Bluesfest 2021 scrapped following COVID outbreak
Bluesfest 2021 is cancelled.
The shock decision was made late Wednesday (31st March), following an outbreak of COVID-19 in Byron Bay, not far from the festival site.
The news came via the New South Wales Health department. A statement reads, “NSW Health advises that the Minister for Health has signed a public health order cancelling the planned Bluesfest over the Easter period,” the ABC reports.
Closing the festival is meant 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.”
Health Minister Brad Hazzard admits, “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.”
It’s the second year running that COVID has crushed Bluesfest, though this cancelation comes on the eve of showday.
Festival director Peter Noble and his team have played a waiting game since a coronavirus outbreak in south east Queensland turned the areas north of Bluesfest into a red zone, and a three-day lockdown was called.
“There is a high level of concern from our public health officials,” Hazzard said during a press brief earlier in the day, when Bluesfest was still officially going ahead.
Having up to 15,000 people on site each day “could be a challenge,” he said.
On Tuesday, Minister Hazzard effectively banned visitors from Queensland from attending the fest on the first day, when the tentative lockdown would still be in place.
“Thursday is out of any question if you listened to what your government is saying,” Hazzard warned. “If the Government in Queensland extends the lockdown period, and we are not saying they will at this stage, but if they do, clearly people who have bought or are buying tickets from Brisbane are not welcome to attend the festival.”
Since then, a least one local COVID-19 infection has been reported, casting doubt over the likelihood of Bluesfest going ahead.
According to reports, the case has been traced to the Byron Beach Hotel, where an infectious host from Brisbane visited on March 26.
Earlier today, festival organisers issued a brief statement, “we are working through this and will have an update soon.”
Noble addressed the heartbreaking development in a message issued after 5pm AEST. “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,” he comments.
“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.”
Noble and his team are considering new dates, he added. Though this edition is finished. Across the Easter weekend, he writes, “we will be packing down the event that was cancelled within 24 hours of gates due to open. Please do not come to the festival site.”
Due to tough travel restrictions, Bluesfest booked an all-local lineup for the 2021 event, featuring the likes of Jimmy Barnes, Tash Sultana, Ocean Alley, Ziggy Alberts, The Teskey Brothers and many more.
The scrapping of the 30th anniversary edition of Bluesfest last year had a disastrous impact on the wider economy.
The financial impact on the Byron Shire and Northern Rivers was just shy of $117 million in lost revenue and 745 full time jobs, while the figure blew up to $203.6 million in lost revenue for the state of New South Wales and 1,158 jobs.
Bluesfest 2021 was scheduled to take place 1–5 April 2021 across five stages at Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm, just 10 minutes north of Byron Bay.
This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.