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Accordion legend Liam O’Connor revels in lockdown creativity

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CREATIVITY: Local musician Liam O'Connor this week talks about the music industry, his creativity during lockdown and future projects. Photo: Michelle Crean

 

This week journalist with the Killarney Advertiser Sean Moriarty is 'In Conversation' with local musician Liam O'Connor about the music industry, his creativity during lockdown and future projects.

Local musician Liam O’Connor turned lockdown into one of his most creative periods to date.

Like all musicians, he found himself out of work in March and believes he won’t return to live performing until late this year if not early next year.

Named last year as 'Ireland’s Most influential Accordion Player' at the Irish Entertainment Awards, Liam enjoys a hectic schedule - something that did not change over the last four months despite being unable to play live.

His last gig, alongside Dermot Kennedy and special guest Irish rugby coach Joe Schmidt, was the annual St Brendan’s College concert on March 11.

The very next day the country went into shutdown - but instead of feeling sorry for himself, he turned his attention to several projects that had been put on the long-finger as he was previously too busy.

“It was no harm to get out of the rat race,” he told the Killarney Advertiser. “Lockdown became a creative time.”

Liam has put the finishing touches into an album with the RTE Concert Symphony Orchestra which he hopes will be released later this year.

“This was a project that fell by the wayside but I am glad to say we are putting the finishing touches to it now,” he said.

He also hopes to release a single with a song he previously recorded with Boy George.
‘Am I Losing Control’ featured on Liam’s first album ‘Tico Mystico’ which was released in 2010 but the collaboration with Boy George has never been released as a single.

“It has been a creative time for me – I have been fine tuning stuff,” he added.

The work was recently remastered at London’s famous Abbey Road Studio where The Beatles famously recorded their 'Abbey Road’ album that gave the studio its name – it was previously known as the blander EMI Recording Studio.

“All of my albums have now been remastered at Abbey Road,” he said. “It is an amazing place to work, and you get to meet some very talented people there. Of course I could have got them remastered locally - why go to Abbey Road? Why not?”

If that wasn’t enough he has also taken on a new job as a music educator. He has joined the Government’s Music Generation programme, a scheme backed by Bono and U2 to open music education to everyone regardless of background or status.

He will start with the Kerry Education and Training Board, as music teacher/educator in September.

His usual busy schedule at this time of the year would include weddings, pub gigs and a few nights a week performing at Celtic Steps at Killarney Racecourse.

As he is registered for tax purposes he was able to avail of the Government’s COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment of €350 per week for the duration of the shutdown.

“I am thankful that for the first time ever the Government were able to put money in the pockets of the self-employed who hit bad times,” he said. “Not many people would say it but I think Leo Varadkar, Simon Coveney and Simon Harris did a very good job.”

An advocate of mental health well-being Liam has shown that even in the darkest times, creativity continues and life can be very busy even when there is nothing happening.

“I am a total believer in the power of the positive mind,” he said.

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Develop skills and improve employability

By Niamh Dwyer, Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors Traineeships are developed and delivered on an ongoing basis by Education and Training Boards (ETBs) nationwide and are open to potential participants of all ages and backgrounds including school leavers, mature learners and those in or seeking employment. Developed in partnership with industry representatives […]

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By Niamh Dwyer, Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors

Traineeships are developed and delivered on an ongoing basis by Education and Training Boards (ETBs) nationwide and are open to potential participants of all ages and backgrounds including school leavers, mature learners and those in or seeking employment.

Developed in partnership with industry representatives and employers, these programmes combine learning in the classroom with a minimum of 30 percent of learning on-the-job. The focus is on ‘learning on the go’ and developing perspectives that are in tune with the ever evolving world of work. They span across a range of industry sectors including business and retail, media, manufacturing, agriculture, horticulture and mariculture, care, construction, engineering, animal science, fashion and beauty, finance, ICT, hospitality, sports and leisure, and logistics.

At the core of the scheme is a strong collaboration with the ETBs in the provision of work-based learning opportunities on existing and new programmes. Traineeships lead to an award at Levels 4-6 on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) and are between six to 24 months in duration. Over 75 programmes are available nationwide – although not all of them will be available nationally at all times – and the content, award and duration may vary. They are designed for flexible delivery to include online, face-to-face and blended learning.

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Second level or higher education students who are interested in participating in a Traineeship Programme should contact their local ETB, adult learners should contact the Adult Education Guidance Service through their local ETB, and jobseekers will be able to access information through their local Intreo Office or Local Employment Service. For those currently unemployed, a training allowance or income support may be available. You can check out the range of opportunities offered through Traineeships nationwide on www.fetchcourses.ie and more locally check out the www.kerrycollege.ie.

Niamh Dwyer is a Guidance Counsellor in Scoil Phobail Sliabh Luachra, Rathmore, and Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors. She is also a Career Consultant – For details see www.mycareerplan.ie or follow @mycareerplan on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: Return to work courses

Answer: Springboard+ provides free higher education courses for people who are unemployed (or were self-employed) and those looking to return to the workforce. Courses are offered in different areas including Information and Communications Technology (ICT), medical technologies, cybersecurity, sustainable energy and financial services. The courses range from certificate to master’s degree level – Levels 6 […]

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Answer: Springboard+ provides free higher education courses for people who are unemployed (or were self-employed) and those looking to return to the workforce.

Courses are offered in different areas including Information and Communications Technology (ICT), medical technologies, cybersecurity, sustainable energy and financial services.

The courses range from certificate to master’s degree level – Levels 6 to 9 on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ). Most of the courses are part-time and last for one year or less, but there are some full-time courses.
You can access a free Springboard+ course, if you are getting a qualifying social welfare payment such as Jobseeker’s Allowance, Jobseeker’s Benefit or the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP). You can get a full list of qualifying payments for Springboard+ on citizensinformation.ie

If you are not getting a qualifying social welfare payment, you will have to meet the residency criteria for Springboard+.

You can also apply for a Springboard+ course if:

* You are a qualified adult of working age (under 66) on someone else’s social welfare payment
* You are signing for social insurance credits
* You are on an employment support scheme such as Community Employment (CE) or TUS

To apply for a Springboard+ course, you choose the course(s) you are interested in on springboardcourses.ie and apply online, following the instructions on the website. You can apply for up to 10 courses, but you can only take one course.

If you are getting a social welfare payment, you should notify your Intreo Centre or local Social Welfare Branch Office and check what further steps (if any) you need to take.
If Springboard+ doesn’t meet your needs, there are several other ways to go back to education.
_______________________________________________________________________

During COVID-19, you can find comprehensive integrated information online at citizensinformation.ie/covid19/ and you can get daily updates on what’s changed on Twitter at @citizensinfo. You can also get information and advice from:

Tralee on Tel: Call 0761 07 7860, Monday – Friday (10am-4pm)
The Citizens Information Phone Service: Call 0761 07 4000, Monday to Friday, 9am – 8pm
Our national call back service: Visit citizensinformation.ie/callback to request a phone call from an information officer

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