish culture, then, is under serious – possibly existential – pressure, and that is something with far more significant impact going forward than simply narrowing our own horizons. And that narrowing of our horizons is what I’ll miss, but perhaps the cultural impact will force some real action. Save our arts.