Covid-19: More 'big acts could pull out of NI gigs'

By Claire Graham
BBC News NI

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Concert promoters say restrictions at indoor gigs mean big acts are pulling out of Northern Ireland

Restrictions at indoor concerts could lead to more big acts pulling out of Northern Ireland, event organisers have warned.

Over the summer, acts such as Genesis, Van Morrison and JC Stewart cancelled or rescheduled gigs in Belfast because of social distancing rules.

The current rules mean one metre social distancing at indoor events, seated guests only and no dancing.

But concert promoters have called for the distancing rule to be re-examined.

The director of events at the Waterfront Hall and Ulster Hall said the issue should be addressed sooner rather than later.

Image source, Getty Images
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Event organisers warn that more "big names" could put out of Northern Ireland dates

Charlie McCloskey said most of September's bookings have now been postponed or rescheduled.

"We have 16 events booked but 15 of those have had to reschedule because they were sold at full capacity without social distancing.

"The current one metre social distancing still leaves live events unfeasible.

"We understand that the virus is still out there. We're going to have to live with it."

Promoter and venue owner Joe Dougan told BBC News NI more events were "in jeopardy" in the coming months unless rules are changed or indicative dates are set.

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A series of gigs by Sir Van Morrison were cancelled at the beginning of the summer

"I think if some movement does not come on the 23 September, we'll be in a dire position," he said.

"It is the lack of an indicative date that is hurting us most in this industry at the moment.

"We are the only part of the British Isles which hasn't set a date or reopened.

"We have no ability to plan. Over the summer months we lost a tonne of money because of reduced capacities."

Mr Dougan said he has cancelled 30 events which were booked to go ahead in the month of September.

"This is an expensive business and this is simply not commercially viable."

Many of those working in the events sector remain on furlough, which is due to end at the end of the month.

A spokesperson for the Executive Office said: "Further consideration will be given to the remaining restrictions when the executive next meets.

"Any decisions will take full account of the health, economic and social context."