Belsonic promoter hails return of live music after Stendhal concert first, as hopes rise for return of large-scale events

Hopes have risen further for the prospect of even large-scale live music events in Northern Ireland this summer after the first live outdoor concert in more than a year happened at the weekend.

Monday, 7th June 2021, 5:38 pm
Updated Tuesday, 8th June 2021, 7:57 am

Festival promoter Joe Dougan, one of the key figures behind Belsonic and the Custom House Square gigs, welcomed the return of live music after a one-off concert was organised by those behind the Stendhal Festival in Co Londonderry.

Ballymully Cottage Farm, the venue for the popular music and arts festival, welcomed 250 invited guests to enjoy sets from ROE, No Oil Paintings, Ports and Jealous Of The Birds on Saturday evening, under social distancing guidelines.

This came after Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey gave an indicative date of June 21 for the return of live music at hospitality venues, and expressed hope the 500-person cap on outdoor gatherings can be removed and replaced with risk assessments, during an interview with BBC Radio Ulster on Saturday.

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The socially distanced outdoor concert at Ballymully Cottage Farms near Limavady on Saturday

Mr Dougan congratulated those behind the Stendhal concert for getting the ball rolling with their socially-distanced event on Saturday night.

“It’s fantastic to see live music returning to Northern Ireland, and credit is due to Ross [Parkhill, Stendhal Festival director] and his team for making it happen,” he said.

He also expressed hope that large-scale events could return this summer, saying: “They are totally feasible, and we have outdoor concert events scheduled from August onwards. Large-scale outdoor concerts are highly controlled and meticulously planned productions, with a strong emphasis on compliance and health and safety.

“Concert promoters, as has been proven by the UK events research programme, are adept at delivering safe settings in which audiences can enjoy live music. It is worth noting that the Executive have been engaging meaningfully and productively with the sector on the matter, and across cultural and arts matters.”

He added: “I’m hopeful that outdoor concerts are allowed subject to risk assessments, as has been provisionally indicated by the minister for communities.”

Mr Dougan also said he hopes outdoor concerts can take place this summer “in broadly the same format as they could pre-pandemic”.

The latest statistics from the Department of Health show zero new coronavirus deaths, and 54 new cases.