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Beef Of The Week #385: Ed Sheeran v God

By | Published on Friday 15 December 2017

Ed Sheeran

It’s nearly Christmas, so in the grand tradition of the retail business, I’m going to start talking about Easter. Time to buy in those chocolate eggs, my friends. Time to start preparing to stoically remember that our lord and saviour Jesus Christ died for our sins. And was then immediately cracked open resulting in the discovery that he’d been hollow the whole time and filled with Smarties. I’m pretty sure that’s how the story goes. I could be wrong. To be honest, it’s been a while since I was at a religious primary school.

Either way, Ed Sheeran already has all of his Easter plans in place. He’s going to be putting on some of his singing and dancing extravaganzas in New Zealand. Indie mecca Dunedin, in fact. He’ll play three shows at the Forsyth Barr Stadium on 29 Mar, 31 Mar and 1 Apr. He’s taking a break for Good Friday. After all, it would be disrespectful to play on the anniversary of Jesus’s death. But Smarties Day – Easter Sunday – that’s fair game. That’s when the big finale of the hat trick of performances will take place.

This has prompted something of a crisis in Dunedin City. The city’s trading restrictions state that no shops may open on Easter Sunday. However, with tens of thousands of people due to descend on the city in order to catch Sheeran work his magic, many retailers have been keen to open their doors.

Deciding that the likely boost to the local economy might be worth the risk of being seen to declare that Ed Sheeran is holier than Jesus, Dunedin City Council opened a review of its Easter trading rules, with a final decision put to a vote by councillors. That all proved to be very divisive indeed. This is basically Dunedin’s version of Brexit, Trump v Clinton, Macron v Le Pen and Mollie v Aston all rolled into one.

As the debate became more heated, 181 people formally gave their opinions on the proposal shops be allowed to open on Easter to sell stuff to Sheeran fans. A total of 54% said that they’d rather pop lovers not be able to buy anything on their way to Sheeran’s show. Speaking for the other side, 44% said they’d be happy for the shops in the city to open. That means 2% of people who bothered to write in expressed no strong opinion either way. How much spare time must you have on your hands to do that?

Anyway, clearly the people had spoken. The council had to act. And act it did. Councillors voted 10-5 in favour of ignoring the 54% and letting shops open their doors on Easter Sunday. Because it turns out that if you ask people their opinion and they’re wrong, you can just tell them to shut up. And there was a lot of telling people to shut up to be done.

According to Stuff, Dunedin mayor Dave Cull said that it was an “exceedingly difficult call to make”, but the potential boost to local businesses swung it in the end. He added that any business that now attempted to exploit employees in order to make a fast buck would be “put on notice”, whatever that means.

Presumably that last comment was meant to placate local trade unions, who had been against the move. First Union was particularly vocal in its opposition, arguing that by allowing shops to open up on Easter Sunday, employees would lose a day of holiday.

The union argued that, although Easter Sunday would normally be a guaranteed day off for retail workers, the fact that it’s not actually a public holiday (due to it always being on a Sunday) means staff wouldn’t be able to claim a day in lieu. Nor would they be able to claim the boosted wages normally expected for working on a public holiday.

A First Union rep said at a council meeting before the final vote that employees were simply being told, “You’ve lost your holiday, now suck it up”. Another union spokesperson, Unite’s Sonja Mitchell, questioned why the shows had been booked around Easter at all, and worried about repercussions for people who refused to work that Sunday.

I suppose the answer to the first part of that would probably be that Ed Sheeran was available on those dates. I couldn’t comment on potential repercussions, but I’m guessing that there’ll probably be enough people willing to work that day to offset those who actually do some proper Jesus worshipping on Easter Sunday.

This couldn’t have even been a debate in Dunedin until relatively recently. The decision-making power to allow trading on Easter Sunday was only devolved to local government in New Zealand in August last year. Before that, it was completely banned nationwide. To date, councillors in Auckland and Christchurch have voted against allowing trading on the day of the Resurrection. Although, to be fair, neither of them had Ed Sheeran coming to town.

A number of smaller towns and areas popular with tourists have relaxed rules on Easter Sunday trading – without the influence of any pop star whatsoever – and none of those places have, as yet, been overrun by plagues of locusts. It’s possible God was seeing how it went this year before striking everyone down though. Which could be bad news for Ed.

The good news, however, is that, while the first two Dunedin shows are sold out, there are still tickets available for Sheeran’s Easter Sunday gig.

With the guarantee of an extra day’s wages now in place, retail workers could possibly put that money towards heading down to the concert in the evening. Assuming they can stomach spending more time with thousands of Ed Sheeran fans, having spent the day selling them tat and answering their stupid questions.

If they can, then buying tickets is definitely the way to go. Proper legitimate tickets. No sneaking in around the back. Because all those local shop workers wouldn’t want to be like the two New Zealanders who have just found themselves in jail for forging backstage passes to a Sheeran show in Singapore.

Scott Penk and Michael Hardgrave were jailed for four weeks last month for their part in a scam that used faked access-all-areas passes to get people into the show – charging said people up to $250 a time for the privilege – according to The Straits Times. A British man, Martin Keane, was jailed at the same time, while a fourth man, Australian Paul Cosgrove, was also given four weeks in the slammer this week. Another British man accused of being in on the scam, Luke McKay, is still awaiting trial.

That said, it does seem that at least some of the people who bought those fake passes actually got into the show. So maybe the lesson here is just don’t be the person actually handing the fake passes out. Is that a good moral to end on? The guys who wrote the Bible were much better at this. And like I said earlier, it’s a while since I’ve had to study that stuff. Maybe we should all be taking Easter Sunday off to have a think about Jesus Christ after all. Or maybe we could just blame all our sins on Ed Sheeran and carry on regardless.