Festival fans queue up for Covid jab from 6am for free tickets

Festival fans queue up for Covid jab from 6am for free tickets
Festival goers at Feile an Phobail queuing to receive their first vaccination (Liam McBurney/PA)

There was an early morning queue from 6am in west Belfast for Covid-19 vaccinations and the chance of festival tickets.

The first 500 who received the Pfizer jab at Falls Park on Tuesday walked away with free tickets to Feile an Phobail’s diversionary Feile Music Night.

The event at Falls Park on August 8 features international DJ Paul Van Dyk and Judge Jules.

The initiative comes as the youngest age groups have proven the slowest in Northern Ireland to take up the vaccine.

Peter Berne was one of the first to emerge after receiving his Pfizer jab and his free ticket.

Also among the lucky first 500 were mother and daughter Geraldine McCabe and Fionnuala McLoughlin who said they were going to get the vaccine anyway but the tickets were a bonus.

Feile an Phobail organiser Kevin Gamble (left) giving Peter Berne (right) a ticket to the festival’s music night after he received his first vaccination at the Falls Park Bowling Pavilion in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

Feile an Phobail director Kevin Gamble said they had been working very closely with the Department of Health to plan events in the safest way possible this year.

“Feile an Phobail over the last 34 years has always shown leadership, particularly in west Belfast and north Belfast, and if we can help support the health trusts in driving up the vaccinations, this is us playing a very small part in that process,” he said.

“Feile’s diversionary night is one of the most popular nights in the city every year, thinking outside the box, we thought how we can we drive up the vaccination programme in west Belfast and particularly get young people vaccinated, and we came up with the idea of encouraging young people to come along, get their first dose of the vaccination and in return they would get a ticket for the diversionary night.”

Mr Gamble said they were delighted to bring back live events this year after last year’s lockdown, adding that the demand for tickets has been enormous.

Festival goers at Feile an Phobail queuing to receive their first vaccination (Liam McBurney/PA)

“If you think back to when the pandemic started, the arts were one of the first sectors to close down and one of the last to reopen, so we’ve been working very hard to show that we can get back to live events and get back to doing what we do best which is entertaining the public,” he said.

Joanna Hogg, the nurse in charge of the vaccination programme at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, said they were delighted at the turnout.

“It was really lovely to see and there was a nice buzz about the place, very positive and the Feile team have been amazing, helping us set up,” she said.

Nurse Joanna Hogg (Liam McBurney/PA)

“The mobile vaccination team’s main incentive is to set up in areas that are more accessible to the younger age group and maybe at different times to when the vaccination centres would be open.

“It’s been a brilliant collaboration.”

Ms Barr, nee Sloan, was the first person in Northern Ireland to receive the vaccine on December 8.

“I knew then what a privilege it was and that’s eight months ago now since I received my vaccine,” she said.

“Since then the Belfast Trust has delivered over 200,000 vaccines just through our centre and our mobile clinics.

“It has been amazing, 200,000 is just under 10% of the population vaccinated in Northern Ireland.

“It has been excellent.”

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