Bluesfest cancelled over community transmission fears

Bluesfest cancelled over community transmission fears

Popular music festival Bluesfest will not go ahead over this Easter long weekend as planned after New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard signed an order cancelling the event.

According to NSW Health, the cancellation was made to minimise the risk of COVID-19 spreading in the local Byron Bay area after the region reported one locally acquired case today.

"NSW Health acknowledges that the cancellation of Bluesfest is disappointing for ticket holders and event organisers, however while urgent investigations and contact tracing are ongoing, NSW Health is adopting a cautious approach to keep everyone safe," NSW Health said.

Minister Hazzard says the festival's organisers are working on rescheduling the blues and roots festival for another date.

"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," says Hazzard.

The Bluesfest group issued a statement this afternoon lamenting the cancellation of what was to be the first major festival to occur in Australia since the summer of 2019-20, which would have had a capacity of 16,500 people over the five days that were planned.

Organisers noted the team had worked day and night for a year to achieve the approved COVID-19 Safety Plan - the first of its kind in the music industry.

"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," Bluesfest director Peter Noble said.

Organisers said they felt deeply for everybody affected, the fans, the artists and Bluesfest staff.

"But in the end, the health of our community must come first," they said in the statement.

"We will be having discussions regarding Bluesfest postponement and will update everybody soon. However, this weekend we will be packing down the event that was cancelled within 24 hours of gates due to open.

"All patrons will be contacted by Moshtix directly once we have an update on how to proceed."

The disappointing news for ticketholders comes after one new case of COVID-19 was reported in Byron Bay, leading to new restrictions for the Byron, Ballina, Tweed and Lismore shires.

The individual in his 20s visited the Byron Beach Hotel with three friends who have since tested negative to the virus, but they were all seated in close proximity to the Queensland group that was celebrating a hen's night in Byron Bay last Friday.

While unknowingly infectious, the man visited two Ballina venues on Sunday, 28 March - the Henry Rous Tavern between 1:20-2:20pm and the Ballina Golf & Sport Club between 2:25-2:35pm.

Full details of the latest NSW health alerts for venues can be found here.

A report prepared for the Bluesfest Group by Lawrence Consulting last year estimated the 2020 cancellation led to $203.6 million in lost tourism spending for NSW, implying foregone employment for approximately 1,158 people with the worst effects in accommodation and food services, retail and the arts.

Festival patron surveys conducted in 2019 indicated daily expenditure of $304 per person at the Bluesfest, representing a foregone annual stimulus of $30.8 million to Byron Shire and $51.3 million to the Northern Rivers region.

Originally published at 4.11pm AEDT on 31 March 2021, updated at 5:45pm AEDT.

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