Performing arts teachers holding silent protest outside Leinster House over government guidelines

By Aideen O'Flaherty

PERFORMING arts teachers will be holding a silent protest outside Leinster House tomorrow, Thursday, December 3, as their schools have been unable to reopen under current government guidelines – while gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools have reopened for individual training.

As previously reported in The Echo, performing arts teachers have been left frustrated by the changing guidelines in relation to the reopening of their schools, particularly after many of them spent large amounts of money kitting out their studios so they’re Covid compliant.

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Now the teachers will be taking to the streets and will hold a silent protest outside Leinster House, dressed in black and wearing black masks.

Nicole McDonald from the Firhouse and Templeogue-based Steptacular Performing Arts, told The Echo: “The reason why we’ve decided to do a silent protest is because we want to do the protest as peacefully as possible.”

Ms McDonald added: “What the government’s doing seems really unjust, when places like gyms are allowed to reopen but dance schools can’t.

“We know that there’s pandemic, but we’re following all of the guidelines and we feel that we’re being singled out.

“It’s having an awful impact on the industry. We have dancers who have auditions for performing arts colleges but they haven’t been able to train since March.

“We hold classes on Zoom but we can see the numbers going down each week, and some students don’t have the space at home [to do virtual classes].

“Even looking at the social side of it, we’re talking about children who aren’t into sports – dancing, singing and drama is their outlet.”

Professional dancer Adam Fogarty, who taught a dance masterclass in The Civic Theatre last year and is part of a new collective of performing arts industry professionals called the WhatAboutUs, said: “We have come together as a collective to get the government’s attention after nine months of struggling.

“Enough is enough, we deserve to be treated fairly and should be allowed [to] continue to work in the safest way possible.”

Members of WhatAboutUs said their businesses and their industry at large is at breaking point, and they are seeking evidence and clarity from the government on why they are not allowed to reopen.

Senator John Cummins raised the issue in the Seanad on Tuesday, when he stated: “I am sure we all watched ‘The Late Late Toy Show’ on Friday with great joy and saw children singing, dancing and performing.

“Stage schools have not been given the opportunity to reopen, despite operating successfully during the summer.

“Not every child wants to be involved in sport, which is something I know as a former PE teacher.

“It is essential for children to be able to engage in activity outside of their households. I believe stage schools can operate safely.”

The protest will take place at midday tomorrow, Thursday, December 3, outside Leinster House.

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