Musicians and concert promoters have welcomed the news that live music is a step closer to resuming.
Stormont ministers agreed an indicative date of June 21 for the return of live music indoors, with the Executive expected to rubberstamp the decision next week in line with health advice.
Under current Covid regulations, live music is not allowed in pubs, hotels and clubs.
A number of Van Morrison’s supper shows at the Europa Hotel this weekend were cancelled yesterday, just hours before the first one was scheduled to get under way
However, artists and promoters, whose work was severely impacted by the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, have said there is now a “glimmer of hope” that live music will return this month.
Gig promoter Michelle McTernan said she was optimistic that shows she had lined up for the end of June and throughout the summer would go ahead.
“We are the last industry to reopen and the Executive can’t keep giving us false hope,” she told the Belfast Telegraph.
“With any luck, the resumption of live music in venues will be rubberstamped next week and we can get back to doing what we love.
“It’s been a long time coming, but the appetite is there. People will appreciate live music more now than ever before.”
Irish jazz and blues singer Mary Coughlan first played Belfast in 1986 as part of the Belfast Folk Festival. She is lined up to play a gig at the Crumlin Road Gaol on July 23 and is then back again in August for the EastSide Arts and Open House festivals.
She said: “I’ve a feeling that my gig at the Crumlin Road Gaol will be just like that first show I ever played in Belfast. I know how excited I’ll feel. The gig has already been postponed five or six times, so I won’t quite believe it’s happening until I’m actually standing there on the stage.
“I managed to play a gig in London last week. We were one of the first Irish bands out of the trap and it was unbelievable. Such a joyous occasion.
“There were 200 people there in a safe, socially distanced environment, but it felt more like a crowd of 2,000. Being back on a stage again was just brilliant and the whole thing was so well organised.”
Co Armagh singer-songwriter Odhran Murphy is also playing at Crumlin Road Gaol, but his gigs will take place on June 25 and 26, just days after restrictions are due to be lifted.
“To be honest, I feel really honoured to have been given the opportunity of being one of the first artists back on stage since the start of the pandemic,” he said.
“Like most other musicians, I resorted to social media to get my music out there, so to be actually getting back onto a stage and playing live music again is something I’m so pumped about.
“I’m feeling really optimistic that these gigs will go ahead and I’m delighted not just for me, but for all the other artists and bands who haven’t been able to gig for well over a year.”
Michael Rafferty sings with two bands, The Handsome Princes and The Minnows. Every day throughout lockdown —a total of 447 consecutive days — he has performed songs online, but he can’t wait to return to a stage.
“The last gig I did with The Handsome Princes was on March 13, then we went into lockdown,” he said.
“The Minnows released a new album during that time and initially we weren’t planning on playing it live. But the response was so great and we’ve all missed live music so much, so it’s definitely something we’ll be looking at doing when we can. We all have a renewed appreciation for live music.”