While fans were left devastated by the sudden Bluesfest cancellation over Easter, it’s come at a much higher price for stallholders, who’d heavily invested in stock for the event.
Australian Festivals Association said the financial blow is predicted to be measured in tens of millions of dollars for organisers, artists, managers, agents, crew, hospitality staff, caterers, suppliers, fans and the local tourism industry.
However, it’s been heartening to see how businesses and the local community have rallied to support others during the aftermath of the Bluesfest cancellation.
Lion was the official beer and cider partner of the event and noted: “As we continue to face the tough challenges of COVID-19, our thoughts go out to those affected by the sudden shutdown of Bluesfest last week.
“As the beer and cider partner of the music festival, we have credited Bluesfest for the stock on site, and our team have worked hard to re-route packaged beer and cider to venues affected by the recent floods.”
Chris Silver, Lion Sponsorship & Events BDE revealed: “On Monday we came up to Tyagarah all excited to get back to life as we know it, specifically being the beer & cider partner of Bluesfest and as such being involved with the return of live music and festivals in Australia.
“In consultation with the festival we redesigned the bars, moving away from the traditional draught beer and large beer garden activations and only supplied cans/bottles to reduce touch points and time spent in queues. How devastated we were when word spread across the site on Wednesday afternoon that because of a small number of positive COVID cases around the area that the festival was cancelled by NSW Health. Only hours from gates open. It was a real kick in the guts for everyone involved.
“But where there’s a tragedy there’s often opportunity to do something good and I’m very pleased to be involved in redirecting more than 9000 beers that were already in fridges at seven bar sites at Bluesfest to be repackaged and transported to flood affected communities around NSW. It’s a small win for all in a really challenging time. Hats off to Lion for making the call quickly and I can’t wait for Bluesfest to come back bigger and better when it can.”
Community support saves two local businesses
It could have been far tougher on smaller operators if the local community hadn’t rallied to help. Holy Moly Artisan Empanadas, which had spent the last three weeks handmaking empanadas for Bluesfest, borrowed an extra industrial freezer from a local company for storage. Byron mayor Simon Richardson put a call out on social media and locals flocked to buy the empanadas. Local cafes, such as The Canteen, Taco Joes and the Byron Bay Deli, also placed orders.
Holy Moly said on Facebook: “We can’t stop to say THANK YOU to you!!We are glad to be part of this incredible community.”
Jerry King of Jerry’s Smokehouse spent Good Friday barbecuing the stock he had bought to sell at Bluesfest – which included 180kg of pork, 120kg of beef brisket and 120kg of chicken wings – in the hope he would be able to sell from his Mullumbimby commercial kitchen at a reduced price to locals over the Easter break.
King told The Sydney Morning Herald the Bluesfest cancellation for the second year running, may mean the end of his catering empire.
”My income is mainly through festivals all over the country, so this past year business has been down 93% down…now I am considering other options,” he said. “Food may not be in my future as it has been so badly hit in the pandemic.”
However, he ended up selling all his stock, noting on Facebook: “Wow! What an amazing community! Our deepest gratitude to all for your support.”
Another casualty of the cancellation is Bloody Good Food Co, which was to be the sole provider for catering for 5000 campers onsite during the 2021 festival. While food suppliers have been amazing and taken back a lot of produce, Jodie and Mike (the owners) were at risk of losing their business. The community has created an online shop website to try and save this small business. Visit their website for details.
Meanwhile, the organisers of Bluesfest are describing it as “the festival that could have happened, with no locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in NSW for the fourth day in a row. More than 105,000 tickets had been sold across the five days of the event.
“To our artists – especially the many of you, along with your bands, teams, and management, who were in transit ready for your return to live music after it being taken away from all of us for such a long time already,” the organisers said.
“We are sorry that we were unable to deliver our festival for your return to the live stage for the second year in a row.”
Bluesfest management said it is in discussion with Government about a rescue package for everyone involved in the festival and “their initial response is a positive one”.
In separate statements issued Thursday, Live Performance Australia and the Australian Festivals Association called on federal and state governments to activate a Business Interruption Fund, an insurance fund for creative businesses to access in case of emergency.
“This is a watershed moment,” comments LPA chief executive officer Evelyn Richardson. “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 twelve months without some form of insurance.
“A Business Interruption Fund is “now a matter of urgency. It should be top of the agenda at the next National Cabinet meeting on April 9.”