- 08 Jun 21
In a June 4th press conference, Belgian health minister Frank Vandenbroucke confirmed that open air mass events would be permitted from August 13th.
Hopes have been slowly rising for Electric Picnic to return this September in Stradbally - the largest festival event in the country, which has 70,000 capacity.
“Ireland is about four or five weeks behind the UK in terms of planning,” Festival Republic's Melvin Benn told RTÉ Radio 1’s Morning Ireland on May 10th, curating anticipation.
“I can see no reason why the Irish government wouldn’t be saying ‘you can be back to normal by August’.”
Pilot test events and outdoor gigs have since been announced by the Irish government; with Phoenix Park set to hold a music festival on June 26th where between 3,500 to 5,000 people might be able to attend.
Another music event is planned for the Iveagh Gardens in Dublin this Thursday, June 10th - with James Vincent McMorrow as the headline act. During June and July, there are also concerts set to take place at the INEC in Killarney, University Limerick Concert Hall, the Róisín Dubh in Galway, the Cork Opera House, along with a comedy event in Vicar Street.
Sporting events at the RDS, Tallaght Stadium, Turner's Cross, Morton Stadium and The Curragh will proceed, as well as 3,000 people attending Croke Park to watch the Camogie National League Finals.
The Cabinet approved several measures on May 28th that will allow for a further reopening of society and economy during June, July and August, but large-scale festivals were left out of the mix.
Of course, there's a monumental difference between 5,000 people and 70,000 people at outdoor gigs, but news from Belgium has injected a shot of hope into festival-lovers nationwide.
The European country’s federal government has announced that large-scale events of up to 75,000 people may take place from August 13th, which is welcome news for Belgium's late-summer festivals.
In a press conference on June 4th, Belgian health minister Frank Vandenbroucke confirmed that mass events held in the open air, would be permitted from that date, providing attendees can present a "Covid safety ticket" or a negative Covid-19 test before entry.
After 13 August large outdoor festivals like #Pukkelpop, #Tomorrowland and #Formula1 (up to 75,000 participants) can take place.
But participants must have received both vaccine doses, or be tested regularly at the venue.
— Dave Keating (@DaveKeating) June 4, 2021
Festivals like Pukkelpop, which has a capacity of 66,000 people, have now been given the green light to go ahead. Due to take place on August 19–22, the festival is aiming for “full capacity, 66,000 people a day,” organiser Chokri Mahassine told radio station Studio Brussel. The festival reportedly will go ahead without social distancing or masks.
“These past few months our sector has made a deliberate choice to engage in constructive cooperation behind the scenes, and we would like to continue in the same vein, with expertise and equal input on all sides,” Mahassine commented on the lobbying carried out by the live music industry.
“The safety of our visitors, artists, crew and local residents remains our top priority. Everything else will follow from there. Now it’s full speed ahead to a wonderful new edition of Pukkelpop.”
The federal announcement follows the publication of the Flemish reopening roadmap, which advised last month that large events should be able to go ahead from the end of July.
Frank Vandenbroucke also suggested that festival organisers could also offer their own on-site rapid antigen facilities, the Brussels Times stated.
On 26th April, Brussels venue Koninklijke Vlaamse Schouwburg (KVS), hosted one of the first test events in Belgium since the COVID-19 pandemic began. This is admittedly months ahead of Ireland's initial pilot events, with the country's August Jam Park nightclub test gig up in the air given the venue's closure.
Flanders' dance music event Tomorrowland (70,000-cap.), and the Formula 1 Belgian grand prix in Spa Francorchamps are also slated to continue, with a 2021 line-up yet to be announced.
August 13th ushers in the second-to-last stage of Belgium’s easing of lockdown, with the final restrictions planned to be lifted from 1 September. IQ reported last week that festival season is also going ahead in Austria, with full-capacity events allowed to resume from July 1st.
Comparing numbers, 24.6% of the Belgian population are fully vaccinated while 27.5% have their first dose only. 25% of the Irish population have both doses, while 28% have one dose of the vaccine. The figures are almost identical, as of today.
In terms of hospital admissions, Ireland have 84 patients with 30 cases in the ICU, while Belgium has 1,063 people in hospital and 364 people in the ICU. 290 of those people are on a ventilator.
The average cases daily over the past week in Ireland saw 465 new cases confirmed on Thursday, June 3rd. In Belgium as of yesterday, June 7th, the country's average cases daily over the past week was 928 new cases.
It should be noted that the population of Belgium is currently 11.46 million - significantly higher than Ireland's 4.9 million inhabitants. That being said, observing the statistics alone could offer Irish festival-lovers cause for optimism. Confidence is rising that Ireland’s vaccine programme will be delivered largely on schedule, and evidence mounting from other countries that this will mean a swift, dramatic reduction in the risk profile of Covid.
Our Brexit neighbours saw just 15 people test positive for COVID-19 following government-run live event trials organised to examine how mass gatherings can resume safely.
Liverpool nightclub revellers safely enjoyed two nights of the type of club outings we were used to before the pandemic.https://t.co/nT7yG6fKpF
— Hot Press (@hotpress) May 26, 2021
A report by The Telegraph revealed on May 20th that only a small proportion of the 58,000 people who attended the pilot scheme events became infected with the virus. Events included the BRIT awards at London’s O2 arena, concerts and raves in Liverpool, and the FA Cup final and a semi-final at Wembley stadium.
The news raises hopes that large-scale events can resume in line with the UK government’s final stage of eased restrictions - proposed for June 21 when all legal limits on social contact may be removed, depending on how many cases of the Indian variant are in the general population.
When it comes to Electric Picnic, organisers are likely to see difficulties gaining the necessary insurance policy from the Irish government. Rather than ensuring Covid cases are extremely low or non-existent at the event, the policy would be the key factor halting the resurrection of Stradbally.
The demand is clearly there, given how fast tickets to see James Vincent McMorrow raced out the doors.
‘I know lots of people are frustrated,” the Malahide singer tweeted Thursday.
“It was basically tens of thousands of people trying to get 500. It was always going to be chaos.”
The general public have mourned the loss of cultural spaces over the last decade, with Jam Park announcing its closure last week, days ahead of its planned reopening. The venue was set to host Ireland's first nightclub test event in August.
— Eddie Reynolds (@Eddie_TrOne) June 3, 2021
Ireland will wait with bated breath to see how the Irish government will handle lobbying from the live music industry over the next month as vaccination numbers steadily rise. Frustrations have been building, given the length of the country's Level 5 lockdown in 2021 and the lack of live music spaces and nightlife venues. Electric Picnic could be the official beacon of hope for Ireland's post-Covid cultural comeback.