Van Morrison seeks legal action over live music Covid ban in Northern Ireland

Image Credit: Bill Oxford

Plans have been put in place by Van Morrison to challenge the live music pandemic policy in court.

Van the Man is at it again. Over the past year the ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ singer has tried to rally musicians to fight what he refers to as ‘coronavirus pseudoscience’, released three anti-lockdown songs, and now he’s planning to take the Northern Irish government to court over rules that are in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19 at live music events.

In Northern Ireland’s current six-week lockdown all entertainment and hospitality venues in the country are closed. Van Morrison however is seeking to challenge a return to pre-lockdown rules, which saw live music prohibited in all indoor licensed venues. It’s this he has issue with. He points to England as an example, where the previous tier system allowed Covid-secure live music. He played several gigs in the country himself last year.  

According to Morrison’s solicitor Joe Rice, the focus of the legal action will be on the ‘particular blanket ban’ which applies the same rules to a solo harp recital or a heavy metal concert. They will ask the High Court in Belfast to review the policy. Morrison argues that the ban is ‘unsustainable in law’. He apparently would very much like to see the science behind the policy, which is ‘not based on credible scientific or medical evidence’.

Morrison is ‘supporting many artists throughout this pandemic and is determined to ensure that, as we endeavour to emerge safely from this lockdown, artists and musicians will have a proper opportunity to play their part through live music to restore the cultural, social and economic wellbeing and success of our society,’ Rice said. Which is all very well until you take into account the message behind his anti-lockdown songs, ‘Born To Be Free’, ‘As I Walked Out’, and the subtly-titled ‘No More Lockdown’, which were released in two-week intervals last autumn. The latter track takes aim at the UK government, scientists and, somewhat ironically, celebrities ‘telling us what we’re supposed to feel’.

For as long as Sir Van Morrison has been a music star, fans and critics have accepted his abrasive personality because of the legendary art he has produced. A well-known curmudgeon of the music world, the obvious issue with his latest gripe is that his grumpy old man-schtick has potentially fatal consequences. It’s even more jarring when vaccines are in sight, it hopefully won’t be too long before live gigs are back on, and he himself doesn’t need the money.

In response to Morrison’s legal challenge a government spokesperson simply said: ‘It is an accepted scientific fact that Covid-19 can spread when people are brought together in enclosed indoor locations. Stopping the spread of the virus is a priority for governments across the world – to save lives and stop health services being overwhelmed.’

I write about music for RouteNote, sharing fun stuff, news, and tips and tricks for musicians and producers. Also a saxophonist and hater of marmalade.

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