- 24 Aug 21
The organisers of Unmute Us want the ban on large-scale events lifted by 1 September, which would still come too late for numerous Dutch festivals.
Thousands of people gathered in cities across the Netherlands to demand the return of music festivals last Saturday, August 21st.
The 'Unmute Us' protests were organised in response to the Dutch government’s ban of large-scale events, which will remain in place until at least October 31st, it was announced last week. The move was prompted by fears over the spread of the Delta variant of the Covid-19 virus, which is proving highly infectious.
In the meantime, one-day events with a maximum capacity of 750 are permitted in the Netherlands, under the condition that partygoers provide proof of vaccination, a recent negative test or having recovered from COVID-19 in the past sixth months.
Around 70,000 people attended the marches in Eindhoven, Groningen, Nijmegen, Utrecht, Rotterdam and Amsterdam, including more than 2,000 parties from the Dutch event industry.
Ziggo Dome, Awakenings, Down The Rabbit Hole, Soenda, Apenkooi Events, Vunzige Deuntjes, and Kultlab were among the event companies that hosted floats in their home cities.
The event also drew support from the likes of DGTL, A State of Trance Festival, Amsterdam Open Air, Best Kept Secret, Defqon, Dekmantel Festival, Lowlands, Mysteryland and Paaspop.
The protest marches were reinforced by performances from DJs and artists such as Ryan Marciano, Joris Voorn, Goldband, Bizzey, Sandrien and Joost van Bellen. Speeches were also delivered on the day by Kluun, Tim van Delft (De Staat), Lusanne Bouwmans (D66) and Michiel Veenstra (3FM).
— Joris Voorn (@jorisvoorn) August 22, 2021
“I had so many goosebumps all day. This is our scene, this is what we live for. Happy people, music and positivity. I only now realise how terribly I missed this,” says Bram Merkx, initiator of Unmute Us.
Last month, data revealed a 500% increase in infections after Dutch nightclubs reopened in June, whilst Verknipt Festival in Amsterdam reportedly led to 1,000 new COVID cases.
Meanwhile in the UK, Boris Johnson’s statement that a double vaccine dose would be required to enter music venues is in doubt. Last Sunday, a letter leaked to the Telegraph written on behalf of health secretary Sajid Javid confirmed that “no final policy decision has yet been taken” on the issue.
The Conservative government has also introduced a Covid cancellation insurance scheme, which covers promoters for events that have to be cancelled as a result of restrictions.
That initiative is surrounded in controversy, with Stuart Galbraith of Kilimanjoro Live complaining that it doesn’t cover cancellations which result from an artist or a crew member contracting Covid. But it is still a major plus for promoters and event organisers in the UK compared to their Irish counterparts, with Julian Knight, chair of the digital, culture, media and sport select committee insisting that the scheme is “about as good as could be expected under the circumstances and is more extensive than many other international schemes.”
Knight nevertheless conceded that the government should have introduced the events insurance scheme “several months ago” in order to have saved some major events - including Shambala, Boomtown and Kendal Calling. Full details of the insurance scheme are expected to be published in early September, which is when the cover can be purchased.
Chair @julianknight15 has welcomed the Government's announcement that it will back insurance for live events - a key recommendation of our #FutureOfFestivalsInquiry and something we have been calling on Ministers to introduce since January. His statement continues 👇 pic.twitter.com/4Zq3hfVOfi
— Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (@CommonsDCMS) August 6, 2021
In the UK, nearly 77% of the adult population have been double-vaccinated, as of the latest update; the Music Venue Trust survey said that 91.6% of live music fans will have been vaccinated by the end of September.
In Ireland, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said the Government plans to press ahead with the next phase of easing Covid-19 restrictions, envisioning all sectors to be reopened by Christmas.
What that might mean to the hard-pressed live music and events sector remains to be seen. A roadmap for a full return has been promised by the Government by the end of the month. In the meantime, the level of frustration among people in the industry has been approaching boiling point, with photographs of the Taoiseach Micheal Martin taken at Croke Park at the weekend watching his home county, Cork, in action being circulated with cries of 'shame’ attached.
— Fintan (@Fintaann) August 22, 2021
Will protest marches take place on the Irish streets in the same fashion as Dutch citizens?
Who knows, but there is no doubt that those people who are involved in music and events have a right to feel that their views have not been listened to either by NPHET or by the cabinet Covid sub-committee.