Peak industry body Live Performance Australia has claimed that the last-minute cancellation of Bluesfest 2021 has cost the event over $10million in losses.
The event was supposed to begin today (April 1) but was cancelled yesterday due to fears of COVID transmission in the Byron Bay area after one new locally acquired case was reported yesterday.
Live Performance Australia chief executive Evelyn Richardson said the cancellation “will destroy” Bluesfest.
“One case of community transmission has shut down a major regional event with a $10million plus loss that will destroy a business with a 30-year trading history owned by someone who is risking everything to run his event in a COVID safe manner,” she said in a statement.
When asked to elaborate on the figure, Richardson told NME: “Bluesfest will be working to quantify what the losses will be as they unpack the festival. A festival of this scale costs anywhere from $10-15million to present and most of those costs are already sunk.”
The organisation has renewed its calls for a ‘Business Interruption Fund’ to help protect live music events against these sorts of hurdles in the future, urging the state and federal governments to discuss the matter at the next National Cabinet meeting on April 9.
“This has cost hundreds of jobs, musicians who were about to perform their first gig in a year have been shut down, thousands of people who were attending the seated, COVID safe approved event have been turned away, and the local regional economy has been severely impacted,” Richardson said.
“We call on the NSW Government to step up and provide support to Bluesfest to ensure it survives a second shut down due to public health directives.”
Richardson continued, “This is a watershed moment.
“Our industry has worked with all governments to get our people back to work, our shows back on stage and touring. However, continued snap lockdowns and border restrictions are killing consumer and industry confidence. We have been shut down for a year. We can’t survive the next six to 12 months without some form of insurance.”
Richardson also said that the industry requires “certainty that we’re not going to be shut down and that our governments can respond and manage community transmission”.
Furthermore, Richardson commented on the Federal Government’s much-criticised rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations.
“We are also very concerned about the vaccine rollout which appears to have stalled. Urgent attention needs to be given to ramping up the rollout nationally,” Richardson said.
“It’s time for a military style operation so we can avoid closures like this in the future.”
Bluesfest claimed to have a comprehensive, government-approved COVID safe plan that spanned 150 pages, and, according to festival director Peter Noble OAM, was malleable to tighter restrictions should they be required.
“What we can say is that the plan is created in a way where we can adapt to the requirements of the NSW Health Department should there be a need to create higher levels of safety for the public on site,” Noble said in February.
Bluesfest had confirmed the event’s cancellation after news was shared by NSW Health, with a statement that read, “We are heartbroken that COVID-19 has spread into our local community.
“We are getting the message out as quickly as possible so that those traveling to the event can make alternate arrangements.”
— Bluesfest Byron Bay (@BluesfestByron) March 31, 2021
In light of the cancellation, Noble said that discussions were already being had about a possible postponement, asking those with tickets to hold on to them in an effort to support the industry.
Yesterday also marked the second cancellation in a row for Bluesfest, which last year was brought to a halt just three weeks out of the planned commencement date due to the nationwide lockdown.
To combat international border restrictions, Bluesfest 2021 was slated to sport an all-Australian lineup, with the likes of Jimmy Barnes, Tash Sultana, The Teskey Brothers, Hiatus Kaiyote and more set to play.