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St. John’s arts community experiencing domino effect of cancellations due to COVID-19 pandemic

Mick Davis has been making a living playing over 150 gigs a year since he was in his 20s. With all the bars and venues where he regularly plays shutting down, his career is on hold for the foreseeable future. Contributed photo by Chris Ledrew
Mick Davis has been making a living playing over 150 gigs a year since he was in his 20s. With all the bars and venues where he regularly plays shutting down, his career is on hold for the foreseeable future. Contributed photo by Chris Ledrew

Federal government announces emergency support benefit for workers who are not eligible for EI

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

At the very least, there’s a sense of comfort knowing there’s a large community of people in the same position, Mick Davis says.

“It’s everybody, it’s not just musicians and artists. I mean, everybody’s out,” Davis said. “The whole world is in it, so I think everybody has to take it easy on everybody else.”

For 20 years, Davis has been making a living by filling bars and music venues with the sounds of his electric guitar and piano playing, often inflected with the tones and style of an era of music that Danny and the Juniors once proudly proclaimed would never die — rock ’n’ roll.

“That’s my job. I don’t have any other job,” Davis says.



But the gig cancellations started coming in on Monday, effectively pressing pause on his occupation. His schedule is wiped clean for the foreseeable future as bars and venues have been shutting down as a precautionary measure to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19.

“This is just the beginning, I have no idea how long it’s going to last,” Davis said.

“I’m pretty Fonzie most of the time, but I mean, it’s been a hard winter. I’ve had a lot of gigs cancelled anyway. Money is not floating around.”

As for being isolated, Davis says that’s no problem.

“I’m ultra-social, the job sort of makes me that way,” he says. “I’m talking to people every weekend and listening to people and getting spit on and harassed and people spitting in my eye. You know, I’m out there man. So, when I’m off, I’m off. I just want to get away with my wife. We’re happy to be stuck together any time.”

In the meantime, he’s been doing what he usually does on his days off — a crossword puzzle with a cup of tea. He followed that by reading some haikus from the masters, he says.

Hard times

Michelle LaCour has been spending a lot of her time domestically as well.

Michelle LaCour is a St. John’s-based, mostly self-employed, audio engineer. Here she is pictured with musician and songwriter Natasha Blackwood. When Blackwood had to cancel her album release last Saturday, LaCour said the cancellations and postponements just kept coming in. Contributed photo
Michelle LaCour is a St. John’s-based, mostly self-employed, audio engineer. Here she is pictured with musician and songwriter Natasha Blackwood. When Blackwood had to cancel her album release last Saturday, LaCour said the cancellations and postponements just kept coming in. Contributed photo

“I did all my laundry and I rearranged all of the furniture in my home studio, so that looks great for the first time,” she said.

LaCour is an audio engineer and can usually be found at bars and venues across the city, making sure musicians and actors have the technical side taken care of, so they can concentrate on their art.

But since her Saturday gig was cancelled, the rest just started falling like dominoes, LaCour says.

“Of course, I’m stressed out for myself, but I’m also stressed out for everyone I know,” she said. “All of my colleagues, anyone who does theatre lighting, stage design, construction, stage handing, directing, stage managing, box office — everybody who works in the theatre industry.

“(And) the film industry, where you have dozens of people on a tightly packed set, that’s all shut down. All the bar staff, all the musicians who were supposed to be gigging from St. Patrick’s Day weekend, people who gig three or four times a week and that is their livelihood, it’s all turned upside down. It’s just stress.”

And some of these people won’t have access to employment insurance benefits.

“One of my regular gigs has me on payroll, so I might be able to apply for a tiny bit of EI, but it wouldn’t be enough to even cover my rent,” LaCour said. “For so many self-employed workers we don’t make very much, we don’t contribute to EI, so we can’t access it when horrible things happen. I imagine many, like me, had some savings that we blew through during the snowstorm. It’s been a tough year so far.”

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced billions in financial aid for Canadians, their families and businesses.

Five billion dollars is dedicated to workers who are not eligible for EI and are facing unemployment.

Twitter: @AndrewLWaterman


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