False press reports that the trial was linked to 'vaccine passports' sparked a wave of online abuse

From the Without Walls scheme that brought al fresco dining to our streets, to the ground-breaking mass testing programme, Liverpool has led the way when it comes to getting back to "normal" after COVID. Since November, Liverpool City Council has been working with the Government to plan the return of indoor events, and over Easter weekend more details were dropped about the four pilot events taking place across the city in April.

Over the next two days we were subject to a hate campaign from people opposing the vaccine passport

Following in the footsteps of Amsterdam and Barcelona, the snappily titled Events Research Programme (ERP) will examine key scientific data from the Liverpool pilot events to determine how inside venues could be allowed to safely reopen. The study will explore how different approaches to social distancing, ventilation and test-on-entry protocols could ease opening, including the use of lateral flow tests. 

But Communications Officer at Liverpool Council, Paul Johnston confirmed: “There will be no use of so-called vaccine passports” 

How that last and most important part of the message got lost is still unclear, but what followed on Easter Sunday was a series of factually incorrect news stories in the local and national press, linking the Liverpool events with a trial of the new vaccine passports. News travels fast and fake news even quicker and Liverpool’s Hot Water Comedy Club, which had been named in the national press, suddenly found itself the victim of a wave of online abuse.

2021 04 07 Hot Water Comedy Club Liverpool The Magnet Stage 2
Hung out to dry - Liverpool's Hot Water Comedy Club has received a wave of online abuse

A social media backlash against The Hot Water Club

The comedy club took to Twitter on 4 April to set the record straight:

“Just to clarify, we are taking part in a singular non-socially distanced event at the M & S Bank Arena, with testing before and after to show that hospitality is in fact as safe as anything else. All other events are unaffected and no tests/vaccine passports will ever be required.”

And then again, on 5 April Hot Water Comedy Club tweeted:

“Once again, we ARE NOT part of any vaccine passport programme and are being forced to seek legal advice to our options because of the hate campaign due to the misreporting from a lot of the UK media.”

It’s not the first time that COVID-related circumstances have landed Hot Water Comedy Club in, er, hot water. On 28 March last year, they streamed a comedy show they had filmed before lockdown. Someone watching thought it was live and reported it to Merseyside Police, who sent officers down to the venue on Hardman Street to shut them down

That misunderstanding was laughed off, but the false reports about vaccine passports being trialled at the 300-capacity event at the M & S Bank Arena has become anything but a joke. 

On Tuesday, Hot Water Comedy Club released a statement announcing that they’d decided to pull out of the pilot scheme. The club said that the aim of the landmark event was to prove that venues and events could be safely reopened without the need for social distancing and that vaccine passports were never at any time mentioned in any of the discussions. But once the false connection was made in the press, the damage had already been done.

“Over the next two days we were subject to a hate campaign from people opposing the vaccine passport across our Facebook channel, Twitter, Instagram, emails, text messages, negative reviews, refund requests and phone calls,” the comedy club wrote on its Facebook page

“As a consequence of misleading press releases/media articles and the confusing messaging on the official government website...we have made the decision not to be a part of any programme at all.”

Will the research events still go ahead in Liverpool?

At time of writing, the remaining three research events will still go ahead; Luna Cinema on the Waterfront, The Good Business Festival at ACC Liverpool, and Circus club night. Liverpool City Council has confirmed that vaccine passports are NOT BEING TESTED. Decisions of the ticketing arrangements will be announced in the near future, at which point people from across Liverpool City Region will be able to apply.

Meanwhile, it feels a bit like the Hot Water Comedy Club has been hung out to dry. Set up in 2010 by brothers Paul and Binty Blair, the comedy collective has brought live stand-up to venues across Liverpool and the North West, and hosted household names as well as up and coming acts. 

If you see anything regarding them participating in vaccine passport trials, it’s definitely not true. 

What we can confirm is a brand new programme of live events for the summer at their regular home on Hardman Street, as well as an outdoor marquee at Roscoe Gardens, Grand Central Hall. Acts include Adam Rowe, Allyson June Smith, Daliso Chaponda, Lost Voice Guy, Paul Sinha and many more. 

Tickets for Hot Water Comedy Club are now available to buy online. 

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