Sometimes, I wake up in the morning and start looking through the news – and I get even more convinced that during the night, the world went just that little bit further into the rabbit hole. This was precisely one of those mornings.
The Belfast Telegraph published an article yesterday trying to keep its readers informed about the Covid restrictions currently in place in Northern Ireland. It all starts innocuously enough by talking about social distancing in restaurants no longer being required in November. So far, nothing out of the ordinary.
But then you remember the headline promises to tell you “how to avoid an accidental rave” – a curious prospect in itself. Is that how the plague rave DJs ended up doing what they were doing – by accident? Sven Väth hasn’t appeared yet and said “I was out in India playing some vinyl by myself and within minutes, thousands of people showed up – I accidentally ended up doing a plague rave!” – so the jury remains out on that one.
It turns out what the Belfast Telegraph is referring to is a rather odd anomaly in the restrictions. Nightclubs will be allowed to open, but having an indoor rave of more than 30 people in your house isn’t permitted. And the definition of an indoor rave is terribly vague.
They define it as an event where “Amplified music is played during the night with or without intermission which is likely to cause serious distress to inhabitants of the locality by reason of its loudness, duration and the time at which it is played”.
This definition seems terribly vague to me. Following this theory, if an 80-year old woman in, for example, Omagh, was to invite 35 friends around for a dinner party and country music was played at a loud enough volume into the evening, the aforementioned 80-year old could be fined under Covid laws if someone were to feign “distress”.
Believe it or not, but there was a time in history when the arrival of a vaccine against a terrible virus or illness was viewed as a positive development. Let’s take smallpox, for example.
All the way back in 1796, Edward Jenner demonstrated that being infected with cowpox gave you immunity against smallpox. Later on, a vaccine was developed in the 1950s. The result is no one has been infected with smallpox since 1977 and the virus is now effectively extinct.
No one cried nonsense then about how the vaccine was going to kill more people than the virus, or talked rot about how it hadn’t been tested. People accepted that, although vaccines do come with some risks, they’re more than outbalanced by the benefit of not dying from a horrendous illness. And anyone who did was dismissed as what they were – namely, a moron.
Over the past year or so, a lot of very stupid people have been getting very indignant over the Covid-19 vaccine, some of them before it even existed. But this week, they’ve all been terribly quiet over the news that a malaria vaccine has been approved for use in Africa by the World Health Organisation – the same body which they frequently accuse of being in China’s pocket.
In particular, I have to wonder exactly what’s keeping Danny Rampling away from this party. It can’t be the long-running sense of consistency in his views – it’s already been demonstrated beyond doubt that there isn’t any. Could it be the fact that malaria kills between 1 and 3 million people a year and the overwhelming majority of those deaths are in children under the age of 5?
Perhaps he could finally show some consistency to his views about “protecting children” by publicly stating, right now, that malaria vaccines are a good thing. Or are you only about protecting children when it suits your world view at that particular moment, Danny?
England reopened their nightclubs on July 19th. Wales reopened theirs on August 7th and Scotland followed on August 9th. Clubs have also opened up in much of Europe, the USA and other countries. High uptake of the Covid vaccination programme is being typically cited as the reason why this is able to happen.
But Northern Ireland’s nightclubs have curiously remained shut – and even last week as the UK-wide furlough scheme came to an end, there was no explanation forthcoming of why they remained closed. Despite my best attempts to find out, no one could quite elaborate on how nightclubs were meant to pay wages with no money coming in and no furlough scheme available.
In life, however, remember that other people can hear you even when they appear not to be listening. Hence why yesterday, the Northern Ireland Executive finally announced that nightclubs can reopen again – but in a particularly weird twist, not until October 31st. Maybe there’s some kind of Halloween joke to be made there…
Asking for proof of double jabbing or a negative lateral flow test is being recommended, but isn’t essential. Which is hardly surprising – Scotland launched a vaccine passport app earlier this week. Initial reports say it doesn’t work.
And the legal threats haven’t gone away either. I approached one of the companies which previously threatened to take the Executive to court over its refusal to open nightclubs – they simply said “We’ll talk to our solicitors again over the next few days to discuss our options”…
Ibiza this year has been a strange place. My sources, who know the island far better than I likely ever will, say it’s been one where illicit, small raves have been dominant more than anything else. With Covid still causing problems around the world, the streets have been noticeably quieter than a normal summer season.
The dance music press have been banging on for weeks about when they’re going to reopen. Now, vaccine passports have caused some legal controversy in Spain – so the proposals to reopen Ibiza using these passes to do so had to be cleared through the courts. And the trouble with the legal system is it can take a while.
They’ve now finally cleared it, and the clubs can reopen on October 8th. Yet most won’t. And this has come as something of a surprise to the dance music press – people who typically know nothing about running a business.
How are they meant to stock up their bars with no idea how many will come? Where are the staff going to come from to actually run it? And who on earth wants to go to Ibiza in late October anyway, just as they’re closing up for the year?
Clubbing as you knew it on the island isn’t coming back until next year. And my sources mention that a few of the clubs are already financially troubled. So it might not be exactly as you know it…
So it’s been postponed. Again. The 40,000 capacity Terminal V festival in Edinburgh was originally due to take place in March 2020. Then this thing called Covid-19 – you might have heard of it once or twice over the past 18 months – came along. Suddenly, we all had to stay at home and clapped for NHS staff on Thursday nights.
Then it was rescheduled to February 2021. This wasn’t to be either – although specifics do vary between the four nations, the UK was in a deep lockdown to reduce a massive winter wave of the virus. So it was to Halloween they went. They can hold the event this time, but they decided against following a meeting with City of Edinburgh Council.
They cite the “extreme pressure currently facing the NHS” as a reason and say “the event has been deemed a higher risk at this time than any other event currently scheduled to go ahead in Scotland”. Pressure on the NHS is already being cited in Northern Ireland as the reason why nightclubs in the province remain closed.
Which begs the question. Is this essentially what this winter is going to look like? The truth is no one is quite sure how prevalent Covid will be this winter. Last year, the vaccine rollout was only just starting – whereas it’s pretty much completed now. Exactly how much this will reduce its spread is very uncertain.
So I can’t help but wonder whether we’ll see more of this over the next few months. I expect more clubs and festivals will end up having “meetings” with councils and being “advised” to postpone. When in reality, the council will take a dim view at licence renewal time if you have the temerity to refuse.
This week, I decided to send out a bunch of emails to government departments and ministers in Northern Ireland. Admittedly, this isn’t something I would normally choose to do – but I’m struggling to get an answer to a question. And judging by a couple of nightclubs in the province which have emailed me recently, so are they.
As you might know, the UK-wide furlough scheme officially ended yesterday. Exactly what the economic fallout from this will be remains to be seen – but for Northern Ireland’s nightclubs, this poses a major question. You see, nightclubs in Britain are now open again. England opened them on July 19th, and it was August 7th and August 9th for Wales and Scotland respectively. But Northern Ireland’s nightclubs officially remain closed.
So how exactly are they now supposed to pay their staff? The furlough scheme is finished, and they can’t open the doors in order to bring in customers with much-needed money. I think I’ve explained this predicament clearly enough. But what I cannot find anywhere is an explanation of how they’re supposed to fit this square into the circle.
Last Sunday, I sent out emails to a number of Stormont government ministers and their departments. I contacted the First Minister, Deputy First Minister, Health Minister, Minister for Finance, the Minister for the Economy and the Department for Communities. And just to be on the safe side, I also contacted the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. This means they’ve had all week now to reply.
Surely at least one of these ministers or their departments must be able to explain this for me, seeing that they’re all – with the exception of the Secretary of State – part of the group who decide on Northern Ireland’s Covid restrictions? Apparently not. As of this Friday morning, not one of them has been brave enough to attempt to square the circle – indeed, not one has even bothered to send a reply at all.
As one person who runs a club in Belfast said to me in confidence, “we’re absolutely f***ed”. Sadly, I find it hard to disagree…
Back on Monday of last week, you might remember this blog published an article about a flyer from 1988 from the notorious Shoom nightclub which was on sale at eBay. Proceeds for the item were going to the Dance For Stevie fund – the full backstory for that can be found here.
Bidding has now finished for the item, and I can report the flyer sold for £361. Not bad for something that didn’t really do anything for 33 years. And checking on the GoFundMe page in question, the fundraiser is going quite nicely – with just over £18,100 raised at the time of writing this post.
I hope to see that total rocket over the next few days – without going into too much detail here, I have a good understanding of the fact house adaptations to make a home more accessible are enormously expensive…
So, back we go to the divisive topic of vaccine passports once more. Scotland was due to introduce them on October 1st – tomorrow. But like everything else with this policy, it’s been rushed through without a thought for the consequences.
Firstly, they were announced just three weeks ago and voted through by Sturgeon’s SNP stooges shortly afterwards. And then with just two days to go, the Scottish First Minister confirms there will be a “staged approach” – the policy will begin on October 1st, but enforcement won’t begin until October 18th. She must think the people of Scotland are idiots.
Sturgeon made it sound like she was being kind, saying “This grace period will allow businesses to test, adapt and build confidence in the practical arrangements they will need to put in place to be compliant with the scheme. The pragmatic compromise that I have just outlined in relation to a staged introduction of the scheme demonstrates, I hope, that we are listening to business about the practical challenges they face – and that we are determined to work with them to overcome these.”
And they won’t be best pleased by the words “listening to business” either. The NTIA say they’ve been talking to the Scottish government about this for the past two months, but have got nowhere. Hence this bizarre attempt at the eleventh hour to try and pacify them with a grace period.