August 5, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Van Morrison says of lockdown: ‘We are not in this together’

Van Morrison’s anti-lockdown songs might be merely average, but his rage at those who are preventing musicians from making a living is strong.

Morrison spoke out against the government of his native Northern Ireland on social media Monday and Tuesday, demanding that officials show people the science driving renewed lockdowns in the United Kingdom. He also took a shot at the people in charge who haven’t suffered financially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Remember, those who are shutting down our economy haven’t missed a paycheck since lockdown began,” he tweeted. “We are not in this together.”

Morrison, 75, has taken up the cause of musicians who earn the bulk of their money through live performances, which were essentially banned in late September. He and Eric Clapton released a song this past weekend in protest of the lockdowns, in addition to three prior anti-lockdown songs that came from the “Brown Eyed Girl” singer alone.

The country’s Musicians Union and many players in the Northern Ireland music community complained quickly after the new rules were announced in September, asking for the rationale behind the ban.

“Six months ago, our members’ diaries were wiped clear of work for the remainder of 2020 and beyond,” MU organizer Caroline Sewell told Complete Music Update. “As the work disappeared, so did the income of thousands of musicians, and it quickly was clear that very little support would be coming as 33% of our members have not been eligible for government support in the form of the [U.K.-wide] Job Retention Scheme or the Self Employment Income Support Scheme.

In early November, Morrison launched his petition drive, requesting a timeline and road map to the restoration of live performances. Later that month, he suggested that members of government suspend their own salaries until businesses received their support packages.

“The blanket ban on live music in Northern Ireland impacts a network of industries and individuals,” Morrison tweeted at the time. “Our sector has worked tirelessly to meet govt guidelines and has been shut down yet again. It is time to make our govt accountable.”

How a government could put a timeline on rebounding from a pandemic that has resisted control for almost a year is unclear.

“Let’s not forget COVID didn’t wreck the economy, the @niexecutive did, and we’re still waiting for their evidence,” Morrison tweeted Tuesday.

The government of Northern Ireland has a dashboard set up that reports pandemic infections and deaths, but like other health-related dashboards it does not track economic effects of the COVID-19 lockdown efforts.

Morrison has also publicly questioned the reliability of testing.

Since Morrison’s petition drive launched, COVID-19 in the United Kingdom — which consists of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — has spiked, running particularly rampant in England. While Northern Ireland and England have similar rates of infection among the population, deaths in England are occurring at a higher rate. However, all of Northern Ireland’s regular hospital beds were full as of Tuesday, with only about two dozen ICU beds remaining open.