Winners of the Eurovision Song Contest receive a trophy. They do not receive a check. However, as national icons, these winning singers are able to leverage the prestige of their win and their own enhanced status to keep performing and working — often to ever-larger crowds.
But, as Niamh Kavanagh has explained to The Irish Times, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has taken away even that.
With gatherings large and small cancelled or put on indefinite hiatus, Niamh has taken up temporary work at supermarket chain Tesco. The winner of the 1993 contest in Millstreet works in the customer service department at her local branch in Carrickfergus, Co Antrim.
“When [Ireland’s leader Leo Varadkar] stood on the steps and said indoor gatherings could be no more than 100 people, it put the nail in the coffin for a lot of my work,” she told the paper. “[UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson] wasn’t too far behind.”
“Basically that meant that my entire year’s paid work went. A whole year without earning is not kind to anybody.”
Her musician husband Paul Magahey has also been impacted, and her new job is helping them provide for themselves and their two teenage sons.
“We still need to feed ourselves. It doesn’t matter how well you are known. Being a national treasure for 27 years doesn’t qualify you for much on paper.”
“[Tesco] were looking for people. It was down the road from me. It made sense. You might as well being doing something useful.”
The Irish government offers some support for people who are enduring unemployment due to the pandemic — including support for those in the arts industry. However, taking on temporary work at a local supermarket is going to bring in more income than a government benefit.
Niamh Kavanagh’s Eurovision journey
Niamh has competed at Eurovision twice. She won in 1993 with the song “In Your Eyes”, and placed 23rd in the final in 2010 with “It’s For You”. She also won Celebrity MasterChef in 2017.
She’s maintained close links with Ireland’s Eurovision community, serving as the country’s spokesperson at Eurovision 2008 and, more recently, portraying Taylor Hynes’s mother in Ireland’s Junior Eurovision 2018 music video.
What do you think? Are you surprised Niamh has needed to get a non-singing job? How can musical artists get gigs? Tell us your thoughts below!