‘Things are much more hopeful in the industry now’

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Conor Jacob was a lighting and set designer, touring the world with musician Brittany Howard when the pandemic hit. He is now part of a team the curates and facilitates events.

“I was on tour in Europe when the first lockdown happened. I went from a stacked 2020/21 calendar to a completely empty one. I didn’t think it would last more than a couple of months, but as it came towards the end of the summer I realised nothing was opening up in our industry in 2020, and that this was going to profoundly affect our work as opposed to temporarily affect it. An industry in crisis needs a voice and I think the likes of Angela Dorgan from the National Campaign for the Arts and Pearse Doherty in EPIC have done great work on our behalf.

“I invested what savings I had into equipment that could provide income and focus in a restrictive time. Towards the end of 2020, Caroline Duke and Natasha Duffy started Sofft Productions, with the goal of curating and facilitating meaningful events. We got organised and in that brief October window of things being eased, we put on a socially distanced, level-two compliant one-day festival in Meath, with a fully curated arts and wellness programme and musicians.

“Sofft nights are happening again in Meath in July, August and September and will be the first festival post lockdown. Again, a lot of work is going into curating a broad wellness and sustainability orientated programme with Cormac Begley, Soda Blonde and Pillow Queens playing.

“I was delighted to link back in with James McMorrow in the Iveagh Gardens, [in Dublin] who I have worked with since 2014, for the one-off pilot event that took place in June. The Iveagh Gardens is a special spot for me. I’ve worked there for over 10 years since Aiken Promotions started the Live at the Iveagh Gardens series and, of course, the ever-popular comedy festival. The gig was run by the National Concert Hall, which also has a real resonance for me; I did all of The Gloaming’s residencies there. The sound I miss the most during all of this is the roar of that room at the end of a Gloaming show.

“Dealing with the isolation wasn’t as tough for me as perhaps it was for others. I’m a bit of an introvert so I just got a routine going, that was important. I like where I live in Pimlico, close to the park, and I have a shared balcony with good neighbours.

“Things are much more hopeful in the industry now. We have put a lot of work into Sofft Productions, so we are excited to see where it takes us.”

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