“Fear is what happened”: Dark Mofo 2020 cancelled due to coronavirus

The festival was set for June this year

Tasmania’s Dark Mofo Festival has been cancelled due to concerns about the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

The festival was set for June 10-22 this year, with Bon Iver headlining. Organiser David Walsh made an enigmatic statement on the festival website this morning explaining the decision. At the beginning of the statement, Walsh quotes the Shakespeare play Henry V, stating that “Advantage is a better soldier than rashness”.

“We’re killing Dark Mofo for the year. I know that will murder an already massacred tourism environment, but I feel like I have no choice (hint: that means I have a choice),” he wrote.


“Right now, the government and Mona are each on the hook for $2 million to run Dark Mofo. That’s bad. What’s worse, as far as I’m concerned, is that if we ran Dark and nobody came, I’d lose $5 million or more, because I would have to cover the absent ticket revenue.

“Leigh Carmichael, Dark Mofo’s boss, suggested an $8 million scenario: if a staff member contracted COVID-19 a week out from the festival, we’d have to cancel because the staff would need to self-isolate for two weeks, but we’d also have to pay all the artists.”

Carmichael added that Bon Iver’s sold-out performances on June 12 and 13 would still go ahead. Other artists set for this year’s program have been moved to 2021.

Walsh says it’s likely the June festival could have occurred safely, but did not want to take the risk that it would be the “final Dark Mofo”.

“That would mean facing a future of Hobart winters unpunctuated by pageantry, and thus returning to a tyranny of complacency – that worse-than-COVID Hobart malaise of believing we don’t have to seek to do more, and we don’t have to seek to do better.”


The cancellation comes as other events worldwide are axed and postponed. Yesterday, Miley Cyrus and Lil Nas X’s bushfire benefit concert in Melbourne this Friday (March 13) was cancelled after Cyrus revealed she had been advised by authorities not to travel to Australia.

Last week, Austin, Texas festival/showcase SXSW was also cancelled, leaving hundreds of artists – Australians among them – in the lurch. Yesterday, Download Festival confirmed it would proceed despite coronavirus fears.

This story will be updated.


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