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News August 17, 2020

Woodford, Port Fairy festival cancellations leave $30m hole

Senior Journalist, B2B
Woodford, Port Fairy festival cancellations leave $30m hole

The cancellations of Queensland’s Woodford Folk Festival and Victoria’s Port Fairy Folk Festival will create a $30 million hole in their respective communities.

The festivals were cancelled within a day of each other, due to COVID-19 restrictions on social gatherings.

Woodford Folk was to have been held for the 35th year from December 27 to January 1 on its own 500-acre Woodfordia site an hour’s drive north-west of Brisbane.

With 400 acts over 25 venues it draws an aggregated 130,000 crowd and injects $20 million into the Queensland economy each year.

According to government tourism figures, in 2017, at least 10,500 of the crowd were from interstate and overseas, generating 216,178 visitor nights.

In announcing its cancellation on Friday (August 14) on social media, executive director Bill Hauritz explained, “Our team have spent a lot of this year hopeful that we could do a scaled down version of Woodford, but the more we studied, the more impossible it became.

“We can never meet reasonable guidelines rightly imposed by authorities to make it safe in this Covid-19 world.”

However it will in its place hold a smaller-scale five-day camping holiday called Bushtime during the September holidays with evening concerts, discussions, bushwalking and workshops.

With the likelihood of social distancing restrictions running into next year, the 44-year old Port Fairy Folk Festival rescheduled from March 5—8, 2021 to the second weekend of March 2022.

“We started looking at options for smaller festivals … [but] we thought that was going to be very, very difficult to handle,” festival committee president John Young told the ABC.

The absence of the event in March 2021 will see a shortfall of $9.6 million into the economy of the village of Port Fairy.

The festival draws 12,000, of which 90% said they only come to the area for the event. The village throws free activities to coincide, bringing in 20,000 a day.

A report some years ago from data collection agency ITESA found that attendees spend $1.2 million on food and drinks and $517,000 on merchandise within the venue.

More than $2.7 million was spent on accommodation and meals. Patrons paid $1.2 million for travel.

The town’s retailers benefited to the tune of $394,000.

Such cancellations show how much these festivals are needed for the well-being of their surrounding economies.

Two Byron Bay events – Splendour in the Grass and Falls Festival – pump $100 million into the Australian economy, with more than $25 million spent in the Byron Shire, according to their North Byron Parklands site.

When Splendour was axed this year, Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson called its absence “almost cataclysmic really, in the rolling disruptions to normality.”

Last month, Bluesfest Byron Bay released a report that revealed its cancellation saw the Byron community lose $116.9 million gross revenue and 745.3 full time equivalent [FTE] jobs, while the state of NSW was down $203.6 million gross revenue and 1,158 jobs [FTE].

“It’s a tragedy!” festival director Peter Noble commented on the figures.

The decision this year by Falls promoters to drop the Tasmanian leg was also financial blow to the island’s tourism dollars.

In 2011, the three day music and arts gathering generated$ $31.45 million in economic benefits. Of the 16,000 attendees, 7,742 came from the mainland, staying an average of 9.23 nights.

Tasmania also suffered with the pandemic-related axing this year of Dark Mofo, which is estimated to add $100 million to the economy a year in recent times.

Last year it shifted 100,000 tickets, 65% of those from the mainland.


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