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Fair City star Johnny Ward calls for full lockdown in a bid to save the arts

Johnny Ward

Eoin Murphy

Actor Johnny Ward has said the only way the Government can save the struggling arts community is to lockdown the country indefinitely.

Today, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe announced the Live Entertainment Support Package which is being touted as a means to help music venues and theatres cater for reduced-capacity concerts and events.

But for Johnny, who has been on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) since the pandemic struck, the only support entertainers need is to shut the country down again.

“I think we need to lock down the country again. We need to do it now because what is going on is just brutal and it is not getting any better. People are talking about going back to normal in 2021 and that is just crazy," he said.

“There is no vaccine and the virus is going nowhere so for me, unless we do something quickly, 2021 is going to be a write-off as well. We need to lock down the country and close the schools and the bars and the colleges and for months not weeks because people are not taking it seriously anymore and there is no way back for us otherwise.”

Johnny, who runs his own successful drama school, was also due to tour the country with Coppers The Musical.

The dates were initially pushed back until November, but for now he has no idea when he will be back on stage.

When this thing happened first, I took it really badly. I was eating and drinking too much and I started going mad," he said.

“But I made a decision to gave up alcohol and stopped smoking and started a 63 day fitness challenge just to give me something to do and that keeps me in the gym every day.

“I have had both streams of my income devastated. I always taught drama because I knew that life as an actor was not going to provide me with regular work. But to have that taken away from me as well as the acting is just brutal.

“Fair City is back now but I am not going to be part of that for a while. It is a terrible thing to have that live feeling taken away from you, because when you stand on stage for Coppers the Musical, and you take in the standing ovations, or the audience voting for you on Dancing With The Stars or even Love/Hate, and then it is taken away.

"That is hard to process.”

Johnny has tried to remain positive throughout the last tough six months, but he says things have not been easy for him or his acting friends.

“I have one friend who is a well-known actor and he went back to work in a shop. But he was getting recognised at work and getting abused and that is just wrong.

"I think for many of us, while the financial support is important, it is equally important to be doing something creative and many of our outlets have been taken away. It is a terrible time to be in the arts community.”

The 33-year-old has also made the decision to move home so he can keep a close eye on his mum.

“I have moved home to look after my mother, who turns 70 this year. She can’t drive and I look after her and she lives upstairs while I live downstairs. It is a horrible situation to be in and nobody could prepare for it.

“But when I am out and about doing the shopping and I see people having chats with each other or people going around to different houses. Then I see that the numbers are going up and things aren’t working.

“I am not a politician or a doctor but I have stayed in my bubble because I am terrified of giving my mother Covid-19."

When he is not working out or destressing on his PlayStation 4, Johnny is creating quirky music videos for his Instagram page.

His latest video, a parody of the Frankie Valley hit Oh What A Night, called Life is S***e, came to the attention of Mary Lou McDonald.

The Sinn Fein leader, who is mentioned in the song, took to Twitter to voice her appreciation of the funny fit-up.

“I mentioned Mary Lou in the song and she tweeted me back saying it was fun. And God bless her she got that I was trying to have fun in a bad situation.

"But since then I have had a load of Republican ‘RA heads’ private messaging me saying they will look after me if I need anything," Johnny said.

“Which was mad but it is nice to have something creative out there and getting a reaction I think everyone in the creative industry misses being able to perform to an audience and that is why we are doing things like this. It’s not for the money I can assure you. It is just to feel like you are doing something.

“And for everyone, including Paschal and the government, the most important thing we can be for one another is to be kind.”

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