With Bluesfest down and out, calls get louder for business interruption fund

With Bluesfest down and out, calls get louder for business interruption fund

Byron Bay Bluesfest (photo via Facebok).

Arts and industry peak body Live Performance Australia (LPA) has ramped up longstanding calls for a business interruption fund for the sector after yesterday's shock cancellation of the Byron Bay Bluesfest.

LPA chief executive Evelyn Richardson says the live entertainment industry cannot sustain continued "hit and runs" as the industry reels from the music festival's cancellation and Brisbane's sudden lock-down.

"One case of community transmission has shut down a major regional event with a $10 million plus loss that will destroy a business with a thirty-year trading history owned by someone who is risking everything to run his event in a COVID safe manner," Richardson says.

"LPA has been calling for a Business Interruption Fund since last year. This is now a matter of urgency. It should be top of the agenda at the next National Cabinet meeting on 9 April.

"This has cost hundreds of jobs, musicians who were about to perform their first gig in a year have been shut down, thousands of people who were attending the seated, COVIDSafe approved event have been turned away, and the local regional economy has been severely impacted."

This is the second consecutive year that Bluesfest has been cancelled. In response to last year's interruption, the Bluesfest Group commissioned a report by Lawrence Consulting which found the cancellation led to $203.6 million in lost tourism spending for NSW.

Now Richardson and the LPA are calling on the NSW Government to step up and provide support to Bluesfest to ensure it survives a second shut down due to public health directives.

"This is irrefutable proof that a business interruption fund is critical to the survival of live entertainment events in an environment where no promoter or producer can get insurance," she says.

"This is a watershed moment. 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 12 months without some form of insurance."

She says the industry is trying to get back on its feet and get people back into work.

"At which point do we move to living with COVID? Our industry is getting theatre shows back on stage while we look to October to kick start our live music sector. We need certainty that we're not going to be shut down and that our governments can respond and manage community transmission," the LPA chief says.

"We all know that COVID is with us for a long time so we need to reframe the national narrative around this.

"We are also very concerned about the vaccine rollout which appears to have stalled. Urgent attention needs to be given to ramping up the rollout nationally. It's time for a military style operation so we can avoid closures like this in the future."

Updated at 13:34pm AEDT on 1 April 2021.

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