As live performances still hampered by pandemic, NL musician pleads for government support

Justin Fancy, a country singer from Conception Bay South, Newfoundland, wrote a letter to the provincial and federal governments asking for continued financial support for artists in 2022. (CBC – image credit)



As Newfoundland and Labrador begins the New Year at Alert Level 3 of the provincial government’s tiered health restriction system, Conception Bay South musician says more government support is needed for the arts .

Country singer Justin Fancy says many artists are grappling with the pandemic and continue to need financial support.

“I consider myself to be a kind of music advocate in Newfoundland and Labrador,” Fancy said.

On Thursday, Fancy posted a letter on Twitter he sent to the provincial and federal governments, seeking support and talking about the “frustrating” impact of the pandemic.

“With businesses closing their doors, artists have been forced to cancel their concerts and therefore cannot generate regular income,” Fancy wrote, adding that he feared the pandemic would “shatter the artistic community” if assistance is not received from the provincial and federal levels.

Fancy started recording his debut album in January 2020, just two months before the pandemic hit the province – something he says made him more independent from live performances.

But many artists still depend on income from live shows, decimated by the pandemic.

Comedian Rick Mercer is an artist who doesn’t rely on live performances for a living.

Mercer, originally from St. John’s, knows that ticket sales are crucial for artists.

“It’s the only way they can make money. They don’t do it any other way. And it all stopped,” Mercer told CBC News Thursday. “It was devastating. Those who kept their heads above water, I’m stunned.”

The pandemic, says Mercer, is particularly difficult for emerging artists.

Mercer himself has been hit by the restrictions linked to the pandemic – a comedy tour he had planned has been repeatedly postponed.

“They say, ‘OK, the show can go on, but at 50 percent. “Well that’s great and dandy. But the reality is, say, the tour I was going to do, they immediately canceled it because it just wouldn’t work out at those numbers,” Mercer said. .

“When you’re in the live world, you need bums in the seats, and obviously we couldn’t have bums in the seats. And so that was tricky.”

For lesser-known artists like Fancy, financial support has been essential throughout the pandemic.

Fancy used different funds to work on her album and an EP – most recently Music NL’s Vacation Relief Fund, which offered a 50 percent grant on canceled work up to a value of $ 500. The singer also benefited from funding from Arts NL and the provincial government artist support program.

“Funding was the key,” Fancy said.

“If I didn’t have this, I’d just burn a hole in my pocket that I don’t have.”

Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press

Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press

Funding for the arts and entertainment sector is expected to continue through 2022, Fancy said.

The Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts and Recreation told CBC News in an emailed statement that in 2021, the fund has supported 668 applicants with a total of more than $ 3 million.

It further funded Arts NL with $ 5 million, which is the usual amount provided to the association each year.

The ministry did not say whether it would renew the fund this year, only that it “would continue to support [artists] In the coming months.”

With numbers low in the province in the fall, Fancy had planned to visit Newfoundland’s arts and culture centers.

Now he doesn’t know if he’ll be able to go.

“There is no better feeling for an artist to walk into a room and know that they have 150, 200 tickets sold for a show and they are coming to see you,” Fancy said.

“You can’t transfer that to technology. It just doesn’t happen.”

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Kenneth T. Shippee