Tickets for Ireland's first 'socially distanced festival' go on sale today

The organisers say that measures such as an alcohol limit for each person and temperature checks upon entry will make the event safe to attend.

With festivals being cancelled across Ireland due to the coronavirus pandemic, your hopes of dancing in a field this summer may have been totally extinguished. However, with tickets for Ireland's first 'socially distanced festival' going on sale today, there seems to still be a chance.

Unlocked is set to be held in Ballymully Cottage Farm in county Derry, normally the location for Stendhal Festival. The organisers, however, wanted to still hold some sort of event this summer, although their normal setup is not possible due to restrictions on large gatherings of people.

Due to be held over two weekends, August 21-22 and 28-29, there is also the possibility that three other weekends will be added in September. As it is not clear exactly what the restrictions on gatherings will be in Northern Ireland on these dates, the organisers have outlined their plans for the event, which are subject to change as restrictions are finalised.


socially distanced festival

They plan to have between 500 and 1000 attendees, although just 250 tickets are being released for each weekend today. More tickets will be released as the number of people that will be allowed to attend a single outdoor event is confirmed.

Age restrictions

Tickets will be for over 21s only, and no family tickets will be available. The organisers say that "We have had to make a very difficult call on children attending this event. As parents ourselves we know first hand how difficult it has been to explain the current situation to our kids. We have also experienced how difficult it can be to get them to always remember about social distancing.

"We believe that it would be very difficult to ensure that children adhere to social distancing practices in a festival setting, particularly as it would be potentially the biggest wide-open space for them to play in months.

"We are only doing this to ensure the health and safety of everyone and rest assured that this will not become common practice at Stendhal festival, families and kids play a massive, massive part in what makes Stendhal Festival so special and it pains us greatly to have to implement these measures for Stendhal Festival’s Socially Distanced Event."


Social distancing

Tickets will be either camping or non-camping. Any camping tickets will be assigned a pre-booked 8 x 8 metre camping plot, for a maximum of two people from the same household. Anyone wishing to camp near friends is advised to book at the same time as them, to ensure they are placed next to each other.

Social distancing measures will be in place throughout the festival, from entry through to food and drinks stalls, and the various stages. All attendees will be expected to keep a one metre distance from others at all times. There will be hand sanitising stations around the festival, and there will be temperature checks on arrival.

Although there will be a minimum of three stages with 50 performances across two days, there have been only a few acts announced so far, including Northern Irish rock band And So I Watch You From Afar, County Down singer Ryan McMullan, and Donegal folk group The Henry Girls.

Alcohol restrictions

The organisers note that people are unlikely to social distance when inebriated, and have therefore come up with a system to limit the amount of alcohol any one person can consume.


"In order to ensure that social distancing is maintained we must do everything within our power to ensure that patrons are capable of abiding by the measures in place. As a result we are proposing that each patron is provided with a daily alcohol limit of 6- 8 drinks per person."

"This means that all alcohol must be procured on site and no patrons may bring in a supply of their own alcohol. We will not price gouge on drinks procured on site. Each patron will receive a daily allowance ticket upon entry, which can be exchanged with payment for daily drinks tokens."

Toilets will also be closely monitored, with a gap of at least one minute between each toilet being used, as well as being sprayed with sanitiser between each use.

Although it may feel different from a normal festival experience, we're sure there will be people that will be happy to have even this restricted version of a festival: a socially distanced weekend of live music rather than none.

Featured image: Krists Luhaers via Unsplash

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