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!

Read more Ireland Eurovision news here

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Richard
Richard
6 days ago

No doubt as she hands over products to customers she can be heard to say ‘It’s for yooooou, it’s for yooooou!’.

Marcelo
Marcelo
8 days ago

I’d love for an Eurovision winner to give me me change after passing my groceries through the register. Kudos to Niamh Kavanagh for being a frontline worker in these times of dispair!

Alex
Alex
9 days ago

I applaud her for doing it, she is very humble and kudos to her.

However, I am surprised she has to do it after years of career (i know it wasn’t a major career but still). How come the government has not thought of all the artists?

Roy Moreno
Roy Moreno
10 days ago

Wasn’t she a bank worker back in the day?
Anyway, bank worker, supermarket worker, these are all respectable jobs and I’m proud of her being so open and so productive instead of staying at home
I wish her the best! I loved both her songs so much 🙂

Olivia
Olivia
10 days ago

I admire Niamh now even more for being so humble and hard-worker. Working for a supermarkt and being an Eurovision legend and a great singer are not incompatible things.

Jimmy Smit
Jimmy Smit
11 days ago

I’m impressed and in awe of her for doing that really. It’s quite brave of her to be so open about it too.

Incidentally, I think it’s more than overdue that the winner does receive a cash prize at ESC. With all of the advertising now involved, this shouldn’t be too difficult to muster.

Jonas
Jonas
11 days ago

I don’t think she even got the trophy – only the songwriter got one in those days.

Good luck to Niamh, I admire her. There’s nothing embarrassing about this story.

Tibor
Tibor
11 days ago

To be honest I’m rather surprised that we’re not getting more of these news. I mean, all performing arts are in suspense since March, they practically can’t work. In principle, musicians still have the possibility to make money through record sales, but we all know that the majority of people nowadays consume their music via streaming services, which is catastrophic for the musicians. Personally, I keep away from Spotify and the likes precisely because of that, if artists are on Bandcamp, I buy their stuff there, because the folks on Bandcamp pay them a fairer share than say iTunes or… Read more »

Last edited 11 days ago by Tibor
Darren
Darren
11 days ago

I wouldn’t knock her for it.
She has a family so she has to make ends me. This is a testing time for everyone and the gig scene has dried up probably until next year.
Good for Niamh and hopefully see her back gigging again soon.

zoomjd
zoomjd
11 days ago

Carrickfergus is in Northern Ireland so she would be getting unemployment benefit from the Northern Ireland executive or the UK government not from the Irish government.

Last edited 11 days ago by zoomjd
Rax
Rax
10 days ago
Reply to  zoomjd

Not true. She is from Dublin and is an Irish citizen, therefore she is entitled to benefits from the Irish Government while living on the island of Ireland.