NSW opposition pushes for state government to support Bluesfest, establish interruption fund

MLC John Graham said an interruption fund was necessary for festivals to confidently return without risking further losses

The NSW Labor opposition is lobbying the Berejiklian state government to offer financial support to Bluesfest, which cancelled its 2021 iteration one day out.

The Byron Bay festival was forced to cancel for the second year in a row after a locally transmitted COVID-19 case was recorded in the Byron Bay area. The all-Australian lineup included Jimmy Barnes, Tash Sultana, The Teskey Brothers, Hiatus Kaiyote and more acts. Its abrupt cancellation is estimated to have cost the festival more than $10million.

Shadow music minister John Graham said a business interruption fund was necessary for the state’s festival scene to confidently organise large-scale events without risking further losses. Graham had previously called for an interruption fund when Bluesfest was first cancelled.

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“The treasurer made some encouraging comments on [a business interruption fund] when the festival was first cancelled but we’ve heard radio silence since,” Graham said in a statement.

“Festivals who saw Bluesfest forced to close the gates 24 hours before the event won’t be back unless they’re given greater certainty; this is one way to do it.

“Millions of dollars were invested in the event which provided thousands of jobs for artists, crews, managers, promoters and music workers.”

A federal business interruption fund has also been floated by Live Performance Australia, APRA AMCOS and Bluesfest director Peter Noble. A similar fund worth $50million is currently in place for the film industry.

“We need [the Morrison Government] to Save Our Stages, as has been done in the US and across Europe through large grants, tax write offs and investment,” Noble wrote in January, “and create a business interruption insurance policy to incentivise event presenters to put on events and be protected in not going to the wall, should an outbreak of COVID shut down their businesses at short notice and protect artists, crew and suppliers [to] get paid should that occur.”

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Graham added that festivals are currently planning for summer, and “NSW needs to know where this is up to and when live music can safely plan for the future”.

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