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Unvaxxed cast out to sea as Latvia festival returns

In line with Latvian law, the second edition of floating festival Laivā featured separate sections for vaccinated and unvaccinated fans

By Jon Chapple on 18 Aug 2021

Fans in canoes and dinghies at Laivā 2021

Fans in canoes and dinghies at Laivā 2021

image © Festivals Laivā

Laivā, the unique ‘crossover festival’ with a partly floating audience, returned to Riga on Sunday 15 August, with DaGamba, the popular Latvian band behind the event, welcoming 5,000 people for another day of music on the shores and waters of Jugla Lake.

Now in its second year after launching last summer, Laivā – Latvian for “on a boat”, as well as a play on the English word “live” – featured performances from local artists Skyforger, Bur Mani and Gints Smukais, as well as DaGamba themselves.

The bands performed to an audience of around 5,000 people in kayaks, dinghies and motor yachts, with some 3,500 fans watching from the shore and another 1,500 on the water. Organisers offered boat hire services, though festivalgoers could also bring their own.

In Latvia, government restrictions mean vaccinated and unvaccinated concertgoers must be separated, so only fans who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 (or had natural antibodies) were allowed to watch the show from the shore of the lake.

“This is simply a brilliant idea for how to hold a festival while ensuring social distancing for the unvaccinated”

The stage was also located on the shore, while drinks were available from two bars floating on the Jugla.

The attendance at Laivā 2021 was a significant increase on 2020 (before the coronavirus vaccine became available), when 1,500 people attended the socially distanced debut event.

“This is simply a brilliant idea for how to hold a festival and ensure social distancing for the unvaccinated at the same time,” Anna Berzina, who was rowing a kayak with her husband, tells AFP.

At press time, just 726,000 Latvians – less than 40% of the population – was fully vaccinated against Covid-19, one of the lowest rates in the European Union. The Latvian prime minister, Krišjānis Kariņš, said today (18 August) that “unvaccinated people are likely to have more and more restrictions, particularly on [freedom of] assembly” in the coming months.


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