Coronavirus: NI Executive to consider lifting ban on live music tomorrow

The ban on live music could be lifted by the Executive when it meets tomorrow afternoon, it is understood.

Wednesday, 9th June 2021, 7:01 am
Crowds enjoy the atmosphere outdoors despite the rain at the Stendhal Festival in Co Londonderry in 2019

Hospitality Ulster said live music is vital to the industry, while festival organisers have expressed hope the current limit on the number of people allowed to gather will be revised upward or removed entirely.

Kieran Gilmour, director of Open House Festival in Bangor, said: “Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey made an announcement last week about reviewing the capacity of outdoor events, and added that she’d like to review indoor events.

“The easing of the 500-capacity restriction on outdoor events would be extremely welcome.”

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He added: “I think everybody would like to see an easing of restrictions. If there are restrictions on festivals, there might be some difficulties in social distancing at, for example, a stand-up concert at a festival.

“If there is distancing still in place, for an outdoor seated concert – which is what we are doing this year – that’s easier.”

His comments come after one of the key organisers of the popular Belsonic Festival, promoter Joe Dougan, told the News Letter he hoped audiences could enjoy outdoor concerts this summer “in broadly the same format as they could pre-pandemic”.

Mr Dougan, whose organisation Shine is also behind the Custom House Square gigs, said large-scale events are “totally feasible” this summer so long as restrictions are removed by the Executive.

Hospitality Ulster chief executive Colin Neill said: “The communities minister’s proposal, as far as I know, is going to propose the return of live music for the 21st of June.

“Of course I can’t confirm that date before the meeting but it is my understanding she has backing from some of the other parties in the Executive for that.”

He continued: “Live music is a key footfall driver. People go out to our pubs, our hotels and our restaurants to escape everyday life and to be entertained. It is key that it is brought back as quickly as possible.

“Whilst all our hospitality is open, it’s not fully open and it’s not yet profitable.

“We’re watching as England prepares to remove all restrictions and we’re watching the scientific research, which we hope will signal the same for here.”

Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong is the deputy chair of the communities committee at Stormont. She said, in a statement to the News Letter, that her party will back the return of live music.

“Alliance supports the safe return of live music in line with the health guidelines,” she said.

“This will help support our many musicians and the associated workers.”

She added: “As we come out of the pandemic, we are all looking forward to being able to enjoy live music in whatever format people prefer.”