Opinion: Risk

“Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” by Ronnie Macdonald is licensed with CC BY 2.0.

(The following The Last Word appeared on Episode 25 of Stage Door Live on 19 May 2021.)


It’s a word all of us who work in theatre know very well. People say it’s a risky career. Not a single event happens without a full and complete risk assessment. Every piece of work we put out in the world carries personal risk. Some might say that every day we pursue this career is a risk. 

Risk is something we are used to. Everything we do is bound up in recognising and mitigating risks. It is a constant companion, ensuring that every event goes off without a hitch, that the work we make is relevant and exciting, and guaranteeing many sleepless nights or moments of anxiety around our financial security.

It has often been strange and frustrating this past year to hear so much talk of risk and contingency. How many of us have made jokes or memes about how everything would be sorted out so much quicker if they just put our nation of stage managers and production managers in charge? A true word is often spoken in jest.

As we push forward, towards the reopening of events, I can’t help but feel hopeful and positive. We, as an industry have proven beyond any doubt in the last year that we are adaptable, and clever, and resourceful. If ever there was a group of individuals more equipped to mitigate risk and embrace contingency, it’s the live events sector. 

In saying that, we also have to be realistic, and there is one risk that is beyond our control. The risk that involves those sleepless nights. This industry is not run by slaves. Nothing happens for free. Therefore it is imperative that those with the power must help us to mitigate that risk, and create a contingency plan we can use.

I would like to speak directly for a moment to Minister Catherine Martin, to our Tanaiste Leo Varadkar and Taoiseach Micheal Martin. Unlike many other industries, this industry is full to the brim of individuals who are absolute experts in mitigating risks every single day. You cannot so much as eat a sandwich onstage without completing a full and concise risk assessment. Not a single member of the public can walk into any event be it in a small pub theatre, the 3 Arena or even the National Ploughing Championship without weeks and months of planning for every possible moment they are in that space taking into account and planning for all the variables and worst case scenarios that could potentially happen to them. If you really are concerned for the safety of the public, hear us when we say we know how to do this. Hear us when we say we know how to make it happen. Hear us when we say that we know how to mitigate risk and embrace contingency.

If we are given the opportunity.

Please, give us the support we need, and let us do what we do best.

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