Rock and blues festival is latest virus casualty

A big crowd at the Arran Rock 'n' Blues Festival on Lamlash Green last July.

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This year’s Arran Rock ‘n’ Blues Festival is the latest victim of the coronavirus pandemic.

Organisers have cancelled the two-day event, due to be held at the end of September, because of the risks that will still be associated with the virus on the island at that time.

It would have been the third festival and it had already attracted a top line-up of bands from across Scotland and beyond.

But founder Jane Howe of the Pierhead Tavern told the Banner: ‘I cannot take the chance of bringing the virus to Arran and although we will lose a couple of thousand pounds, the cost could be much higher. Tickets will be refunded in due course.’

In a letter to the bands, organisers told them: ‘The decision, made in consultation with a number of bodies, was not easy but it was one that had to be taken due to a number of factors, none more important than the health and safety of the island and its community.

‘As a small tourist island, the risk to Arran is arguably higher than that of the mainland, especially in control of an infection. There is an understandable fear of COVID-19 spreading on Arran if/when the island is opened up beyond the current restrictions and it is likely a re-opening will be done in baby steps, with larger events such as ARNBF unacceptable at this, still early, stage.

‘Furthermore, the police advised us that, even if the island was ‘open for business’ in September, it would be unlikely the security/council services who give the necessary permissions for the festival to take place would have time to regroup from COVID-19 duties to be able to assess and authorise it leading to a possible last minute cancellation.

‘In addition to the current pandemic, there are also ongoing technical issues with the CalMac ferries to Arran and no sign of the new ferry proposed to be in service this summer as construction was abandoned when the shipyard went bankrupt.  There is nothing to suggest the technical issues won’t still be prevalent in September.

‘We also have to acknowledge ARNBF 2020 would now be unlikely to sell the necessary tickets to make the event financially viable due to many music fans deciding the risk will still be too high to travel/attend.

‘Additionally, the organising team must prioritise their own businesses and look at ways to recoup financial losses/loss of earnings due to the COVID-19 impact of lockdown and shutdown. This takes ongoing festival organisation and its associated costs out of the equation,’ the letter added.