- 04 Aug 21
Following a dramatic day, Hot Press understands that the promoters of Ireland’s biggest festival event have decided that they will launch a legal challenge against the decision by Laois County Council that will prevent the festival going ahead this year...
Festival Republic, the organisers of Electric Picnic, are to challenge the decision taken by Laois County Council to refuse a licence for this year’s event, Hot Press understands.
Hopes that this year's festival – currently scheduled for the weekend of 24-26 September – would get the green light at Government level had been rising over the past week. Results from major open-air events in the US, Europe and the UK had shown that events of this kind have little or no effect on Covid infection rates. Now, however, things have got much more complicated indeed.
In a dramatic day, as already revealed on hotpress.com, Laois County Council issued a statement confirming that a licence to run the event in September had been refused.
Laois council, in a statement, said that the decision was based on the current guidelines in relation to major outdoor events, and on the latest advice available from the HSE. However, that logic is unlikely to go down well with the hundreds of artists and bands who would have played what is Ireland’s biggest music and arts festival.
“This was a very difficult decision for Council to make and I’m sure it will be disappointing to thousands of music fans and the live music industry,” Laois Fine Gael Cllr Conor Bergin told RTÉ. “However, in the current climate it’s the lack of certainty over Covid. We’d all love to see it go ahead but with no certainty, it’s very hard.”
Last week we exclusively revealed that MCD and Festival Republic had written to the Taoiseach Micheál Martin; Tánaiste Leo Varadkar; Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin; and other government ministers and advisers outlining why the Electric Picnic should be allowed to go ahead from September 24-26 as a full 70,000-capacity event, but with enhanced Covid safety measures.
The letter, signed by Justin Green of Wide Awake Communications, said that the proposed measures “would resemble the regulations applicable to indoor hospitality, the rules governing international travel and the protocols implemented at live events currently underway throughout Europe, within the UK and the USA.”
They would include but not be limited to the following:
1. No restriction for those fully vaccinated 14 days prior to show date.
2. Testing for those who have had single vaccination.
3. No entry to those who are not vaccinated.
4. Registration for Department of Health contact tracing.
5. Event Management Plan implementing extensive health and safety requirements.
“Given our unique position as international promoters currently staging ‘living with Covid’ live events worldwide (Lollapalooza USA, Latitude UK etc.), we have gained first-hand knowledge and experience in safely running many large scale Covid pilot events and festivals,” Festival Republic and MCD said in the letter. “In doing so, we have implemented robust protocols which reflect both best international practice, whilst also incorporating any lessons-learned as we move forward with our events.
“We believe this is now an opportune time to progress to the next stage in the reopening of the Irish live entertainment events sector, having been currently mandated to close now for over 500 days,” they continue. “Last week, the British Grand Prix took place with an attendance of 140,000 spectators 70% of whom camped for three days. This weekend, various UK festivals will take place with full pre-pandemic capacity in attendance. Northern Ireland is planning to reopen with Belfast’s Belsonic and Custom House Square events scheduled to take place from late August onwards.”
They pointed to “the Government’s enormous success in the vaccination roll-out programme, which plans to have 2.9 million people fully vaccinated and 400,000 with first-dose vaccine in the Republic by the 10th of September” as another huge positive to be acknowledged.
The call came in the wake of a strong statement from Minister Martin, which emphasised how important it is now, to get the live music industry fully back up and running.
Hot Press reporters were at one of the UK festivals referred to, Latitude, which successfully ran with 40,000 people in attendance.
A subsequent MCD and Festival Republic statement has drawn attention to the 40,000 allowed to attend GAA matches in Croke Park and Scotland lifting restrictions in time for the TRNSMIT festival to go ahead from September 10-12.
“There is a real need for the Government to grasp the nettle,” I offered in that earlier news story. “The entire music industry has been hit in a completely disproportionate way by the restrictions imposed since the first lockdown began in March 2020. Every indication is that there is a real willingness within the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, and on the part of the Minister Catherine Martin, to press ahead in a positive spirit and to make events happen.
“The whole Cabinet needs to buy into that spirit. But that will require Micheál Martin to take a personal interest, and deal directly with whatever obstacles might still be in place. I would urge him to do that before it is too late for this year’s event and to enable Electric Picnic 2021 to happen.”
Now, however, it seems that Laois County Council have thrown the ultimate spanner in the works. Whether there’s a mechanism through which the Picnic can still go ahead remains to be seen, but one thing is certain – if the festival doesn’t go ahead, it will be another huge body blow for one of the industries hardest hit by Covid.