Speaker by Various Artists

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Yes, of course festival organisers will follow the law on vaccination

by Jamie Larnach

On Tuesday 5 October the New Zealand Government announced that proof of COVID-19 vaccination would be a requirement to attend large events this summer.

It took a few days for event owners to absorb the information and understand the implications. By the end of the working week, most of the big summer events had announced that they would be following the new regulations. Refunds were offered on tickets. Patience was called for. Thanks were given.

Then a part of the audience decided to weigh in. Keyboard warriors, dressed in their armour of good intentions, let loose a war cry of “Vitriol, Vehemence and Disdain!’ and charged to the front.

I’m flabbergasted by some of the comments I've seen posted on the announcements. The number of people who are outraged that well-organised festivals actually intend to follow the letter of the law beggars belief.

Our festivals reflect society at large; some people will be attending who simply can't get vaccines or who are immunocompromised. By surrounding these people with vaccinated individuals, we protect them from harm to the best of our ability.

Why the recent outpouring of derision for event organisers gets my goat is that during times of hardship and emergency is exactly when we should be thinking about those who can't help themselves, those who have no choice. We protect the young and infirm. We care for those who cannot care for themselves. Shield from violence those who cannot protect themselves.

If you're currently thinking about how you're going to miss out on a good party because you don't want to be vaccinated you need to take a seat and have a serious look at yourself. Put this in context, this really isn't all about you, it’s about the greater good, collectivism over individualism.

You may think you have a super-duper immune system, but not everyone does and it's these people who we should be caring for. If you have chosen not to be vaccinated, you live with that choice and with the subsequent consequences. Or maybe you think none of us should be celebrating if you can’t?

If putting the needs of others before your own desires is an anathema to you, maybe imagine that you've had the foresight and tenacity to build a festival from the ground up and now it is a well-known name in your community. You pour yourself into your event. The financial rewards never equal the effort but you know in your heart of hearts that it's worth it because there's more to life than money. You do everything you can to keep the event moving forward including working with consent conditions, contractual obligations, licencing laws and adherence to H&S regulations.

Now consider how you will react when the government imposes new rules to protect the most vulnerable in our society. Would you break the law? Would you be willing to face civil and possibly criminal prosecution if it goes badly wrong? What about the prospect of becoming a national or international pariah if your event became a super-spreader?

If your answer is “Yes … Yes I would go ahead” then have at it buddy, start your own event, see how that unfolds for you. However, if you think for a second that festival organisers should break the law and put themselves in legal peril you're completely out of touch and have probably never had this level of responsibility.

As an adult, I have actively sought 'alternative' communities to share my life with. I have found the festival, art and entertainment community to be full of wonderful, caring, intelligent and creative humans. Generally speaking, it’s in these environments that I have found the greatest connection to other people and through these events, I have seen slow changes within our culture as a whole. I actually love this community and I love celebrating life with you all.

I try to maintain an even-keeled response to the range of differing opinions that I see on the internet. I’m not burdened with the belief that I will change anyone’s opinion, especially if they’ve done their own research. I do however implore anyone before commenting here, or elsewhere, just take a second, breathe in, breathe out (repeat as necessary) and take time to consider “Would I say this in person?”. It's so easy to be snarky behind a keyboard, but you're a better person than that aren’t you? All of us have the capacity for love and compassion and now is the time for that to come to the fore. Please.

Jamie Larnach has been part of Aotearoa's dance festival culture for nearly 30 years and was a founder of both Entrain and Splore.

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