Bluesfest has been cancelled by public health order just one day out from its 2021 edition due to a new COVID-19 case in Byron Bay.
The news of the cancellation was broken by ABC business reporter Dave Taylor this afternoon (March 31).
The Byron Bay Blues Festival has been cancelled, the ABC understands.
— David Taylor (@DaveTaylorNews) March 31, 2021
Now, New South Wales Health has issued a statement saying that Minister Brad Hazzard has signed a public health order cancelling the festival. Bluesfest was due to run tomorrow (Thursday April 1) till Monday April 5 with an all-Australian line-up.
The festival was cancelled, NSW Health says, “to minimise the risk of the highly infectious COVID-19 variant of concern being transmitted in the local area, as well as across states and territories”.
It added, “Infectious Queensland travellers attended a number of venues in the Byron Bay area and the new locally acquired case was infected at one of these venues.”
In a statement, Minister Hazzard said: “While the cancellation of Bluesfest is disappointing for music lovers and the local community, I hope that ticket holders would support Bluesfest and hold on to their tickets as I understand Bluesfest will be working on a new date as soon as possible.”
Bluesfest confirmed the cancellation in a statement made late afternoon on March 31. “We are heartbroken that COVID-19 has spread into our local community,” it read. “We are getting the message out as quickly as possible so that those traveling to the event can make alternate arrangements.”
Bluesfest 2021, operating at approximately 50 percent of normal capacity and production, was expected to have a capacity of 16,500 people daily over its five days, with three performance stages and camping.
“The Bluesfest team has worked day and night for a year to achieve the approved COVID-19 Safety Plan – the first of its kind in the music industry,” the statement reads. The Bluesfest team, the statement says, had been told by the NSW Health that “it exceeded other major sporting events in its depth and ability to protect the public.
“We feel deeply for everybody affected, the fans, the artists, and the hard-working Bluesfest team. But in the end, the health of our community must come first.”
In its statement NSW Health “acknowledge[d] the outstanding cooperation of [director] Mr Peter Noble and his organising team, who were working hard to ensure Bluesfest would be conducted in a COVID-safe manner”.
In a statement, Noble said, “This is one of the most difficult statements I have ever had to make. We really wanted to be at the forefront of the return of live music at Pre-COVID-19 level.”
The Bluesfest team will be packing up the festival site, Noble added, and will give an update once they have concluded discussions on its postponement.
Read the full Bluesfest statement via our website: www.bluesfest.com.au/bluesfest-is-cancelled-for-two-years-in-a-row
The new case in Byron Bay is a man in his 20s who was at the Byron Beach Hotel on March 26 at the same time as infectious travellers from Queensland, NSW Health said in a previous health alert. He had also attended two venues in Ballina while unknowingly infectious on March 28.
This case marks an end to 14 days without community transmission of the virus in NSW, the Sydney Morning Herald noted.
New restrictions will go into place in Byron, Ballina, Tweed and Lismore shires from 5pm today.
Just two days ago, Bluesfest said that it would go ahead despite the COVID-19 outbreak in Queensland that prompted a three-day lockdown in Greater Brisbane. Organisers had said that, in line with health restrictions, punters from the affected areas would not be allowed to attend the first day of the festival.
The eleventh-hour cancellation will mark the second time Bluesfest has been called off due to the coronavirus. The 2020 festival was cancelled last March due to the onset of the pandemic, which the festival later found cost the state of New South Wales over $203million in losses.
Days after the 2020 festival’s cancellation, Bluesfest set dates for the 2021 Easter weekend and over the months booked an all-Australian lineup led by Tash Sultana, Jimmy Barnes, Ocean Alley and many more.
In February, Bluesfest said that its 150-page COVID-19 safety plan had been approved by the NSW Government and that it had the green light to go ahead unless the coronavirus situation in the state worsened.
The month before, Bluesfest’s Peter Noble had called for a business interruption insurance policy for live events. Such a policy, he wrote on Facebook, 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”.
“The Federal government did it more than six months ago for the Film Industry to get them back to making movies,” Noble said at the time. “Why are we still waiting?”
On social media, APRA AMCOS called the cancellation “devastating for Bluesfest and all the artists, crews, managers, promoters and music industry workers who had critical work coming”. It added, “It highlights the urgency for government to partner with industry on an insurance scheme to help create some certainty for live music.”
This is devastating for Bluesfest and all the artists, crews, managers, promoters and music industry workers who had critical work coming. It highlights the urgency for government to partner with industry on an insurance scheme to help create some certainty for live music. https://t.co/7HWZXS4LLk
— APRA AMCOS (@APRAAMCOS) March 31, 2021
John Graham ALP, the founder of Labor Loves Live Music, has also called for a government insurance scheme for festivals following the Bluesfest cancellation. “It’s not fair that music heroes like the Bluesfest team wear all the risk of COVID outbreaks and health restrictions,” he wrote.
After the @bluesfest cancellation we urgently need a government insurance scheme for festivals.
— John Graham (@JohnGrahamALP) March 31, 2021