THE latest government guidelines around attending live shows resulted in disappointment for local act The Frisky Gypsys, as their slot supporting Hudson Taylor in The Spiegeltent had to be cancelled as a result of their singer not having received his Covid vaccine.
Steven Hamilton said that, naturally, the band were really disappointed to be missing out on this year’s festival, but stressed that no blame lies with the festival organisers, rather that their hands were tied by the government regulations.
"It seems now that you have to be vaccinated or it’s no entry into a gig and that includes artists,” Steven said. “I thought a clear PCR test would suffice, as I can get on a plane with hundreds of other people and fly anywhere in the world with that. It doesn’t really make sense.”
In relation to his vaccination status, Steven says that he hasn’t taken a stand, it was just a personal choice not to get the Covid jab.
"I want to stress that I’m not anti-vax or pro-vax,” he said. “It’s just a personal choice I made. I suppose I had a little bit of a fear of the unknown and I didn’t know too much about this vaccine, so I decided not to get it. I’ve had all my other vaccines as a kid, but it just felt like that there were a lot of unknowns with this one. I’m not into these conspiracy theories of micro-chips being implanted into us or anything like that!
"It’s just really tough because I’ve been waiting almost two years to get back playing and now that’s been taken away. I kind of knew that this could become an issue and I was thinking of getting the vaccine, just because of my love of music, but I never thought it would impact this gig. These regulations kind of came out at the last minute and now I wouldn’t be able to get vaccinated in time even if I wanted to. There seems to be contradictions here because I know of people who are gigging in pubs and stuff who aren’t having the same issues at all.”
With Steven being the only member of the band not vaccinated, it’s something that could easily have caused tension within the group too and he now has some thinking to do with other shows planned for December and early next year and a new EP on the horizon, having been busy recording at Gavin Glass’ studio near Curracloe.
When the band made the announcement that they wouldn’t be playing, naturally it drew quite a bit of commentary. There were a lot of supportive comments and some criticisms at Steven’s decision not to be vaccinated, but one thing he was keen to address was negative comments directed towards the organisers of The Wexford Spiegeltent Festival.
"Look, it’s no fault of Brian (Byrne) and the lads at The Spiegeltent Festival,” Steven stressed. “They’re just working with the regulations they’re given. They’ve been really great with us and we had a blast playing at the Min Ryan Park recently for The Home Stretch Festival. We wish all the acts and everyone associated with The Spiegeltent Festival the very best and hopefully we’ll be back to do a show there next year.”
Festival organiser Brian Byrne was himself disappointed for the band.
"I was really disappointed for Steven and the lads,” he said. “He’s a great guy and he works so hard on his music and his show. Unfortunately though the government regulations are very clear and for a business like ourselves, we simply have to adhere to the rules.”
Following the latest government announcement, the festival announced that proof of vaccination would be required to attend gigs, something they hadn’t initially anticipated doing.
"We have had to issue some refunds to unvaccinated people,” Brian said. “There is a bit of disappointment out there and I completely understand that. When these people bought their tickets, the expectation was that the wouldn’t need a Covid cert. That was what was in the roadmap at the time. Obviously the Covid situation has changed a bit in recent weeks and the government has reacted to that by changing the guidelines. It’s very disappointing for those impacted. To have the excitement of going to a gig taken away from them is tough to take, but we have to work within the rules we’re given.”
Brian praised the government and the Department of Arts and Culture for their quick actions on this occasion around the live performance sector and stated that “these are very genuine people who really want this to work for businesses and people involved. There’s been a massive effort to get this right”.
Speaking after the first Spiegeltent show for a whopping 726 days, Brian was in buoyant mood.
"It’s just amazing to be back,” he said. “We’re blown away by the response people have shown us. We’ve seen the best rate of sale on tickets that we’ve had at any of our festivals and we’re really grateful for the support. Six weeks ago, we didn’t even have a roadmap. It seems we’ve come a long way in a relatively short time.”