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Cancellations sweep Australia’s festival season

A number of Australia’s major music events have been cancelled due to ongoing coronavirus concerns, putting a question mark over the country’s imminent festival season.

Australia’s largest free music festival, St Kilda Festival, is the most recent event to be cancelled amid uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.

The Melbourne-based event, which celebrated its 40th anniversary this year and is one of Australia’s oldest festivals, was scheduled to take place in February 2021.

However, Victoria’s capital city has been in lockdown for over a month and the state remains Australia’s biggest concern with 7,274 active cases. Melbourne is under the strictest measures including a night-curfew which was imposed on 3 August.

“We know this will bring disappointment to those who support the St Kilda Festival year on year and we too feel that sadness,” says a statement on the festival’s Facebook.

“Our thoughts are with those in the arts and events industries who work tirelessly to deliver the events we love and continue to feel the strain and devastation of cancelled events due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Elsewhere in the country, New South Wales festival Strawberry Fields has also called off. The Tocumwal event, which was due to take place in late November, has been postponed until next year.

Festival director Tara Medina said she felt it “inappropriate” to consider bringing thousands of people to NSW from primarily Melbourne and Sydney.

“We want to respect the space, health and wellbeing of the Berrigan Shire as well as the time of local emergency services who are already so busy fighting the pandemic day-to-day.

“Ultimately, in the current environment, even the best-laid plans can come unstuck”

“Normally our event is announced, and tickets sold out by this time of year. We really waited until the eleventh hour to see if we could work something out – even with a drastically reduced capacity – but we have to come to terms with the reality that it will not be possible until 2021.”

Earlier this month, Loch Hart Music Festival in Victoria was also cancelled – a decision that festival director Jayden Bath said was “heartwrenching”.

“Given the current state of things in Victoria this is unlikely to come as a shock, however, it is still an extremely difficult decision to make. Ultimately, in the current environment, even the best-laid plans can come unstuck. We can only run a festival that we truly believe in and that pays homage to the culture and community that has been built at Loch Hart 2018 and 2019,” says Bath.

Among the other Australian festivals that have been forced to cancel are: Victoria’s Queenscliff music festival, originally scheduled to take place this November; national dance and hip-hop festival Listen Out, originally due in the early autumn; and Queensland’s Caloundra Music Festival, originally planned for October.

Elsewhere in the country, the western states have been preparing for Phase 5, which could see the removal of the 50 per cent capacity for major venues and the two-square-metre rule, and a number of guidelines have been released in order to prepare the region for its return to live.

Western Australia is now in its fourth stage of lockdown easing, permitting all events except large scale, multi-stage music festivals. Unseated performances are allowed to take place at music venues and concert halls, with gathering limits only determined by the state’s two-square-metre-per-person rule. For the state’s biggest venues, however, a 50% capacity rule currently applies.

The state began its return to live with the first “post-restrictions” stadium concert, which took place in mid-July, with local musicians Crooked Colours, ShockOne, Slumberjack and Tina Says performing to over 2,000 fans as part of the WA Unlocked event at the HBF Stadium in Perth.


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