Pandemic shows arts is in real need

A music promoter and a local council candidate have shared concerns about the stricken arts industry and want to ensure artists are able to access the evolving COVID 19-relief payments.

Labor's Ward 1 council candidate Suzie van Opdorp and music promoter, Meg Benson of Music Hunter, said the pandemic had led to the closure of many venues and galleries, severely impacting local artists and musicians.

Culture shock: Music promoter Meg Benson with Ward 1 candidate Suzie van Opdorp in Katoomba are worried about the continuing impact of the pandemic on arts and music industries.

Culture shock: Music promoter Meg Benson with Ward 1 candidate Suzie van Opdorp in Katoomba are worried about the continuing impact of the pandemic on arts and music industries.

Ms van Opdorp said the last census showed about eight per cent, or 2000 Mountains workers, were employed in the arts/creative industries. But she said there were many more, not captured in the data, working in the industry as their second job.Many in the arts had had little or no work for the past 18 months.

The performing arts sector has been particularly hard hit," she said. "Arts workers, along with others in precarious employment, urgently need income support at levels that will sustain them, for example linking payments to the minimum wage of $772 a week," she added.

This week it was announced lockdown disaster payments will increase to $750 and $450 a week, depending on hours of work lost, Those receiving welfare who have lost over eight hours can receive $200 on top of their payment.

Ms Benson said professional musicians and crews going through financial hardship can contact supportact.org.au and can apply for their one-off crisis relief grants; music keeper or crew keeper.

"There are also some available grants for the performing arts industry on the Create NSW website. The livemusicoffice.com.au has posted a blog explaining last week's financial package issued by the government for support."

In her 11 years as a local promoter, Meg Benson of Music Hunter has employed 1,300 musicians and brought music to 15,000 people with the assistance of many sound engineers and some volunteers. The events had also stimulated the economy, through, retail and food services, accommodation and taxis.

Ms Benson said she was concerned about the "consequential despair, plus the erosion of mental health and well-being of those directly impacted, considering they are the first to lose their performance based jobs and the last ones to get them back."

"In general, even before COVID, we need to change the way we think about the arts. It has long been shown that art and music has a positive impact on people's mental, physical and social health."

The Blue Mountains Music Festival had now been cancelled twice, and "not only was there a massive loss of funds for all involved [but] a whole lot of community members missed out on volunteering at their favourite event, one that enhances their sense of social inclusion," Ms Benson said.

Ms Benson said micro businesses just like hers needed support.

Ms van Opdorp said she was keen to hear if anyone had have trouble accessing the promised funds. at ward1labor@gmail.com. "I'm committed to working with our state and federal members to address shortcomings."