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Quebec to host biggest pilot concert to date

Up to 20,000 fully vaccinated music fans will gather on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City in September for the world’s biggest test concert to date.

Caroline Proulx, minister for tourism in the devolved government of Quebec, announced earlier this week that Laval University will oversee a pilot event provisionally set for 25 September, with local promoters invited to tender for a “test event [that will be] as close as possible to a pre-pandemic event in its formula”. The selected promoter will be required to book at least three Quebec artists, as well as ensuring that at least 50% of the content of the show is in French.

A source tells the Journal de Québec that the preferred scenario for the event would involve 20,000 double-jabbed spectators, who would not be asked to wear masks, and an open-air concert on the Plains of Abraham, a 240-acre park in Quebec City. At the same time, 5,000 people would attend an indoor show, likely at the Videotron Centre arena.

“By September we believe the majority of Quebeckers will be doubly vaccinated”

The concert going ahead would be dependent on the public health situation at the time. “The goal is to make it an event that is safe, with no risk to people,” says Laval University’s Sophie D’Amours.

“This large gathering will be free for people who participate on a voluntary basis,” Proulx told a press conference on Monday (19 July). “Why was the month of September targeted? Because we believe that the majority of Quebeckers will be [doubly] vaccinated.”

Proulx estimates the test show, Canada’s first, will cost between CA$2–3 million (US$1.6–2.4m).

The latest pilot concert series, held in Leipzig in Germany in May and June, resulted in no infections, bolstering findings from previous test events in Europe. Last month, Festival Republic held a 10,000-person, three-day festival event, Download Pilot, at Donington Park in the UK.

International test events underline concert safety

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More concert venues become vaccination centres

Further music, entertainment and sports venues in Europe and North America are gearing up to become mass inoculation centres, as the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine continues its roll-out in the UK, with more countries set to follow suit, and other competing vaccines near approval.

IQ reported earlier this month that venues in the UK and Germany, as well as members of Belgian festival association FFMWB, had offered up their facilities as vaccination centres amid the ongoing British vaccination programme and ahead of European Medicines Agency approval for the 27 EU countries.

In Germany, joining the previously announced Merkur Spiel-Arena in Dusseldorf is Stuttgart’s Liederhalle, a historic concert hall (2,100-cap.) and convention centre which will reopen in the new year following a recent renovation with the capacity to immunise 2,500 people a day.

According to German news agency DPA, there are now more than 440 vaccination centres set up across Germany, with locations including converted exhibition centres, sports halls and hotels.

Historic concert hall Liederhalle will have a vaccination capacity of 2,500 a day

DPA reports that German health minister Jens Spahn is relying on EU approval of the first vaccine “shortly before Christmas”, with the first vaccinations then beginning within two to four days. It is being left to Germany’s federal Lands to deliver the national vaccination programme, though the federal government expects immunisation centres are expected to be at full capacity by mid-January.

In Luxembourg, which is similarly waiting on EU approval to begin its vaccination programme, the 2,300-capacity Halle Victor-Hugo in Limpertsberg, Luxembourg City, has been announced as the country’s first vaccination centre, serving the Luxembourgish capital.

Luxembourg has signed contracts with six vaccine manufacturers (AstraZeneca, Sanofi-GSK, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and CureVac) for 1.3 million doses of vaccine, with which it will be possible to immunise 800,000 people (nearly 150,000 more than there are Luxembourgers) against Covid-19, according to Les Frontaliers.

Canada, along with neighbouring America and Mexico, has already approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and began inoculating its earlier this week.

The first vaccinations were given in Quebec on Monday, at a conference centre

The first vaccinations were given in Quebec on Monday, with a conference centre in the city of Sherbrooke, Center de foires de Sherbrooke, chosen as one of the sites, given its history of providing vaccinations against seasonal flu. The 60,000sqft venue was, therefore, “ideal as a place for the delivery and administration of the first doses of the vaccine”, reports local daily La Tribune.

The UK, meanwhile, continues to add new venues to its national vaccination programme, which has given more than 137,000 people their first Covid-19 jab (of two) so far.

Hull’s 25,000-seat KCom Stadium is the latest major sporting venue to be transformed into a mass vaccination facility, with people from “priority” groups (the over-80s and National Health Service workers) receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine from Tuesday (15 December).

James Crick, associate medical director for Hull Clinical Commissioning Group, tells the Hull Daily Mail, that, thanks to “location vaccination sites” like KCom Stadium, more vulnerable people identified as priority cohorts will be able to receive the vaccine. […] In the meantime, I urge everybody to play their part in reducing the spread of the virus and follow the local restrictions to protect the NHS services while we carry out this vital work.”


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Cirque du Soleil files for bankruptcy protection

Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group, the world’s largest producer of contemporary circus and other touring entertainment shows, has filed for bankruptcy protection in Canada after more than three months of “zero revenues” as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil announced yesterday (29 June) it has applied to restructure its business under Canada’s CCCA (Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act – a process that shields it from creditors, similar to administration in the UK or chapter-11 bankruptcy in the US). Its application will heard today by the Superior Court of Quebec.

The announcement follows a particularly torrid quarter for Cirque, which announced thousands of temporary lay-offs in the early days of the pandemic.

Cirque says it has entered into a court-supervised purchase agreement with shareholders, including Texas-based TPG Capital and China’s Fosun Capital Group, to establish two funds, worth US$20 million, to provide relief to laid-off employees and contractors. (Some 3,480 of the more than 4,500 employees furloughed in March are expected to lose their jobs permanently.)

The ‘sponsors’, which also include state-owned investment company Quebec Deposit and Investment Fund (CDPQ), will additionally inject $300m worth of liquidity in order to restart the restructured business.

“I look forward to rebuilding our operations and coming together once again”

“For the past 36 years, Cirque du Soleil has been a highly successful and profitable organisation. However, with zero revenues since the forced closure of all of our shows due to Covid-19, management had to act decisively to protect the company’s future,” comments Daniel Lamarre, president and CEO of Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group.

Subject to the Superior Court’s approval, the sponsors will also serve as the “stalking horse”, or reserve bidders, in a sale and investment solicitation process (‘SISP’) of Cirque’s assets.

“The purchase agreement and SISP provide a path for Cirque to emerge from CCAA protection as a stronger company. The robust commitment from the sponsors – which includes additional funds to support our impacted employees, contractors and critical partners, all of whom are important to Cirque’s return – reflects our mutual belief in the power and long-term potential of our brand,” continues Lamarre.

“I look forward to rebuilding our operations and coming together to once again create the magical spectacle that is Cirque du Soleil for our millions of fans worldwide.”


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Montreal declared heavy metal city of excellence

The Montreal city council has unanimously approved a resolution to recognise the Canadian city’s metal scene, declaring it a “city of excellence in the world of metal music”.

The motion was proposed by councillor Craig Sauvé, an associate member of the executive committee and a metal fan.

The motion was seconded by councillors Sterling Downey and Jocelyn Pauzé, before being put before Montreal’s city council yesterday (Monday 15 April). Prior to the vote, Sauvé played songs from metal artists Cryptopsy, Necrotic Mutation and Despised Icon for his fellow councillors.

“It’s about time to collectively recognise the contribution of Québécois metal music, our local scene and the thousands of people who have contributed to help make our city’s metal scene shine across the world-stage,” writes Sauvé in the motion.

Sauvé declares that Montreal has played a “decisive role” in the development of metal music and that the metal community is an “essential part of the cultural ecosystem” in the city. The councillor also references the “quality” of Québécois metal music and the “vitality of its local scene”.

“It’s an immense thrill to be able to talk about this art form that I love so dearly”

“It’s a good day for our metal community,” posted the councillor, after the motion was passed unanimously by the council.

“It’s an immense thrill to be able to talk about this art form that I love so dearly,” says Sauvé. “We’ve been getting an amazing response around the world.”

Sauvé stated that metal music does not always receive the same amount of respect as other kinds of music, as it is viewed as an “extreme music form”.

“It’s loud, but it can be very quiet and meditative as well,” he says.

Independent opposition councillor Marvin Rotrans proposed an amendment to the motion, raising concerns that some metal music contains violent lyrics or imagery. Council speaker Cathy Wong ruled against the amendment, passing the declaration as written.


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Quebec super-tout Lavallee sets up shop in UK

Julien Lavallee, the Canadian StubHub ‘power seller’ who last week made headlines after claiming to the Daily Record to pay venues a yearly fee in exchange in exchange for ticket inventory, has upped sticks for the Isle of Man.

Listings on StubHub show Lavallee’s company, I Want Tickets Inc., has relocated from Quebec – where for-profit ticket touting is illegal – to an address in Manx capital Douglas.

The Isle of Man is a self-governing dependency of the British crown in the Irish sea. Although the island’s foreign relations and defence are the responsibility of the UK, it has its own parliament, Tynwald, and its own legal system, known as Manx law, meaning British legislation – such as that being discussed regarding stricter regulation of the UK secondary ticketing market – does not automatically apply.

IQ has contacted Lavallee, who reportedly employs 20 staff, for an explanation of the move. StubHub declined to comment.

I Want Tickets Inc., has relocated from Quebec – where for-profit ticket touting is illegal – to an address in the capital of the Isle of Man, Douglas

The Record reported Lavallee “pays an annual subscription to venues”, including The SSE Hydro in Glasgow and The O2 in London, “to cream off tickets for star events”. The 13,000-capacity Hydro, operated by AEG, denied the claim, saying it “does not place any of its inventory on to the secondary ticketing market”, while The O2 said it was investigating further.

FanFair Alliance campaign manager Adam Webb said the Records investigation “offers a rare insight into the murky world of professionalised online ticket touting”.

“Here was a guy based thousands of miles away, hoovering up hundreds, if not thousands, of tickets for UK events, and then reselling them at a profit back to British fans. Because of a complete lack of transparency in the resale market, we don’t know if Julien Lavallee is a one-off rogue trader or the tip of a much bigger iceberg.”

On the plus side, he’s at least now hoovering up tickets closer to home…


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Canadian promoter fined for illegal ticket fees

Canadian promoter and ticket agency Evenko has been fined more than C$10,000 for misleadingly pricing concert tickets, Quebec’s consumer protection agency has announced.

L’Aréna des Canadiens, Inc., trading as Evenko, was ordered to pay $10,056 after an investigation by the Office of Consumer Protection (L’Office de la protection du consommateur, OPC) found the company failed to offer a free delivery method for tickets to shows by Charles Aznavour and Enrique Iglesias at the Centre Bell (21,273-cap.) in Montreal in 2014. “In Quebec,” OPC notes, “it is prohibited for any merchant, manufacturer or advertiser to charge a higher price than that advertised.”

According to OPC, Evenko charged $5 to email the tickets or $7 to have them posted, with no option for picking them up for free at the box office.

“In Quebec, it is prohibited for any merchant, manufacturer or advertiser to charge a higher price than that advertised”

The case mirrors similar complaints brought against CTS Eventim – which was resolved in September by the district court of Bremen, Germany, ruling charging fees on print-at-home tickets is unlawful – and Live Nation/Ticketmaster, where plaintiff David Himber is arguing in a New York court that owing to ‘hidden’ booking fees “the advertised price is available to nobody”.

In Quebec, at least, the law is clear: “Traders are compelled to provide an ‘all-inclusive’ price” for tickets, says OPC, “which includes all fees except taxes. For example, in the case of a concert ticket, the price must include the service charge and [any other] fees related to the delivery of the ticket.”


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