I was delighted to announce that a number of test performances with live audiences will take place over the coming days and weeks.

Our theatres and performance venues were some of the first to close their doors earlier this year so I urgently wanted to give them the opportunity to show that they can operate safely. Not only is this about ensuring that the people of Ireland have access to the creative expression that enriches all our lives, but this is also about artists’ livelihoods. I want to show them that they are a valued part of our society. We can’t continue to talk about how important the arts are, we need to act and show that this is the case.

In September I appointed an Arts and Culture Recovery Taskforce made up of artists and creative industry professionals. Last month we published their report “Life Worth Living”. It recommended that the treatment of cultural activities and venues under the various levels of the Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021 Plan for Living with COVID-19 be reviewed. They noted that many cultural centres, venues, galleries and cinemas, offer large areas with ample circulation, controlled auditoria and spaces capable of facilitating large numbers of people in accordance with public health guidelines. Now that galleries, cinemas, and more of our cultural centres are open, these recently announced test performances are a further response to that recommendation of the Taskforce Report. I believe this is a further step towards seeing other venues and live events reopening their doors once again to audiences.

A performance by the Irish Chamber Orchestra will take place at the National Concert Hall on Saturday 19 December, and a production of Landmark Productions and Octopus Theatricals’ innovative “Theatre for One” at the Abbey Theatre runs for eight days over Christmas for limited time from Friday 18 December.

Best wishes to all involved in these performances over the coming days and I’m confident that this pilot series will prove that performances can take place safely and responsibly, paving the way for more venues to open their doors in early 2021.