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Van Morrison calls concert reopening in Northern Ireland a ‘kick in the teeth’


Van Morrison

Van Morrison

Van Morrison

Van Morrison has called Stormont’s decision to allow concert venues to reopen tomorrow a “kick in the teeth” after he was forced to cancel six hometown gigs.

Morrison lashed out at the Northern Ireland Executive after it announced  that concert venues and theatres can reopen from 6pm Tuesday.

But he said the announcement came too late for him to reschedule four sold-out gigs at Belfast’s Ulster Hall next weekend.

He was also due to perform two gigs at the same venue last weekend.

In a statement, he said: “Once again the Northern Ireland Executive have been shambolic in their approach to lifting concert restrictions.

"The announcement has come so late in the day that it’s a kick in the teeth.

"Cancelled concerts that were planned for this week, could have gone ahead.

"Regrettably like many other sectors, there’s been no advance warning, no plan or roadmap for the industry.

"Stormont have lost the confidence in the public and are clearly deaf to our industry when making decisions.”

Morrison was highly critical of the Executive last week when it was expected that entertainment venues in the North would be allowed to reopen from today.

But the Executive confirmed late last week no decision would be made until this week.

In a statement he released last week, Morrison said he no choice but to cancel the dates which would not only impact him, his fellow musicians and crew but those who bought tickets and would now have to cancel travel arrangements.

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“It’s time for a real plan and real leadership. I have tried to be constructive over the past sixteen months, engaging with government to propose practical suggestions as to how we bring back live music events based on robust individual health and safety risk assessments,” he said.

“This week, I played the York Barbican in front of a live audience but I can’t play in my hometown to a limited audience.

“We now have the most draconian restrictions of any region in the UK.

"Where is the scientific or medical evidence to support such measures? After over a year, they still haven’t provided the evidence.”

Morrison has been a vocal critic of lockdown restrictions and caused controversy at Belfast’s famed Europa Hotel last month when he chanted onstage that Health Minister “Robin Swann is dangerous”. 

This was after he was forced to cancel several gigs  just hours before he was scheduled to perform there due to safety issues over Covid-19.

In January, he announced he was challenging Northern Ireland’s ban on live music in licensed venues at the High Court due to Covid-19 restrictions, with his solicitor claiming they are not aware of any “credible scientific or medical evidence to justify this particular blanket ban … and we’re going to challenge this in the High Court.”

Earlier this month, Belfast’s High Court was told the legendary singer songwriter is seeking clarification from officials on what is meant by allowing ambient sound levels as a condition of concerts resuming.

The case was adjourned until later this month when a hearing date is expected to be listed.

The move comes after he urged people to  “fight the pseudoscience” around Covid-19 last August during lockdown.

He also released three new Covid-19 protest songs called ‘Born To Be Free’, ‘As I Walked Out’ and ‘No More Lockdown’ with controversial lyrics including: “no more government overreach / no more fascist bullies.”

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