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NI music venues to reopen with restrictions

Music venues and theatres in Northern Ireland (NI) are permitted to reopen as of 6 pm BST tonight, under the latest relaxations of Stormont’s Covid-19 rules.

Live music will be permitted for rehearsals and performances, with no restriction on background or ambient volume levels.

However, audience members must purchase tickets in advance, have allocated seating, and adhere to a one-metre social distancing rule.

Venues were expected to reopen on 26 July but minsters want more time to consider the health implications. Outdoor events were permitted to return on 5 July without capacity restrictions.

Belfast singer-songwriter Sir Van Morrison, who legally challenged the Northern Irish government over its ‘blanket ban’ on live music in licensed venues, described the announcement as “a kick in the teeth”.

Morrison last week cancelled a number of concerts at Belfast’s Ulster Hall (cap. 1,000), due to take place between 29 July and 1 August, blaming the “draconian” delays from Stormont. He now argues that cancelled concerts that were planned for this week could’ve gone ahead.

“We are delighted  that  we can  finally reopen  to  welcome artists and fans  back…nothing beats the experience of a live event”

Others in the Northern Ireland live music industry have welcomed Stormont’s latest rollback of restrictions. Julia Corkey, chief executive at Ulster Hall, says: “We are delighted that we can finally reopen to welcome artists and fans back to the iconic Waterfront Hall and Ulster Hall. As we all know, nothing beats the experience of a live event.”

Limelight Belfast wrote on Facebook: “Great news for live music venues and theatres.”

In preparation for the next stage of reopening, two major concert series in Belfast have set out entry conditions, which the organisers say are based on the findings of the range of ERP (Event Research Programme) pilot events.

The Belsonic concerts at Ormeau Park and CHSQ at Custom House Square, will both require ticket holders to show proof of having had either, both doses of the vaccine, proof of a negative Covid test 48 hours before arrival or proof of natural Covid antibodies.

Belsonic will take place between 4-25 September with Liam Gallagher, Dermot Kennedy and Gerry Cinnamon. CHSQ will take place between 10-29 August with artists including Tom Jones, Kodaline, Nile Rogers & Chic.

The rules for entrance to the music events are similar to those employed by the organisers of the Latitude festival in England, held at full capacity at the weekend as a government test event.

The British live music industry fully reopened without restrictions from 19 July. On the same day, Scotland reduced restrictions to the lowest level and plans to remove all restrictions on 9 August.

 


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Van Morrison to legally challenge NI’s live music ban

Acclaimed singer-songwriter Van Morrison is to legally challenge the Northern Irish (NI) government over its ‘blanket ban’ on live music in licensed venues, which was introduced in September under coronavirus restrictions.

In a summary of the legal requirements, for venues where alcohol is served, the Northern Irish tourist board, in a section on ‘entertainment and noise’, reveals that live music is “not permitted”, along with recorded music “for the purposes of dancing (ie DJs)”.

NI is currently partway through a six-week lockdown in which hospitality and entertainment venues must remain shuttered but the Northern Irish singer-songwriter is eager to challenge the rules for when they reopen.

Solicitor Joe Rice said Morrison, who has released several protest songs against Covid-19 rules in recent months, will ask the high court in Belfast to review the policy.

Morrison is taking the action “on behalf of the thousands of musicians, artists, venues and those involved in the live music industry”, Rice says.

“We’re not aware of any credible scientific or medical evidence to justify this particular blanket ban”

“We will be seeking leave for judicial review to challenge the blanket ban on live music in licensed premises in Northern Ireland. We’re not aware of any credible scientific or medical evidence to justify this particular blanket ban … and we’re going to challenge this in the high court.”

Rice says he expects the case to be heard at the high court within “weeks”.

Van Morrison isn’t the only Irish artist who has called out government recently – Dublin-born artist Ronan Keating last week invited British prime minister Boris Johnson to meet him in a park to discuss “how [the UK] government is effecting UK musicians and the arts”.

“Ok @BorisJohnson, I think it’s time we had a chat. I can’t come to yours nor can you come to mine. But can we meet in a park socially distant and discuss how this government is effecting UK musicians and the arts,” Keating wrote in a tweet.

The tweet followed reports alleging that the British government had rejected an offer to allow UK musicians to tour Europe without needing a visa post-Brexit.

 


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