with Graham and Nathalie
As you have probably heard by now, I will not be participating in the Wales International Tango Festival (run by Urban Tango Nights) this year. I had been scheduled to DJ a couple of sets at the milongas and - as The Lacuna Works - provide sound and lighting support for many of the events. However due to the situation with vaccine passports and testing in place there I have decided that I can no longer be involved.
I had been really looking forward to going to Swansea for this festival. Prior to 2020 the biggest part of my life and my business had been in providing sound and lighting for festivals, fairs, and dance events, and so it would have been great to have got back on the road with all my kit. Multiple DJs, a live band, workshops and several milongas (social dance evening events) are scheduled to run throughout the weekend, and it would have been a great opportunity to get things going again and (re)connect with the wider dance community.
This should have been a great event for me, but even from the start the government and regulatory situation around Covid in Wales was looking pretty grim. Early in the planning the date for the festival had to be shifted to ensure it could go ahead, and then later the venue itself had to change as the original site said that it was no longer able to host the event. We all moved things around in our diaries, changed our plans, and I started to get all the equipment out of storage to test it, rewire it, program it, clean it, and make sure that it was all ready to go.
I had assumed that by the time the event was due to happen the authorities would have started to see some sense and the restrictions and guidance around such gatherings would have shifted to something more logical. But instead the Welsh government chose to double-down on their stance and make things worse. And that is where the problems began.
Ever since I first started supporting events through The Lacuna Works and began running my own dance classes and events I have insisted on a policy of complete inclusivity at anything where I am involved. A few years ago I launched the We Dance as One initiative to challenge racism and exclusivity in dance, and whenever I get a spare moment I continue to promote that project anywhere I can. I will not be part of any event that discriminates against anyone in any way or that seeks to limit entry to certain people based on who or what they are. This includes race, gender, ethnicity, nationality, orientation, religion, or for any medical condition. That last part of the policy was originally there to show that I would never support the exclusion or marginalisation of people in wheelchairs or with other mobility issues as this was something that I had seen at a number of events. But it also applied to any other medical conditions as well (although since the panic around mixing with those that are HIV+ had died down I never expected that to be especially relevant).
Unfortunately the use of vaccine passports and pre-attendance antigen testing at the event is by definition non-inclusive, and so after a short discussion with Chris and Alison of Urban Tango Nights I told them that I could no longer be involved. Whether the exclusion is legally mandated (like the vaccine passport has been by the Welsh government) or voluntary (like the use of antigen testing has been by Urban Tango Nights themselves) it is still discrimination, and whilst it is harder to avoid state-sanctioned discrimination than voluntary discrimination I will not lend even my implied support to either.
Vaccine passports are not a solution to anything and their existence only creates a divided society with no benefit at all to anyone's health. Vaccines are extremely good at protecting the vaccinated against serious symptoms or harm, and I would encourage anyone to get any vaccination that is offered. But (with only a few exceptions) they are not particularly good at stopping people from picking up and carrying the thing they vaccinate against. In the case of Covid, vaccinated carriers are fully acknowledged and understood, and so to limit an event to vaccinated people only does very little to prevent transmission.
Not everyone can be vaccinated, and not everyone that can be vaccinated wants to be. Some people have underlying conditions that make vaccination not advisable, and some people have personal or religious reasons for not being vaccinated. Yes I know that no major religion bans vaccination, but not all of them explicitly advise people that it is accepted or good either, and so many people would rather avoid taking them just in case. So if you rely on vaccination status as your gatekeeper then you will always end up with a section of society that are excluded from your event. And what about other diseases? If you say that attendees have to be vaccinated against one disease before you will let them in then why not others? Where does it stop?
The alternative usually suggested is antigen testing on the door or just prior to entry. These lateral flow tests have become ubiquitous over the last year and we see them everywhere, but once again not everyone can use them. Some conditions make them exceptionally painful or nearly impossible to take the sample, and some trauma victims simply cannot tolerate the invasion of having the probe inserted at all. And of course the commonly available tests have been proven time and time again to be less than reliable as they give false positives after drinking some kinds of fruit juice, false negatives after some cold medication, and people do not always do them correctly anyway. So they rate of false reading is both unknown and significantly greater than zero, meaning that as a gatekeeper procedure they are worse than useless.
No amount of trying to portray this as being for protection or safety stands up to even the slightest scrutiny, and in the next few years we will all start to realise how horrific and destructive these rules have been to society. We have allowed media hysteria to drive policy, and weak politicians have supported or mandated these responses in an attempt to be seen to be doing something and then refusing to acknowledge their mistakes when evidence shows how wrong they have been.
Events by The Tango Underground and The Lacuna Works are Open To All, and we do not limit who is allowed to attend based on any medical information that should be private between them and their doctor. People who are vaccinated are as protected as they ever will be against the virus, and limiting who they mix with at one event will do nothing to change their risk exposure. Anyone who is not vaccinated has either chosen not to be or has been advised to avoid the vaccination by a medical professional. Testing people prior to entry using a method that is known to be unreliable and that only tests for one specific disease out of thousands anyway is pointless and makes no difference to the overall risk profile.
People should be allowed to make their own decisions about what events they attend and who will be there. It is not down to governments or dance organisations to restrict event entry to only a specific subset of the population as that way lies a very dark and dangerous path.
For these reasons - and with apologies to anyone who is disappointed to miss us at the festival - we will not be a part of any event that implements Covid passes in any form, and so we had to pull out of the Wales International Tango Festival.
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