Music venues and theatres at "breaking point" without full reopening date in NI

Report by Eden Wilson.

Music, conference and theatre venues are calling on the removal of the one metre social distancing requirement in Northern Ireland.

The call from staff, performers and the wider supply chain comes ahead of the scheduled on Executive meeting on 23rd September.

The group say that the currently one metre entry requirements have meant the majority of venues have not yet reopened and that those which are open are not financially viable because of reduced seating capacity.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK and Ireland in which indoor venues are not currently open without capacity reductions, or have a full re-opening date scheduled. Events are being cancelled on a daily basis as uncertainty continues. Top international acts such as Genesis, Van Morrison, Laura Marling, JC Stewart and many others have either cancelled or rescheduled indoor performances in Belfast this month alone due to social distancing requirements.

The group says that people are being forced to go to events in the Republic of Ireland when a date has been given of 22nd October, whilst others head to England and Scotland for indoor events. Those campaigning for reopening point to venues such as the O2 Arena, Royal Albert Hall & The Palladium in London, as well as the entire West End - all of which have reopened.

Venues are also being threatened by the close of the furlough scheme at the end of September when many have been unable to trade for almost 18 months.

This sector says it urgently requires a full re-opening date and a removal of social distancing requirements in these venue spaces. Joe Dougan of The Limelight in Belfast commented: “The last 18 months has been incredibly difficult for this industry.

"We urgently need our Executive to provide a full reopening date, remove social distancing requirements, and allow us to plan for the coming months. We are confident this can be done safely.”