Stendhal's ‘Unlocked’ series of socially-distanced weekend festival gigs unable to proceed

The organisers of Stendhal have said they are unable to proceed with a planned series of socially-distanced weekend festivals under the 'Unlocked' banner this month.

The directors of the award-winning Limavady festival had hoped to run five weekends rather than one in order to facilitate social distancing at Ballymully Cottage Farm.

They said that due to the rising R rate for coronavirus infections and the view of senior public health officials that such large outdoor events are not yet safe, they have had no choice but to cancel.

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In a statement they said: "We at Stendhal Festival have for the past several months been working diligently on hosting the first ever series of Socially Distanced Outdoor Music Festivals in Northern Ireland.

"We have poured our heart and soul into this endeavour and fully believe we have an Event Plan and Risk Assessment that would allow the events to take place safely for all involved and which fully complied with the legislation as published under the Department of Health 2020 Act."

According to the Stendhal board the view of the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Advisor is that larger outdoor events pose a significant risk to public health and that no such events should take place.

"From the outset we said that while we would do everything within our power to get the events approved, we would always put public health first and act on guidance provided by Government.

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"Sadly as a result of this advice from the CMO and CSA and due to the fact that the R rate is on the rise along with the number of localised clusters and confirmed cases across Northern Ireland, we have no alternative but to make the decision to cancel all of the proposed events.

"We await more detailed feedback on our Risk Assessment and Event Plan from the Department of Health in the hope that further clarity can be gained on the specific threats outdoor gatherings may pose to the public and that these documents can still help be a factor in getting outdoor gigs back on the agenda, if not for us now, for others in the arts and music industry going forward.

"We are disappointed for all the acts on the bill who were hoping to get back on stage doing what they do best, for the people who supported us and believed in us by purchasing tickets, for those who were to be involved in the production element of the festival, the traders and the event staff who were hoping to secure some income from the events.

"We would like to thank everyone who supported us on this quest to get festivals back on the agenda post lock-down, in particular our amazing team of volunteers and our local Councillors in Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, who made a brave decision to support our endeavours in June," they said.

Refunds for ticket holders will be available via the Stendhal website by the end of the week.

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