Byron Bay Bluesfest 2021 has been cancelled, prompting an outpouring of disappointment and sympathy from Australian artists, industry members and music bodies.
As reported earlier this afternoon, the five-day festival was ordered cancelled today (March 31) by New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard. This came following news of a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the Byron Bay area.
The cancellation marks the second time the festival has been called off due to the coronavirus. Bluesfest was due to begin tomorrow (April 1) and run over the Easter weekend until April 5.
“It was so important to see this iconic event prevail, and the shocking timing of a couple of Covid cases has seen it all collapse, taking the hope and livelihood of so many of our industry down with it,” The Cat Empire wrote on Twitter.
We are devastated by the cancellation of @Bluesfest. It was so important to see this iconic event prevail, and the shocking timing of a couple of Covid cases has seen it all collapse, taking the hope and livelihood of so many of our industry down with it. https://t.co/wv0qliK2fW
— The Cat Empire (@thecatempire) March 31, 2021
We are gutted that you have been stopped at the final hurdle, and we stand behind you in the hope there can be another Bluesfest to work toward and look forward to in the future. Absolute heartbreak today in The Cat Empire camp.
— The Cat Empire (@thecatempire) March 31, 2021
Hope everyone involved with Bluesfest; be it attending, playing or organizing are healthy and safe! We’ll be back soon enough! @BluesfestByron
— Senator Briggs (@Briggs) March 31, 2021
Gutted that @BluesfestByron has been cancelled. Obviously this is the best decision for everyone’s health & safety, but I’m devastated for the organisers, the local community, and most especially all the music lovers who had tickets. I can’t wait till we can come together again. https://t.co/5m2mYFnYkp
— Kate Miller-Heidke (@kmillerheidke) March 31, 2021
Blues Fest friends, we were so looking forward to seeing you this weekend but will have to be another time. We're sending our love to the @BluesfestByron team! Darwin mates, we'll still see you this Friday for SummerSalt.
Pic by KS Digital Media pic.twitter.com/gDf6vCCfXo
— theteskeybrothers (@teskeybrothers) March 31, 2021
Several music bodies, including APRA AMCOS, have reacted to the Bluesfest news by voicing their support for a government insurance scheme that would help live events such as music festivals recoup their costs in the event of an eleventh-hour cancellation.
Bluesfest director Peter Noble had called for such a policy in January. A business interruption insurance policy for live events would “incentivise event presenters to put on events and be protected in not going to the wall, should an out break of Covid shut down their businesses at short notice and protect artists, crew and Suppliers [to] get paid should that occur”, he wrote on Facebook.
Live Performance Australia and the Australian Festival Association, who have been advocating for such an insurance scheme for months, reiterated their calls for the policy, calling it “now a matter of urgency”.
LPA has been calling for a Business Interruption Fund since last year. This is now a matter of urgency.@GladysB @Dom_Perrottet @BradHazzard @ScottMorrisonMP @JoshFrydenberg @PaulFletcherMP https://t.co/6J9PPFAxqV
— Live Performance Aus (@LivePerfAust) March 31, 2021
Our thoughts go out to the organisers, suppliers, vendors, staff, crew & fans who will miss out on Bluesfest tomorrow. We support a Business Interruption Fund to protect festivals from cancellations. Output & FTE was down 86% in 2020…and we haven't event restarted yet. https://t.co/LQuUse9k8g
— Australian Festival Association (@AustFestAssn) March 31, 2021
The cancellation of #Bluesfest today demonstrates the urgent need for an business interruption fund to be established for the live music industry across Australia. Jobs are at stake here- our industry needs more assistance @APRAAMCOS #nswpol @LivePerfAust @AusAAM @ALMBC__
— LiveMusicOffice (@LiveMusicOffice) March 31, 2021
Shadow Arts Minister Tony Burke has also called for a “COVID insurance system” for live music. “The music industry is full of viable profitable businesses unable to function because of public health,” he wrote on Twitter. “Govt has a COVID insurance system for the film industry. Music needs one too. Urgently.”
#bluesfest was meant to mark the return of music festivals. The music industry is full of viable profitable businesses unable to function because of public health. Govt has a COVID insurance system for the film industry. Music needs one too. Urgently. https://t.co/Gtn1k6XXGJ
— Tony Burke (@Tony_Burke) March 31, 2021
See other responses to Bluesfest’s cancellation below.
After the @bluesfest cancellation we urgently need a government insurance scheme for festivals.
— John Graham (@JohnGrahamALP) March 31, 2021
Such a blow for all involved. From the headline acts to the workers on site, to the many thousands of music fans looking forward to Bluesfest.
I know its a public health order. We all want people to be safe. Doesn't mean it doesn't hurt.
Thoughts with all who are affected. x https://t.co/EjQDfglQzI
— Zan Rowe (@zanrowe) March 31, 2021
So hopefully a new date can be announced, but so horrible for the organisers and of course the crew and artists, all Australian, and I'm sure all itching to play a gig like this.
— Lindsay McDowens (@doctormcdougall) March 31, 2021
Ocean Alley are expected to go on triple j’s Hack program this afternoon to further discuss the cancellation.
A big @triplejHack today:
– Outrage over police arresting a First Nations teenager having a panic attack
– @oceanalleyau on Bluesfest cancellation
– Australian satanists on the Lil Nas X controversy
– @alexsmann on young Australian men targeted by the far right
— Avani Dias (@AvaniDias) March 31, 2021
This is a developing story.
Additional reporting by David James Young