Electric Picnic organisers urge Government to issue new reopening plans

Coronas singer calls for roadmap for live music after Laois council’s decision to refuse licence

The crowd for Bonnie Tyler who played on at Electric Picnic in 2019. Photograph: Dave Meehan

The crowd for Bonnie Tyler who played on at Electric Picnic in 2019. Photograph: Dave Meehan

 

The organisers of Electric Picnic have called on the Government to issue new re-opening guidelines, after it was refused a licence to hold this year’s festival.

The Electric Picnic music festival had been due to take place from September 24th to 26th at Stradbally Hall Estate. However, Laois County Council refused to issue a licence for the event, saying the decision was made following the “most up-to-date” health advice from the HSE.

Covid-19 rules currently limit numbers at the majority of organised outdoor events to 500 at venues with capacity in excess of 5,000.

In a statement published on Thursday morning, the organisers of the festival they were “extremely disappointed” at the decision. “This is despite our proposal that everyone attending the event, including ticket holders, staff and artists, would have to be fully vaccinated and registered in advance for Department of Health contact tracing,” it said.

“To see Scotland, a country with a similar population and virtually identical vaccine rollout and uptake as our own, only announce on Tuesday that they were easing restrictions and allowing events such as TRNSMT Festival in Glasgow go ahead in September makes this decision even more difficult to accept.

“This is a huge blow and set back to our entire sector, which was mandated to close on March 12 2020 — over 500 days ago.

“Such a decision now means the further loss of employment for over 3,000 people, who had clung to the hope that Electric Picnic would bring an end to their period of hardship.

“We now call upon all members of Government to interrupt their summer recess and immediately issue reopening guidelines we have being calling for, with a reopening date for the sector of August 16 on a phased basis, building to the implementation of no restrictions from September 1 2021 onwards.

“We wish to thank all the fans for their patience and the community of Stradbally and the people of Laois for their huge ongoing support during this difficult time. “We will now review our options and be in contact directly with all ticket holders over the next week.”

Oasis star Liam Gallagher tweeted: “Gutted to hear Electric Picnic has been cancelled. Was looking forward to seeing my Irish brothers n sisters and my cousin Guinness.”

Singer Danny O’Reilly has called on the Government to provide a roadmap for the return of the live music sector. His band The Coronas was due to play at the Electric Picnic, which was refused planning permission by Laois County Council on Wednesday.

“It’s very disappointing,” he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland. The core issue for him was that there was no plan for the industry yet there could be plans for 40,000 spectators to attend the All-Ireland finals in Croke Park, where there could be people drinking before and after the games, he said.

“But we can only have 200 at an event until the end of September.”

Mr O’Reilly added: “you see what’s going on with Katherine Zappone and how quickly Fáilte Ireland can meet the Government. There was no rush for the events industry.”

There had been preferential treatment for the GAA too, he said. “We’re not banging down the door to let 40,000 people into a gig. We just want a plan.”

There were many venues that could host events in a responsible way. The events industry was very well regulated and knew how to put on safe events. “We could keep people seated and socially distanced.”

Earlier on Newstalk Breakfast Sunil Sharpe of the Give Us The Night Campaign called for a more accessible and more affordable testing campaign which would allow people to attend events. The current system where people had to pay €100 for a PCR test so they could travel was “a scam”, he said and needed to be subsidised.

There should be free antigen testing which would provide a safer route for the return to live events. Not every industry was going to “get it right”, but the events sector just wanted to be given a chance like everyone else, he said.

A number of test events have been staged in recent months, however Ireland’s live music and entertainment sector remains effectively closed down due to coronavirus regulations.

The organisers of Electric Picnic had hoped the festival could go ahead at the end of September with 70,000 attendees, with entry conditions including proof of vaccination or of having already recovered from the virus. Last year’s festival was cancelled due to the pandemic. Tickets bought back then remain valid for the rescheduled event and 90 per cent have already been sold. –Additional reporting PA