Workman’s Club manager Vinny Casey reflects on 681 days of restrictions: ‘We are bruised but unbeaten’

Vinny Casey, renowned venue manager for The Workman’s Club and entertainer in his own right, reflects on the impact of the past two years of Covid lockdown on the music and entertainment industry for Hot Press.

The past two years have been devastating for the creative industries – there’s no other way to describe it. The livelihoods of an entire sector were snatched away in the blink of an eye.

Financial stress, worry about the future, and lack of direction in our lives have all taken their toll on everyone. But for me, the uncertainty was the hardest part. At each stage, we had no idea what was going to happen in the weeks to come. In this climate, it is simply impossible to plan anything.

For an industry full of people who organize things for a living – an industry of problem solvers and timekeepers, an industry of people who plan events to the smallest detail – we’ve been thrust into a world where none of that could not be done with any level of certainty of the future.

Before the pandemic, postponing or canceling a show was something we avoided at all costs. It was a big, big deal if a show couldn’t happen. Every possible avenue would be explored to make the show happen.

It was only after all logistical routes were abandoned and there was absolutely nothing more to do that a show was finally canceled or postponed. It still felt like a loss, it was still a tough day. For the past two years, these days have happened all the time and the feeling of defeat has never been easier.

For my industry neck; concert halls, the pandemic arrived with almost immediate effect. I’ll never forget to tell my colleagues that I think we need to close the Workman’s Club for TWO whole WEEKS until this Coronavirus thing goes away. That was early 2020. If only we knew, almost two years later, we’d still be here. The creative industries are different in many ways from other industries.

I think more than other industries, people in this sector see their profession as more than just a job and more as an extension of who they are. It’s part of how they see themselves as people and how they make sense of their place in the world. So taking that away from them doesn’t just take away their livelihood, it takes away part of their identity, and often times that can be the hardest part to deal with.

However, now that it seems like this nightmare is finally hopefully over and this industry is picking itself up, battered and bruised and shining bright again, those are not the terrible feelings I will take away from this pandemic. What I will always remember for the rest of my life is an industry full of people who came together in a time of great difficulty and stood up for each other.

So many great collectives have been formed, so many great campaigns have been carried out over the past two years to highlight the fate of an industry decimated by the pandemic. The people coming together to help each other through such a difficult time has been truly inspiring to watch.

EPIC, The Live Venue Collective, Give Us The Night fought tooth and nail to cushion the blow of the closure of the sector. Organizations like Minding Creative Minds have stepped up to care for those who find it most difficult and who are suffering during these difficult months. That’s what I’ll remember; people who got up and stood one behind the other. The experience was truly inspiring.

Now, it looks like we’re finally on the other end of this thing and we can only hope it stays that way. We are battered and bruised but we are not defeated. Cultures have always been defined by the art they produce in Ireland, we have never lacked great art that pushes boundaries and drives us forward as a society. Despite all the difficulties the past two years have brought, I believe that Ireland’s appetite for experiencing art in all its forms will never diminish.

  • Creative Minds Services can now be contacted by texting “Hi” to 087 369 0010 for SMS and WhatsApp support (standard rate applies) with a trained psychotherapist/counsellor.

Read Laura McCabe, artist manager for Jawdropper, recounting her own experiences of Covid restrictions and memories of mindfulness coach Ben Glover here.

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